This is fantastic thank you again! I'm moving my mare down closer to me within the next month. We're just working on "remembering" things as she has had a long long time off. Not looking at rushing anything, just been bending and relaxing.
I suppose I can add a few things and get this “sticky” back on track.
Before I ever start a horse on barrels, I want them to be broke, broke, broke! Before being introduced to the pattern, I want my horses to be able to:
--walk, trot, and lope on a loose rein, and relaxed
--stop softly and immediately from any speed
--back up freely when asked
--give to the bit in any direction, and break at the poll
--neck rein and direct rein
--be able to sidepass and two-track
--can execute a turn on the fore, or a turn on the haunches
--simple lead changes and flying lead changes
--can perform “perfect circles” with little help from the rider
Basically, I want to be able to control each part of the horse’s body individually (nose, neck, shoulders, ribcage, hindquarters) at any speed and at any time. Broke, broke, broke!
To elaborate on “perfect circles”, it is a method taught by Dena Kirkpatrick where you ask your horse to travel in a circular motion. In the beginning, you will need two hands to perform this maneuver. Set the horse on their course. If they voluntarily drift out of the imaginary circle path, use your legs and your hands to put them back on the correct course. Do not try to prevent them from going off course, instead allow them to make a mistake! That’s how horses learn: By making mistakes, and the rider correcting them. Eventually, your horse will learn to stay on the circular path on their own, and you simply have to keep one direct rein hand on the reins. This greatly helps the transition to the barrel pattern because you can turn the barrel one-handed from the very start, because you have already taught your horse to maintain a perfect circle when you ask.
Dena Kirkpatrick has a lot of videos on her YouTube Channel. I can’t post them all, because that would take up too much space. I will post a few of my favorites, and you can always view the rest by clicking on “videos”.
Dena does not have a specific video showing her “perfect circles” but this is pretty close to what they should look like:
However, sport boots WILL provide MORE support than a polo wrap. But we are talking single digits in percentages …. So does it really matter? Again, personal preference.
Polo wraps are also a great option for barrel racers to use to protect their horse’s legs, but do not use polo wraps unless you have been shown and trained by a vet on how to apply them. If you apply a polo incorrectly, you can do more HARM than good by damaging ligaments and tendons due to an improper wrap. Do not use polo wraps unless you have been trained on how to apply them properly. Also make sure you use a good name-brand polo wrap (such as Classic Equine) because the velcro is stronger and the wrap is better quality.
Remember that you get what you pay for!
Cheap price = Cheap boots = Cheap material = Cheap protection
I wanted to make a brief little point here, because I have been seeing this as a big issue in my area (Especially my high school equestrian program).
People bitting up barrel horses to so-called "barrel bits" JUST because they are running barrels. There is no rhyme, reason, or functionality to the choice they just see something like say, a wonder bit and think "Hey! Let's put that on my barrel horse and he'll turn so sharp and be so much faster!"
No, no, no. You don't need a long shank single jointed twisted wire gag bit with a noseband. You don't always need a big bit, you don't always need a twisted bit.
Most bits today marketed to barrel racers are a twisted wire. Like these:
All three of those bits are commonly used. This doesn't mean you HAVE to use them, or that they are going to work on every horse. I spent a long time being pressured to bit my horses up to the fad bit of the time, and that is the last thing you want to do.
Don't bit up just because you're running barrels. My colt right now was adding speed before his lay off and still in a snaffle. I will probably take him to jackpots in a snaffle. Snaffles are the number one best bitting tool you can have in your tack room. You get a direct contact with your horse's mouth, it's not confusing to the horse, very straight forward bit and light. No use slapping anything heavy on them. You'll confuse the horse, frustrate him, and in some cases I have witnessed barrel horses be so scared of their bit they will back off the point where they don't run anymore.
Don't use a bit to cover training problems. It's okay to have a strong barrel horse. It's okay to have him hot, or have little quirks about him. He just has to listen to you. While it's okay to have a jiggy horse who lifts his head going in the gate, it's not okay to have one that rears, jumps around, flips its head, ignores your cues when asked to soften his face, etc.
Have a reason for choosing your bit. Listen to your horse. Is he strong? Is he ratey or free running? Does he lift well? Does he have a soft mouth or is he a little harder in the face naturally? What kind of pressure does he respond best to? What type of metal does he like? What sort of mouthpiece does he respond to?
When you do try a new bit, listen to how he responds. Does he flip his head? Does he put his head down or up or jerk it sideways at random? Does he soften and bend well? Do you have a good response time from the time you pick up your hand to the time you get what you asked? Think about what you are getting and don't settle for less than what your horse feels good in.
All these things will factor into your choice. I see so many people using these bits and not having a clue what sort of function they actually perform. If you need help, ask! You have the forum here or even better find someone in person who is knowledgeable and can help you. The beauty of barrel racing is that since anything goes, you can have the utmost freedom in choosing the equipment you need.
That's just my little bit philosophy lesson for the day...Orrather, night, since it's almost 3am now.
WOW! Great post I wish every barrel racer in my area would read that post! Maybe I should print it and take it with me. :P The one rodeo gal around here runs in the most complicated bit I've seen twisted/jointed mouth, twisted noseband, curb chain, plus shanks somehow AND a cable tie down. Said horse used to be a friend's mare she ran in a SNAFFLE, and was winning. I asked her why she used it, then she came up with this response, "Well, it's pretty, looks cool AND it's a Sherry Cervi, for barrel racers it'll make her run faster and win."
Totally relevant here...LOL.
I run my horses like you said in what they NEED, it's specific to them and the day. Snaffles and hacks are my preferred bit of choice. Here and there it's my Jr. Cowhorse or Combo Hack. Couldn't have said it better myself!