The Rider’s Mind Podcast Episode 74: Interview with Nancy Csabay

I’m excited and honoured to share this interview with Nancy Csabay. Nancy is a two-time Canadian champion barrel racer and the owner of Little Miss Wicked, the 2015 Canadian Barrel Racing Horse with the Most Heart. Nancy has been named the Pro Rodeo Canada Cowgirl of the Year and has qualified for the CFR 7 times on 3 different horses. She has hosted barrel racing retreats with a focus on the rider, bringing attention to the mental, physical, and emotional aspects of our lives and how they affect our barrel racing. Nancy’s interview really resonated with me and I hope it will resonate with you too. 

Michelle: Having followed your journey over the years through different media and from the public’s view, I can tell you have a different take than many on life, horsemanship and barrel racing.  Could you share a bit about your philosophy on barrel racing and horsemanship and the part we play as riders?

Nancy: What I believe within myself transfers to my horse. For example, my mantra is: We’re not meant to live small. We’re meant to live large to show others that they can do the same. We sometimes shy away from great moments because they will change our lives, but we are meant to shine and share our gifts. That’s how I want to feel on the back of my horse.

There is something larger than us that is guiding us. You might call it God, Buddha, Higher Power or something else. Whatever you call it, if you listen, this power can guide you. There is a path for you to follow and you can trust that you’re exactly where you need to be. 

I’ve always thought that my horses are a reflection of me. For example, I had a grey horse that was really frustrating. He was a bit hard-headed and we butted heads. When I look back on it now and reflect, that horse was mirroring who I was. He was frustrated and angry and inattentive because I was frustrated, angry and not paying attention to him. Now I know that being a responsible rider means that if I expect my horse to pay attention to me, I better pay attention to him or her. 

Michelle: I grabbed this statement off your website: I want to change the barrel racing world which is currently full of judgement, to an environment full of love, kindness and forgiveness. I want this to be a movement, a shift, a better way to live….” What changes do we have to make as individuals to start seeing this transformation?

Nancy: The only change and the biggest change is forgiveness. Forgiving ourselves and forgiving others. Our lives are full of mis-takes: mis-steps or misunderstandings. The only way to learn and grow is through forgiveness. We all make mis-takes. 

For example, when you’re complaining about a jackpot host being disorganized, you need to recognize disorganization in yourself too. Instead of thinking “she’s scatterbrained”, think “she’s scatterbrained, just like me.” If you can see it in someone else, you can see it in yourself too. 

Michelle: I’d love to hear your perspective on “ego”. You had commented on a post in the past and it was helpful to me. I was calling it “your ego” or “my ego” and you suggested we call it the ego or just “ego” rather than giving it power by claiming it. What is ego to you and how do you recognize it and deal with it?

Nancy: Don’t invite ego in, don’t consider it part of you by saying “my ego”. It’s hard to define ego and put it into words. I think of it this way: I’ve got an angel on one shoulder that tells me I am enough, I am worthy, I am loved. On the other side, I’ve got a devil poking me telling me I am not enough, I’m not loved, I’m going down. Ego is involved when you feel guilty or when you’re not being who you’re meant to be. 

Michelle: Could you take us on a trip on your journey from a younger Nancy to now? How did you handle challenges in the past versus now? Are there a few key and pivotal moments or challenges that you had to overcome that brought you to the person you are today?

Nancy: I’ve come a long way and I still have a long way to go. My younger, ego-driven self thought I knew it all already, especially with my Dad. My Dad wanted to help me with horses and, as a younger person, I didn’t want his help. After he passed, I realized how important his influence was on me. 

I was very strong-headed, but I had some wake-up calls. I used to have a “poor me” attitude. At one point, I was complaining to my brother about not having any love in my life and having relationship problems. He basically said to me, Nancy, how can you love someone if you don’t love yourself first? I didn’t even really understand that at the time. When my parents died, I asked a friend at work why I had so much death in my life and she explained that maybe it was teaching me to live. I eventually learned that the “poor me” attitude wasn’t helpful.

The book A Course in Miracles was recommended to me. I didn’t understand the book at first, but I came back to it a few times. When I found out I had breast cancer, I had the “poor me” attitude initially. Within a few weeks, I decided that I’d commit to reading A Course in Miracles. It took me 3 years to read it and do the activities, but at the end, I knew I was going to be okay. The book really helped me. Breast cancer turned out to be another experience that helped me become more spiritual and set me on the right path for this journey that I was meant to live. 

