What Can A Cowgirl Teach You About Inspiration?

What Can A Cowgirl Teach You About Inspiration? - Mary Burger, Calgary Stampede 2016

You never know when inspiration is going to hit. When something is going to present itself and leave you forever changed. I certainly did not see it coming July 8th, as I stood in my cowboy boots and cowboy hat at the Calgary Stampede.

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She came out of the gate full bore with a smile plastered on her face and twinkle in her eye. She cornered the first barrel with her focus already on the next. Like a crashing wave, the crowd noise swelled and reverberated. She raced the third barrel. Now it was the sprint to the end. She got low on her horse’s neck and unleashed, even more power, with a squeeze of her legs and a slap of the reigns.

She crossed the finish. The timer stopped. The crowd erupted. They flashed her picture on the big screen, and I was stunned.

In the world of barrel racing, the competitors typically have fancy jeans, fancy horses and waves of thick hair flying out the back of their cowboy hats. Mary Burger was a standout. This no frills, no fuss, 67-year-old granny had just blown the competition away and caused a unanimous, first-time, standing ovation at the Calgary Stampede Rodeo. That week she went on to place in all of her rounds. She rode victoriously through challenging muddy conditions in the final championship, claiming over 120 thousand dollars in total prize money.

In her interview, she was authentic, sweet and humble. She said she didn’t even know there had been a standing ovation. She just spoke about how she loves to get out and ride and enjoys the excitement. She has been a lifelong fierce competitor, but she is known for lending an ear when needed and taking the time to share advice and experience with newer barrel racers.

Mary first connected with horses because of a childhood illness (Perthe’s Disease) that forced her to walk with crutches. Her first pony allowed her to keep up with the other kids and be mobile in ways she otherwise could not. After many years her childhood issue resolved but her passion for riding had been solidified.

Mary Burger is a tremendous example of how to inspire. She doesn’t know it, but she taught me many things that day and I thought I would share them with you.

Mary Burger Face Shot

Mary Burger’s Inspiration Rules

1. You never know when some small thing you do will inspire someone else. – Mary didn’t set out to inspire a stadium full of people. She trained hard and did her best and things worked in her favour. I suspect, win or lose, Mary handles herself with grace and confidence. The big win was inspiring but I imagine those close to Mary are as inspired by her dedication to her family, her consistent kindness, and her unwavering faith, as much as they are that big belt buckle she just took home.  People who truly inspire are as influential in the small actions as they are the grand gestures.

2. You may never know that your actions move someone to action of their own. – Mary moved me that day. She made me want to be better and stronger and more dedicated in my pursuits. She has no idea who I am or that she impacted me in that manner. Remember your contribution is important. Whether you have influence over one or many, you will never know the degree and weight that influence carries. Use it wisely.

3. Humility is fuel on the fire of inspiration. – I remember the US Olympic track athlete from several Olympics ago that crossed the finish line looking back and taunting the number two competitor. His arrogance eliminated any positive influence he may have inspired in young athletes. Worse yet, he may have actually used his influence to teach cockiness. There is no place for arrogance if you aspire to inspire.

4. Dedication to any one pursuit is, by its very nature, inspirational. – Mary has been riding since she was a child. She has raised and trained horses her whole life and dedicated herself to the pursuit of excellence. She got up when she fell and went back in the ring after losses. I suspect adversity to Mary just makes her set her alarm clock a little earlier.

5. Wisdom brings perspective. Perspective catalyzes fearlessness. Fearlessness is the foreground for cultivating inspiring acts. – Mary is 67 years old in a field of twenty-somethings. She didn’t just win; she obliterated the competition. She says she never considers her age, and I suspect she would counsel you to forget yours too.  She didn’t just blow the sides of the box she proclaimed, “There is no box!” Now that’s inspiring.

I had the pleasure of seeing Mary race around those barrels on three separate days. Her intense focus left me speechless. I haven’t stopped thinking about her. I wonder what different decisions I will make because I had the pleasure of being exposed to her light?


What Can A Cowgirl Teach You About Inspiration: Mary Burger, Calgary Stampede Rodeo 2016
Photo Credit to www.chron.com



This week I would love for you to think about the last time you were truly inspired. What did you do with that energy? I find it only lasts a little while unless you harness it and throw it toward something great. It can just be a “That was cool.” Or it can be a “That changed my life”. Which one, largely has to do with the action steps you take adjacent to the moment.

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Barrel-racing grandma Mary Burger completes sweep at Calgary Stampede

Ageless barrel racer makes third trip to grandstand

67-year-old barrel racing grandma wins again at Calgary Stampede





35 Responses

  1. What an amazing read! I could never imagine myself at 67 doing something like that. Inspiration can be around every corner. I love to use my inspiration as fuel to help me achieve my goals. Whatever those goals may be.

    1. It is! I only just put that together and then I remembered that track athlete I mentioned and how his behaviour just ruined the whole experience for everyone watching him.

  2. Such a cool post. This was my favorite part!
    In her interview, she was authentic, sweet and humble. She said she didn’t even know there had been a standing ovation. She just spoke about how she loves to get out and ride and enjoys the excitement. She has been a lifelong fierce competitor, but she is known for lending an ear when needed and taking the time to share advice and experience with newer barrel racers.
    Loved it!

    1. It is! It keeps us moving forward toward our goals when we feel like we want to stop.

  3. Number 3 is definitely a gem. I was just talking about business owners and brands being arrogant on their social media profiles. They better take notes from Mary!

    1. I love that! I am so glad that was applicable! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

  4. Love point #3! Mary is certainly an inspiration! On days when my little boys are kicking my butt, I sometimes feel sorry for myself (ugh this is so hard blah blah blah) but this is a good reminder that even the little, unseen things (like the day to day challenges of raising children) can bring wisdom and perspective 🙂 Very cool post!

    1. Chrissa. I am sure you are inspiring them with everything you do. How you run your business, how you manage your health and bright and cheery you are with people. No doubt!

    1. I totally agree, although I am not sure she has any disadvantages. Her age certainly doesn’t seem to be one!

  5. Ah!!!!! This is the part where I shout and say “Girl Power” with matching “wohooo” at the top of my lungs. What a very inspiring post and those pictures say it all. Thank you for sharing. Sending my love and full support. xoxo

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