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From my view

I haven’t had the chance to write about the beginning of my new venture on the Rodeo trail, but the experience I had this past Sunday at Hand Hills Pro Rodeo was like no other. I have been very fortunate to be supported in this decision to buy my Pro Permit to Barrel Race by my sponsors, family, friends, media and the rodeo community. To put it simply my intentions are to JUST DO IT! I’ve dreamt about barrel racing and riding at the big rodeos since I was a little girl and when the opportunity presented itself I’d be an absolute fool to not take it. In my opinion we have to participate in those experiences in life that make us TICK… otherwise what’s the point? Of course there is always that little voice in our heads that is questioning… “Is this the right decision?” Or there could be people that are asking that question, but I believe in following your heart and your gut feeling even if that is all the support you will feel in your decision… because it is your life… LIVE IT…


I hadn’t planned on all the attention my decision to Barrel Race created. Always have to love a proud Dad… who happens to casually mention to a writer for a paper that I will be on the Rodeo circuit this summer. Yes Dad I love you, Chris my PR rep may not, but I do!! Well before I even got to run through the gate at my first Rodeo in Grande Prairie, AB the phone was ringing and emails were flying for interviews. I’ve always accepted this role graciously as an Olympian, believing it is my role to represent my sport and my country under a microscope. I quickly realized I will always wear my Olympian hat no matter what I do with my life, so I accepted this role and hoped that rodeo community and the Skeleton community would be supportive.


After a wild 1st barrel at Grande Prairie, clocking no where near the leader that voice in my head questioned my decision… I barely got my horse to a stop outside the arena and 2 reporters where there for my comments on my run. To objectively look at my run it could be defined as major disappointment… but I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face… I finally got to realize an experience of a lifetime, to run at one of the biggest rodeos in Canada, the 1st time I was physically in the arena instead of sitting in the stands…


There is more to this decision than just self-satisfaction. Let’s be honest, I have been competing for 16 years on the World Cup Skeleton tour and I have 1 Olympic medal, 2 Overall World Cup titles and 2 World Championship medals… A devastating drop from an Olympic Silver medal to 5th spot at the 2010 Olympics probably sums it up the best. I am in search of some deep self-awareness… This is my ultimate goal with taking on my new challenge in the Rodeo arena. Partnering up with my best bud “Rascal” and learning how to trust my instincts and knowing that my horse will teach me with severe consequences if I’m out of balance physically and emotionally. To be in a competitive, pressure environment all summer long will give me more opportunities to experience what I go through during the Skeleton tour in the winter. Taking in this experience can only make me more self-aware and be more prepared as I trek forward to get back on the Olympic podium in Sochi in 2014.


So back to this past Sunday and how things turned around. I became a better skeleton athlete when I realized it was important to be grounded and bring a piece of home with me while touring the world. My background of rodeo and my family always brings me to a balanced, calm state while sliding against the best in the world. Sunday at Hand Hills, AB I brought a piece of Skeleton to the rodeo world when my Olympic teammate and friend Amy Gough jumped in my rodeo rig. Poor Amy up at 530am to make sure she wasn’t going to be late for me has coffee and breakfast ready and is knocking on my door at 6am so we can get on the trail. She endured one of the longest rodeos in Canada leaving covered in dirt, burnt to a crisp and exhausted. Amy made things easy for me helping me when my truck battery died (my fault for leaving my horse trailer plugged into my truck for the week) and we had to wiggle my Dilawri Hyundai Santa Fe to boost my truck. She was there when that little voice inside my head was questioning… “What are you doing?” “Is this the right decision?” She was that comfortable consistency I lean on in the winter months and makes me laugh, allowing me to enjoy the time spent away from home. She was the sport psych for Brook Robertson, my travelling partner and me, grounding us and drawing perspective while our minds were trying to get the best of us. I confided in Amy about my nerves and questioning if I am out of my league and she supported me with her last words before I went for my warm up “No expectations”… that brought me back to earth and allowed my mind to be quiet. All of a sudden I felt very similar to how I feel when I’m sliding down the Skeleton track. I started to notice that Rascal and I were flowing together in our warm up, unlike how Grande Prairie and Bonneyville had gone. I had calm conversations with other competitors like I do when I’m on World Cup and then it came time for the Barrel Race…