I now know the importance of being authentic with myself and with others. When I’m authentic, I know I am one with God. When I’m myself, that’s who the Universe wants me to be. 

Michelle: How do we do everything from love, but compete (which is so ego-based)?

Nancy: We have to change the word. We call it competition. Why not call it “complimenting”? If you go out and “beat me”, you’re just complimenting me because I know that I can get to that level if I see it in you. In my mind, I don’t think there’s anything I can’t do. I know that if you win, I can get to that level too. I know that, eventually, I will get there. It’s about enjoying the journey to get there. Enjoy each accomplishment on your way. 

Michelle: Do you have a morning routine or spiritual practice you use to stay on track? If so, what does it look like?

Nancy: Yes, I do. When I rodeoed hard, I’d do HIIT workouts and yoga. I read lots. I meditate sometimes, but I’m not consistent. I’ve also used mantras throughout my day. 

Michelle: What are some tips you could offer someone who struggles with nervousness when they go to compete?

Nancy: I look at nervousness a different way. I look at nervousness as excitement. How many people get to do what we do? Let’s embrace this opportunity. Let’s enjoy every part of competition, whether it’s tipping a barrel, getting a no-time, running the best run you’ve ever had on a horse or just staying on. 

I also remind myself of why I’m doing this. I’m not trying to prove anything. I do this because I love it. 

I also like to be prepared. I like to imagine the perfect run just before I go to bed. One book I read, 7 Days in Utopia, talks about see, feel and trust. The book isn’t about barrel racing, but this idea applies. I see the perfect run, I feel the energy in my body, my legs kicking, the wind on my face and I trust it. The same idea applies spiritually. I see God, I feel God, I trust God (Higher Power, Universe, Spirit). 

Enter when you are ready and your horse is ready. Compete when you feel confident that you are both ready, then nervousness is not needed. 

Michelle: An emotion a lot of horse people deal with is frustration. Do you have advice on how to avoid being overwhelmed with frustration in the saddle?

Nancy: Just like “there’s no crying in baseball”, there is no crying in barrel racing. Keep emotion out of it. When you are emotional, you create fear and, from fear, comes frustration. How can your horse listen when you are frustrated? They don’t know what you’re trying to show them when you’re frustrated. For unwanted emotions like frustration, be really present and figure out what’s causing that frustration.

Michelle: What type of characteristics would you use to describe someone you see as a champion?

Nancy: I see a champion in every single person. That is how we were created. We were all created for a purpose. We are meant to share our gifts. 

Champions help others. You can’t tell whether they’ve won or lost. Champions learn from mis-takes. They put the needs of their horses before themselves. Champions love life and love what they do. A champion does the right thing. 

We are all champions. The buckles come and go. The titles come and go. But we are all champions. 

Michelle: What’s your favourite memory from the Amazing Race experience?

Nancy: I have so many good memories. The people on The Amazing Race were awesome. The camera crew would carry super heavy cameras and backpacks with batteries. When we cut our hair for the wig bank, that meant a lot to me because my mom had chemotherapy and received a wig. Jumping into the ravine was a cool experience. The most favourite memory was in Mexico City when I got an encouraging video from my family. I missed them and had no contact with them for 5 weeks. 

When I came home, it was my daughter’s high school rodeo finals. After weeks of me being away, I noticed everyone waving to my husband and he was helping my daughter in the back with her horse. To come home and see the bond between my daughter and my husband was also an amazing memory.

Michelle: Is there a horse you’re a big fan of (in any event)?

Nancy: Sister is amazing. She makes it look so easy and she’s so fast. It’s impressive. 

My ultimate favourite is our broodmare Reba. She’s given us 13 foals and she’s the queen of our place. I love her. She’s given me lots of opportunities. 

Michelle: What are 3 qualities you love to have in a horse that you’re going to start on barrels?

Nancy: Willingness. Good conformation. Forgiving. 

Michelle: If you could have a billboard anywhere what would it say?

Nancy: I am…. (add your own ending… I am enough. I am loved. I am worthy) 


Want to connect with Nancy?

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