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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Surrender - Casey Allen

Hi everybody! To those of you that don’t know me, my name is Casey Allen and I am a high school senior in Pennsylvania. This year I returned to Sky Ranch for my second trip to the Elite Clinic for breakaway roping. Right after I got home from Texas, I took my midterms, re-packed the trailer, and prepared to leave for Oklahoma City for the International Finals Rodeo (the finals for the IPRA) to barrel race. 

About 12 hours before we were supposed to leave for the first rodeo on our route, I got a call from the man who was cleaning stalls for us that night. He sounded distraught saying, “Casey, we don’t know what happened but Switch is lame; you should come look at him right away; we can’t get him to move.” I immediately headed down to the barn where I found my beloved red roan holding his leg high in the air, sweating despite the freezing air, and breathing rapidly. I tried to keep my cool as I called my parents, the vet, and I almost called the President. Long story short, he had an unexplained injury to his back right hock, and there was a slim chance he would be able to run much less make the haul to OKC. 

Fast forward a week: every horse I had lined up to ride at the biggest rodeo of my career had either gone rogue on me, or had some other unanticipated problem. I spent my entire week hauling to jackpots in the cold instead of dressing up and touring OKC with my friends. On the outside and on social media, I was handling it the best ever. I was strong with an unshakeable faith. I was doing TV interviews, shaking hands, and kissing babies; the poster child for a mature athlete. But inside, I was miserable. I didn’t want to run the first round, I cried nonstop when everybody wasn’t looking, and I begged God to reveal His plans to me. All I wanted was to have a normal finals experience. I had worked for four years to get to that point, and all that my week held was pain where joy should have been.

During the week I received a text from my good friend Bobbi York completely shifting my perspective.  It simply read, “Remember who you’re riding for.” I had lost sight of who had actually gotten me to Oklahoma and had selfishly started thinking I was in control. God wasn’t asking me to go win the average, but just to give it everything I had. God didn’t care if I won every round, He only cared that I glorified Him in the process. I repeatedly thought of the verse, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding: in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

This verse continued to play through my head and finally, the night before round one, I reached a place of complete exhaustion bringing me to my knees, telling God that I was surrendering and handing the reins over to Him. I had never been broken down as low as I was that night, but the next morning I woke up with a peace that I had never felt before. My fears were gone and I felt nothing but excitement as I went down the alleyway in all four rounds. It was honestly the best place I have ever competed in mentally, physically, and spiritually. When the other girls were as tense as ever, I was rapping and joking around in the warm up pen. In fact, my parents and others were more nervous than I was!  I became the collected athlete that I had never before been able to conduct myself as, and it felt pretty awesome.

I ended up jump riding a horse named Foxy in round one, and when I came out of the pen after my first run with a time that was a half second off the pace, I literally screamed. I couldn’t explain the joy I felt. My parents said they had never seen me so happy to NOT win! I went in the next three rounds with a drive that I had never run with before, knowing that God was with me every step of the way. In the second round, I barely tipped a barrel to win second in the average. I came back in the third round to win fourth (almost falling off in the process), and then took second in the 4th round!

 I had a mediocre finals compared to some other girls, and a way better finals than others, but that wasn’t what I was thinking about. I finally had something that made what mattered in the arena not affect my attitude because in the eyes of my Creator I knew that I had already won. The IFR came to mean so much more than a paycheck or a chance at fame for me.

When I got home, all I heard was people telling me how sorry they were that I had gone through that entire ordeal at the IFR. I laughed every time and attempted to explain why it was actually a good thing. As a closing note, feel free to learn from my mistakes! When something crazy pops up on the rodeo trail, or in life, surrender it over to the man upstairs because once He takes it He replaces bondage, worry, and fear with freedom, peace, and joy.

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