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6 Mental Toughness Tips from Ali Armstrong

Last updated on September 25, 2023

6 Mental Toughness Tips from Ali Armstrong

Ali Armstrong barrel racing with the title of the blog about mental toughness over the image.

Barrel racer Ali Armstrong knows that keeping up on her horses’ mental toughness during competition season is extremely important. She feeds all 10 of her performance horses Animal Element supplements and admittedly “lives by” In The Zone paste for her competition horses. The all-natural calming paste reduces jitters and allows her horses to relax while also keeping their mental clarity and focus. 

Ali also knows it’s just as important for HER to gain, and keep, mental toughness in order to win. And as anyone with any horse sense knows, horses are HIGHLY sensitive to their rider’s moods and emotions. So in order to stay calm and focused in the saddle, Ali has a few ways to gain mental toughness that she reminds herself of during every competition. She was gracious enough to share some of them with us here at Animal Element.

Gaining Mental Toughness in the Saddle

Woman in straw cowboy hat and blue shirt barrel races a dark colored horse, with tips on how to gain mental toughness next to the image.

1. You HAVE to Be Mentally Aware of Your Horse.

  • Get to know your horse–their quirks, routines, attitudes, and how they move around the barrels.
  • Know exactly what to expect from them and what they expect from you.

2. Practice religiously- but don’t over practice your horse.

  • Practice every move, every piece of your job so much that it becomes muscle memory.
  • As with many finished horses, it is important not to over-practice them.
  • You can run through your part of a run mentally and practice your job without over-practicing your horse. 
  • Ali and her main barrel horse, Panama, don’t practice much at home. She mainly keeps him exercised and in shape.
  • But the muscle memory and rapport are already built in from years of running together. That all comes from practicing so much that both of them can hit their spots without even thinking about it.

(Read Panama’s story here)

Woman in straw cowboy hat and pink shirt runs around a barrel on a horse, with a quote graphic next to her picture.

3. Speak Kindly to Yourself

  • When you are talking to yourself, remember to speak highly of yourself.
  • Obviously, don’t go around bragging and tooting your own horn, but stay positive and remind yourself of the things you do well.
  • When talking about running barrels or competing, Ali doesn’t say “I might.”  She uses affirmative words like “I will” and “I can.”

4. Visualize What Needs to Happen

  • Ali knows that the old saying “rodeoing is 90% mental and 10% physical” is absolutely true, so she uses visualization to get herself prepared. 
  • “I visualize exactly what I need to do step-for-step,” Ali says. This helps her stay relaxed in the saddle and rely on her muscle memory.

5. Plan Out Your Goals

  • Use a notebook to keep track of all your goals.
  • Beyond that, plan out EXACTLY how you’re going to reach those goals.
  • “What are you going to DO to execute those goals?” Ali asks, “How are you going to achieve them?”
  • Asking yourself these questions, and writing them down, helps you create a game plan on how to reach your goals.
  • Ali recommends the book With Winning in Mind by Lanny Bassham.
Woman in cowboy hat and blue shirt runs around a barrel on a roan horse

6. Remember that God Is In Control

  • There is so much out of our hands during a barrel race (or any competition).
  • Ali is a firm believer that God is the one with the plan. She states, “We have to trust that. No matter what the devil throws at us, we have to overcome and trust that God has our best interest at heart.”

Take Care of Your Mental Toughness- We’ll Take Care of Your Horse

Performing in any equine competition is not for the faint of heart…in either humans OR horses. While Animal Element takes care of your horse’s mind and body, it’s up to YOU to take care of your mental state during competitions. Remember these six great tips for mental toughness from Ali Armstrong, and you will have a much easier time staying calm, cool, and collected in the saddle. 

To learn more about In The Zone calming paste, read this blog, and learn more about its power-packed ingredients here

Lovingly written by the Animal Element loving team at