Anticipation is mounting for cowboys and cowgirls preparing for the biggest 10 days of their year – the National Finals Rodeo. With a relocation from the traditional Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas to a more centralized Globe Life Stadium, in Arlington, Texas, even those who have competed at the NFR in the past find themselves training like it’s their first time competing in a big venue.
“I feel as much like a rookie this year as I did last year,” said Emily Miller-Beisel, Weatherford, Oklahoma, who is making her second consecutive NFR appearance as a barrel racer. “The thing about last year was I had other girls I could rely that had ‘been there, done that’ that I could ask questions. No one knows what to expect this year coming into Arlington. I don’t think anyone has any better idea of what is going to hit them than anybody else. Right now, WPRA and PRCA are still working really hard to get the details put together. It’s going to be important for my horses to exert themselves and recover.”
Nutrition is Key
For Miller-Beisel, the last weeks before the NFR is a critical time of preparing both herself and her horses for the long days and nights of the Finals. Keeping healthy, happy and focused are vital for both she and her horses to succeed. During the fall transition when weather shifts are prevalent in her region, she said Mother Nature is one of her biggest challenges and said recently the temperatures shifted 70 degrees in three days and also brought five inches of snow.
“They are prone to colic with weather changes, so I am trying to keep them healthy and happy. I’m trying to be proactive, so I keep them on Vitalize® products to prevent any issues during this time as well.”
Miller-Beisel makes sure her horses feel and perform their best by giving them Vitalize® Alimend® twice daily on top of their feed. When she is traveling, and especially when competing, she also administers Vitalize Equine Recovery Gel to Chongo, her more anxious horse.
Vitalize Alimend is a natural product that helps heal and protect without altering stomach pH. It provides 24/7 stomach comfort and relieves equine gastric issues commonly associated with training, traveling, and performance without altering stomach pH or hindering digestion. Vitalize Equine Recovery Gel is a quick response gel to get horses back on their feet after trauma, illness, performance or stress.
“Chongo gets the gel right before he runs. I do think it makes a big difference on him. He can be more on the nervous side so if I give him that recovery gel about 30 minutes before the run, it works for him,” Miller-Beisel said.
Prior to leaving for the Finals, Miller-Beisel doesn’t rodeo much; instead it is a time for her horses to enjoy their happy place – their pastures and barn at home, to rest and rejuvenate before their 10 consecutive nights in front of the large crowds. She does however make sure they are exercised and relies on long-time industry trainers to give her horse a tune up and make sure she isn’t missing anything.
She takes her horses to the Youree-Ward Ranch, a multi-generation family operation that are experts in barrel racing. The three granddaughters, Kylie, Janae and Cassie, have trained Miller-Beisel’s horses for more than five years, and she appreciates their expertise and ability to help her fine-tune her horses before the NFR.
“It’s great to have other people look at your horses and ride them. They see and notice things. They (the Ward sisters) know what it takes to win that level of competition. It’s good for the horses to go back to the basics,” Miller-Beisel said.
The 10-day Plan
Miller-Beisel said a NFR pattern hadn’t been announced at the time of this interview; however, the size and layout of the two arenas was very different, so she would have to work on teaching her horses to turn more quickly. In Vegas, the Thomas and Mack Center is a basketball court with a wall to stop the horses and encourage turning. In Arlington, the space in more open without walls, so the horses will need that extra motivation of the rider to turn more sharply without a barrier to stop them.
The travel time between Weatherford and Arlington will put a lot less strain on Miller-Beisel and her horses; however, finding barns close to the Globe Life Stadium and dealing with Dallas traffic, is still something to consider. However, this Oklahoma cowgirl feels fortunate she has two very talented horses that she plans to rotate through the performances so neither should have to be overly stressed or tired.
Of course, after keeping her horses and herself healthy, the most important part of her 10 days in Arlington is having great runs each night. From the time she was a little girl, this rodeo athlete has had the need for speed.
“I’ve always loved going fast on my horse. There’s just something about that when everything is going right, and the horse is going hard for you. That’s really fun for me. I’m thankful to run barrels now for a living. That makes my heart happy, being on the back of a horse and going fast,” she said. A happy cowgirl with happy horses with a good gut feeling from Vitalize sounds like a winning combination for the National Finals Rodeo.