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Overcoming Challenges

by Donna Irvin
A quiet warm-up and mental preparation before the 1st Go run at the 2007 Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo.
A quiet warm-up and mental
preparation before the 1st Go
run at the 2007 Dodge National
Circuit Finals Rodeo.

We have all faced challenges and setbacks in our lives. I had some health problems at the beginning of 2006, so my horses Vaquero and Ropenator got some well-deserved time off. My health condition evolved into major surgery that completely sidelined me from riding in April and May.

My goal was to be ready to rodeo in June so I asked my support team Jackie Wolf and Katie Hambley, to help by legging up and caring for my horses. Jackie and Katie’s commitment and support inspired me and made my rodeo goal possible to achieve. It was delightful to watch and coach them, as we are all students of the Sharon Camarillo program and share the same work ethic and skill base.

June 3rd was our first professional rodeo of the year at Licking, Missouri. My stomach muscles were weak, my balance was off and Ropenator managed to carry me to a 10th place finish! It gave me confidence, made me appreciate my seasoned horse and, most of all, made me even more grateful for the opportunity to pursue my passion of rodeo. The season went on to include seven rodeos wins, and 27 checks out of 31 rodeos. Most significantly, I qualified for the 2007 Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo (DNCFR) in Pocatello, Idaho.

Pocatello, Idaho
It was productive to ride forward and straight
on the racetrack in Pocatello, Idaho where
we overnighted during the DNCFR.

Mid-November of 2006 marked another time for more health challenges, including joint injections and arthroscopy surgery. I now experience extreme pain every time I make a competitive run and I have had to develop mental discipline and focus to overcome the pain. I believe that we should not surrender because of adversity; we should triumph over it! 

To prepare for the DNCFR, I worked Ropenator four to five times a week and competed about every other week. Arena work involved conditioning to enforce suppleness, connection and collection. I kept the barrels fun for Ropenator and used our runs as a reward, resulting in well-placed runs, even in the close confines of indoor arenas.


There are no problems, only challenges. I encourage you never to use health issues as an excuse to fail. Instead, be a part of those who choose to take control of their life.

To help you in your own pursuit of excellence, remember the importance of:

  • A good support team; surround yourself with people who inspire and support you.
  • A great performance coach who can help you plan and achieve your goals.
  • Mental preparation, discipline and focus.
  • Ongoing conditioning and a workout plan for your equine partner, including rewarding him or her for performance.