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The Importance of a Performance Coach and Pit Crew

by Donna Irvin
Running the Plan with Vaquero was turning him into a great athlete.
Sharon Camarillo has been, and continues
to be, my invaluable Performance Coach.

Along with hard work and determination, it takes a team to keep any competitor, in any discipline, at peak performance. Sharon calls the team the “Pit Crew.” Your veterinarian, farrier, equine dentist, and possibly a body worker, are all responsible for working with you and your horse to maximize his soundness and well–being.

Let’s talk about your veterinarian for a moment. Peaking your performance for competition is critical in the big league. That’s difficult to do when you are dealing with soundness issues. In the spring of 2005, Ropenator was setting up too soon on the 2nd barrel. My intuition was that we were dealing with soreness and not training issues. If there are any doubts, always rule out soundness before instituting a corrective training plan.

I consulted Dr. Kaufman, my veterinarian. He performed a flex test and found that Ropenator was 40% off on the right hind and 20% off on the left hind. We decided to inject Ropenator’s hocks with Hylarin V and Triamcinolone. Dr. Kaufman also suggested ice for Ropenator’s sore hocks and ankles. To improve support for his hind suspensory ligaments, Dr. Kaufman recommended that we shoe Ropenator wide behind. My husband John is a performance horse shoer (lucky me) and he set Ropenator’s shoe 1/8 “ wider than the outside of the heel.

I was anxious to try our changes under the challenges of competition. I found a 4-D jackpot competition not far from where I was staying. Ropenator’s try was never in doubt. I clocked third out of 117 racers. Ropenator’s performance resulted in immediate improvement after his shoeing change and veterinarian treatments.

After Ropenator became more “sound,” I was eager to set a training plan with Sharon. Together, we reviewed video from my previous professional rodeo competitions.

Some of the areas we defined for improvement were:

  • Improve the rate point on 1st barrel, which was causing too much lateral movement on the backside and loss of momentum to the second.
  • Fix Ropenator’s weak body position leaving the barrel. I needed to work on inside rein position and outside stirrup for more snap in each turn.
  • Adjust warm-up strategies in order to gain Ropenator’s attention and make him lighter and more responsive to my aids.


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