I was 15 when I went to my first barrel clinic. I was terrified. It was a free weekend long clinic with a place to stay and food provided, all you had to do was show up. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up. It was about a month after I bought my first horse and it was my first time taking her anywhere.
My parents and I pulled up in our old beat-up truck and rusty two horse straight bumper pull trailer, and unloaded my horse. I can still feel the nerves in my stomach as we put her into her stall and I watched my parents drive away. Everyone else seemed like they knew what they were doing. I had been riding horses for four months and had only had my own for a short time. What was I doing there?
As it turns out, no one payed any attention to my old trailer or judged me on my lack of experience. They took me from where I was. They helped me. This was one of the crucial moments in my new journey with my horse. It built my confidence. It showed me that it was okay to start from where I was and that I should not feel ashamed for ‘being behind’ where other girls my age were.
The fruits of this clinic are still appearing in my life years later. Because of this experience, I have the courage to go for what I want, in hopes of it turning out like this clinic did. It gave me the determination that, even though I may be scared, the final product will be worth it. These lessons can be attributed to Kendra Dickson, who put on this clinic.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with Kendra at the Women’s Pro Rodeo Association’s Finals in Waco this past weekend. We talked about her start in the rodeo world and her mission for “Rodeo for a Reason’” her ministry within barrel racing.
Barrel racing has almost always been apart of her life.
“I started riding when I was knee high to a bull frog. I was very fortunate to be born into a ranch family. My dad was a horse trainer, my mom was a barrel racer, so I have been in the saddle my whole life. I started barrel racing at the age of five,” Dickson said.
Horses have always been both a job and a passion in her life.
“Because I grew up with my dad as a horse trainer, that was his only source of income, so everyone was always expected to pull their weight. Whether that was bailing hay, hauling hay, feeding horses every day, pinning cows, which I totally love to do,” Dickson explained. “Conditioning race horses, driving back and forth to the track, long nights, long hours.”
Along with barrel racing professionally, Dickson is passionate about Rodeo for a Reason.
“It got started in 2007, so we are celebrating our 10th year, and we are really excited about that.”
“I was praying in church one day, and I heard God say, Kendra, it’s time for you to do that clinic people have been asking you about.’ And at the time, I really thought, ‘Who am I to do this?’” Dickson recalls. “’Why are people asking me to help them with their horse?’ I didn’t have any pro money at the time. As I prayed and heard God speaking to me, I said, ‘Okay, God, if this is really you, I’ll do it.’ And the next words I heard, clear as bell, two words. ‘For free.’”
Dickson was shocked.
“I just started laughing there in church. How am I going to put on a barrel clinic for free, and who is going to help me, and who is going to show up?”
“Well, right after that, I won my first pro rodeo and filled my whole card. My horse won the whole rodeo, and from there it just took off. God blessed me with an amazing horse and put me in the top 15 for many years in the row.”
She recalled her first clinic and how far she has come since.
“We started with one barrel clinic, and we had one saddle to give away, and 36 students. Since then, we have done free clinics throughout Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas. And we went to Las Vegas last year and did two clinics out there.”
“We are going back out to the NFR this year to do demonstrations. We are going to give away 10 saddles. It’s a dream we had since 2012, we call it 10-10-10. 10 rounds, 10 saddles, 10-fold.”
For Dickson, this is not just a job.
“It’s a lifestyle, it’s not a job you can punch in and out of. For me, it’s been my livelihood. It’s what I was born into, it’s what I was born to do, and it’s what I love to do.”