Last year, Lee Ann Rust of Stephenville, Texas rode into the spotlight aboard her horse, Harley, determined to give her all towards her goal of earning the title “2011 WPRA Rookie of the Year”.
Rust has an open, friendly personality that invites you into her ever expanding circle of friends. She welcomed the opportunity to answer my questions and gave me so much more than I expected! Her sense of humor and inspirational answers has renewed my sense of commitment to my own goals in life and I think that you, the reader, will feel that as well.
I asked Rust if she had realized what it would take in terms of time, travel and commitment when she set her goal to compete as a professional barrel racer and earn the title of WPRA Rookie of the Year.
Rust said, “Life as a Pro barrel racer is very demanding and fairly all consuming. I tend to be black or white in my approach to most things of importance. If my goal is big and worthwhile, then it is worth giving my all. If the goal is not worth my all, I tend not to make it a goal, or at least not my major goal. The goal to be Rookie of the Year in WPRA at my age was a “BHAG” (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). Once I dedicated myself to the goal, I went at it with abandon. My entire life was dedicated to the achievement of my goal. Mentally, I burned the bridge behind me and there was no turning back.”
At the age of 53, what gave you the courage to go down this road?
“It did not feel like courage at the time. I was just putting one foot in front of the other and living one day at a time. Ann Thompson of Nash, Texas does all my rodeo entries for me, strategy, logistics, etc. She just sends me emails with the trade lists and I write the info on my calendar. When I get done at a rodeo, I put the next rodeo in my GPS and see how far it is and how long it will take and stick my truck in DRIVE. The hardest time is when I have a few days off and have to decide where I will hang out for those days. I only need a day or two to rest and go to the grocery store.”
How much does your horse, Harley, contribute to your courage?
“Harley is the source of my “courage” and the reason for my decision to “hit the rodeo trail”. God blessed me with stewardship of this awesome animal that I call my friend. It is my desire to allow him to reach his full potential. I am willing and able, due to my life circumstances at this time, to dedicate myself to taking him as far as he is able to go. God is putting people in my life constantly who are teaching me and helping me to be a better steward. Nutrition, energy work, chiropractics, veterinary care, medical/dental care, exercise, horsemanship skills, mental discipline and many more areas are all necessary topics to master for the proper care of Harley, and me as well.”
What are your goals for the 2012 season?
“You know my philosophy; my 2012 goal is to win the CFR and the NFR on Harley.”
In what ways do you feel that your 2011 season helped to lay a foundation for your 2012 season?
“Last year, as a rookie, I was ignorant of a lot of things. Where is the town? Where is the arena? Where do we park? Are there stalls? Is there grass? Will we get stuck? Is barrel racing first or last in slack? TOM TOM (Lee Ann’s GPS) can’t be serious!
“The questions got even more creative from there! Of the 100 or so rodeos we went to last year, I had only been to two before in all my life!! I could not afford to even think about intimidation or I would have never left Stephenville, Texas! That made the whole year one big adventure!
“2012 will be lots easier! We will still run in some places we haven’t been before, like Denver, San Antonio, Houston, Calgary, etc. But for the most part, we will get to run in places we have been before and at least know how to get to the country, state, town and arena! Wow, what a deal! I may even see someone I know when I get there!”
Do you plan on competing in Canada this season?
“I loved rodeoing in Canada, and am looking forward to returning to Canada in late spring!”
What has surprised you the most on your journey as a professional barrel racer?
“This year was full of surprises! I was in awe of the beauty of the country that I got to visit this year! I met some of the most amazing, interesting, funny, friendly, hospitable and helpful people! I was amazed at how well Harley and I were able to do this year. There are some outstanding barrel racers and barrel horses out there, and I feel honored that Harley and I were able to be in the same pen with them! And then to actually be competitive was a real bonus!
What advice would you give to those harboring the dream of being a professional barrel racer?
“You ask me for advice! I will share some thoughts with you about some things I have learned this amazing year.”
• You find what you are looking for in others, so always look for the good.
• You get what you expect out of yourself, so always expect the best.
• When things are less than ideal, ask yourself, “What am I suppose to be learning from this situation?”
• The definition of insanity is, “Doing the same thing, the same way, over and over and expecting a different outcome”. Maybe I need to try something new.
• Change is rarely considered easy, but is sometimes necessary.
• A goal should require us to reach, stretch and grow. Set them high! If you keep looking in the far distance at the goal and imagining having it, the bumps in the road aren’t as rough and there is less chance of getting side tracked or following a rabbit trail. Keep your eye on the prize!
• Smile! Be friendly and helpful if that is how you would like folks to meet and treat you. You get back what you give out.
• Be positive, there is enough negativity already without you adding to it.
• You can go from Hero to Zero in less than 15 seconds, so stay humble! You don’t have nearly as far to fall that way and the landing is easier.
• Live in the moment. The present is a wonderful gift. You have 15 minutes to glory in the “thrill of victory,” or wallow in the “agony of defeat.” Analyze your run; see if there is anything you can change to make it better. Was it you, your horse, or circumstances outside your control? Learn what you can and then move on. There is always another rodeo!
• You will spend more time driving than any other single activity, so get some books on CD that will help you to be successful.
Rust defines success as “having the courage, determination, and will, to become the person you believe you were meant to be.”
The 54-year-old Rust and Harley are off and running towards her goals for 2012, proving that she does, indeed, have the courage, determination and will to pursue her dream of winning the CFR and the NFR.
Dreams are what reality is made of.