I was out early… #5. Brook and I had been sitting together to calm our horses and honestly calm ourselves doing our visualizations and final preparations. Brook rode me up to the gate (sometimes horses can get hot before getting in the arena so its always good to keep them as calm as possible with their buddy horse) I rode into the arena and felt the exact same rush of calmness through my body, the same feeling I experience when the announcer says “track is clear” on the Skeleton track. I lined up for 1st barrel and gave the reins to Rascal. He tracked great going to 1st barrel tripping slightly in a sink hole from all the rain from days before. I felt him stumble and instead of over reacting and trying to jerk his head up I gave him more rein and I remember thinking, “I trust you, I know you can keep our feet on the ground” I sat deep in my saddle going into the 1st with the intention to have him rate the barrel, sit down and turn. The last 2 rodeos we have blown past the 1st barrel and our “circle” had turned into a “square”. But this time he sat and slid to turn 1st. Brook had told me to be ready he needs help ¾’s of the way around 1st he stalls out and I could feel it start to happen so I started to help him forward with the intention to get his butt blowing out of there! Rascal likes to dive at 2nd and 3rd barrel (both right hand turns) so my next focus was to ride him to the fence… all I was looking at was that fence!! I trusted that he wouldn’t run into it, but I knew if I hesitated at all before the barrel he would feel my body position and he would start to rate and turn on top of the barrel. I got him to the spot and he turned great. I chickened out slightly going to 3rd … I needed to pick up my outside rein and help him get to his pocket, but because he is powerful and I wanted to focus on riding past the 3rd barrel I sacrificed my rein and focused on my balance in my seat and kept kicking. We were a bit wide coming off of the barrel because of my decision, and Rascal coasted home… so I learned I need a whip!! But we clocked a time that was only 2/10ths out of a pay check… I was so excited when I left that arena I had the bigg
est smile on my face and I still do 2 days later as I write this blog.


I still don’t have expectations, even with the success of Hand Hills. I’m excited to challenge myself and to go through the lovely highs and lows of sport. More importantly I feel proud that I am taking a RISK in doing something that makes me the happiest I’ve ever been. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity, to have sponsors like TAQA North, AB Glass, The Dilawri Automotive Group and Edwards Garage. To have a travelling partner like Brook who is my mentor/coach/friend. I am so looking forward to a summer filled with lessons, hardships and maybe even a pay check!!!


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  1. Shelley Dyrland
    Posted June 8, 2011 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    Great thoughts Mellisa..there is no feeling like the rush of a great run..I don’t know about skeleton, but barrel racing is a great rush!

    You have a whole community behind you as you embark on this new adventure..so proud of you for being brave enough to LIVE and never look back!

  2. Marianne Cole
    Posted June 8, 2011 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    Was so excited to get your e-mail. Love your stories as usual. I lucked out and heard Tim Ellis’ interview with you from G.P. and thought that was awesome that you were going “down the trail”. I will be working slack at the Rocky Rodeo on Thursday, have checked the rodeo draws, and will be waiting with a big hug and loud cheer after your run. All the very best and you go girl.

  3. LeeAnne
    Posted June 8, 2011 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Go live the dream Melissa! The tears ran down my face reading this! I have no idea what riding a skeleton would feel like but the rush of riding a barrel horse…that I know. Good luck this summer and say hi and pass on the good luck to Brook as well. Have a blast girls!

    LeeAnne (Bougerolle) Stav

  4. Rolanda Eadie
    Posted June 9, 2011 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    Mellisa I am so entriqued by you! I tried barrel racing for the first time 3 weeks ago. I am 47 and have been an athlete all of my life. I had the same exhileration you are talking about. I think you will be an awesome barrel racer because you have the mental focus, you have the picture of what to do, you are athletic and can keep balanced, you have support to no end, and you learn from each run and use the feedback to improve. I love you passion, attitude, and flair for life. You are someone I would be great friends with if we were closer in age and proximity.
    I wish you all the best! No matter how well you do- you are having fun and keeping fit.
    Rolanda Eadie
    Rimbey, Alberta

  5. Tracy Murdoch
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Weell Hey Thar Mellisa,

    Never thought you would be a pro circuit barrel racer ,let alone olympic metalist and world champ anything when you said hi in your big cowboy hat at the Benalto Rodeo many moons ago,but then who thinks about those things when a child is 10-11?
    You look good in that seat, hope you ‘stick with it’. Stay safe I want to go to Sochi.
    Are you out this way at all with your horse? I love to come watch and put you and yours up if you like.
    Im out to see your Mom July 23rd weekend are you riding then?It would be good to see you>
    Yeeha! have fun Mellisa

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