Read an Excerpt
From the chapter titled "The Rider's Responsibilities."
As you go on the road, the mental challenge accelerates. It's natural to be afraid and timid in the beginning. That's one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcomelearning not to worry what people think or how you look.
In some ways, it was easier because I was young, but in others, it was made even more difficult that I was so young and the people all around me were adults.
I had won at the amateur rodeos, so I turned pro. Then I went to those pro events and I didn't ride like I was supposed to. Scamper felt it and didn't run. I was scared, shy and intimidated.
At Denver, I placed in the round, then knocked one down. It was the same at Kansas City. At Scottsdale, I knocked over a barrel and did the same at El Paso.
Finally, my dad talked to me, "We've spent a lot of money for motels, gas, entry fees and you're going to have to go home if you don't start winning."
We'd gone through all I saved from my earlier winnings and Dad gave me that ultimatum before San Antonio.
Finally - it got through to me. I remember thinking, "Scamper and I are better than this."
At San Antonio there were girls making fun of me. I had a green saddle pad and green reins and Scamper was hairy. I tried not to listen to them.
At San Antonio, they had side gates. All the pros were working out of the gate across the pen and I felt like my horse would work better if I came out of the gate closest to the first barrel, so I did.
I did what I thought was best for my horse at San Antonio. I came out of my shell and rode to my potential. I rode like I'd been riding at the amateur rodeos and we won. I didn't have to go home!
The feeling that gave me was a kind of relief. I thought, "That's what I know how to do!" It worked because I believed in myself and in my horse.
People were not always kind and remembering that always makes me try to be nice to newcomers. I had people tell me Scamper would win if I rode him backward. None of them knew how much time I spent riding - how close a bond I had with Scamper.
They should have been embarrassed to say that at the time if they'd known what I knew. That's where the confidence came in and not letting what people said affect me. My strength was my bond with Scamper.
My mother helped so much. I could have been the ugliest kid in the world - and she'd have told me I was pretty. When I made mistakes she let me know. But she was always there to say, "You can do it. You're the best!" to all us kids. She encouraged us and could never tell you enough that you could do it.
My parents, Charlie and Gloria, were a large part of my success. Mom was a rodeo queen who rode but never competed. I grew up in Dad's feedlot.
They helped me so much with the attitude of being laid back and not panicking over situations.
Scamper hurt himself at Josey's Barrel Race that year. He came out dragging his hind leg and had strained a ligament in his stifle. My first thought was, "It's okay, Scamper. We'll get you fixed."
I've never had that "freakout' mode. I bought a hand-held ultrasound to use on it and ran cold water on it three times a day - and because Scamper was like he was, we had to rub the ultrasound machine in horse poop before he'd let us get near him with it because that new smell bothered him. You do what you have to do. We were out two months, and got going again on the Fourth of July.
Let life make you optimistic. Get confidence from making it through those little hurdles, and the big ones will come easier.
And know your priorities. I didn't care if I ever competed again. I just wanted Scamper to be all right. I'd been through losing a horse before.
The horse I'd had before Scamper belonged to my oldest sister, Eugenie. She had gotten married and left him. He was barn sour, plus he had come off the track and would run sideways and was pretty crazy.
They gave me that horse and I rode from sunup to sundown that summer. I ended up winning over $20,000 on him in amateur rodeos. One day my sister Bernadette borrowed him to make a practice run on poles and he took a bad step and shattered his front leg.
That's how I ended up with Scamper. He was what I had to ride so he became my project.