I have a five year old Quarter Horse mare and physically, she seems like she'd make a superb barrel horse and she's super fast! I started her on barrels last year at gymkhana, just taking it slow and jogging the pattern. I found that it took her a long time to actually even jog the pattern though. She constantly tried to take me through barrels, and when I'd ask her to move out more, she'd buck. When there were no barrels set up or a different speed event like poles or stakes, she'd do fine and turn well and listen. This year, she's sped up a bit and for a while, she actually seemed to be okay with it (not hate it, but not love it completely). We were pulling decent times like 20 seconds on a big pattern. However, later in this year, she suddenly just stopped turning nicely. I will say, though, she has never turned the barrels exceptionally well. She tends not to pocket it, no matter how hard I work on it. Her turning for poles is much better. Anyway, she would take me through first barrel no matter how wide I tried to take it. If it wasn't first barrel, it was third. Changing the starting barrel didn't help either, nor did going back to the basics. She's fine at a walk and trot, but as soon as I ask her to canter or gallop the pattern, she misbehaves. Now she'll grab the bit in her teeth and run away with me to the far corner at first barrel. If she doesn't take it down, she runs away or takes down a different barrel. I don't understand this because she was doing pretty well and then all of a sudden she won't even listen to my cues and its gotten to the point where I don't even want to take her to small games shows. She listens much better for poles and stakes. Also, I have started jumping her for fun and she just loves it and listens really well. She picks up her lead changes, has great form over jumps and I mostly just have to look where I want her to go and she goes there. It's like she's two different horses.
Note: Her tack seems to fit, I can't find anything wrong with her physically, I've taken her off her grain, and I've given her a good break from barrels but nothing has helped and I have never overworked her with them either. I make sure to do other things with her so I'm not just doing one thing but it doesn't help. Actually, people can't believe it when I tell them about her issues because she's usually so calm and well behaved.
If you have any advice I'd really appreciate it. Barrel racing and gymkhana's are a big part of me and going to them with a horse who you just end up fighting with for barrels has taken all the fun out of it, not too mention I'm worried she's going to run me into the fence when she takes off with me. I just don't know what to do with her.
Ok well I had a similer problem when I first started running barrels. My horse did first great but would always throw me into the second barrel.
I got a more severe bit (myler 5) and occasionally if he isn't listening at all I would throw a combo bit in his mouth to make him listen. So you could try that.
Another thing I did was buy different spurs, I know some people don't like them but they seemed to work for me, I just bought bigger rowel spurs about 5 or 6 spikes nothing to harsh.
And the last thing I did was make him follow a pro trained horse through the pattern a few times and it seemed to work out after that.
Barrels are also a HUGE part in my life(i earn my living off of it) so when a horse isn't listening or knocking barrels, i'm either losing money or making myself look like a total fool. So I know how you feel.
When I first started to run barrels on my older mare (RIP), Blaze, she would do the same thing. She would be great, amazing. The all of a sudden it all went to Hell & back... well I doubt that she really ever came back, she was always a little demon.
I stopped doing barrels for say two, three weeks. I went on trail rides, rode bareback, went swimming, did things I know that she had fun doing. Then I slowly picked back up the barrels.
I would work on barrels maybe once a week & it was like she was running them everyday, she wasn't over worked, she could expand her mind to other things & learned to love the speed.
I'm not sure if that's the case with your horse but it sounds like he is barrel sour.
Try doing something that the horse enjoys & if you hate it don't worry! You will soon feel the speed once again.
Ugh Twinkie started throwing me into the second barrel not to long ago after two years or money winning runs. Idk what his issue was, but I did change the bit, it wasnt a harsher bit just a diffrent bit, gives a diffrent feel. And when I would practice even at the walk and trot i'd over exaggerate my pocket, instead if four feet between you and the barrel go out as far as ten feet or more and I just kept doing that, then id do it at the lop, hold his face to the barrel, put my spur on him and take it wide just like at the walk and trot. I did this for a couple weeks, then the next time I ran him he was perfect. I don't think changing to a harsher bit is always the answer because its just covering an issue, and eventually its going to come up again.
Well, I've tried changing bits, using spurs, not using spurs, etc. So far nothing has helped. I already gave her a long break from barrels and just went trail riding, jumping, swimming, etc but she was still a brat in the arena as soon as I'd go faster than a trot. I don't have problems with her at the slower speeds but when we get to first barrel if I'm so much as cantering, she'll run me right through the barrel. If I try and exaggerate the pocket, she decides to take the bit in her teeth and gallop across the arena with me and she will not stop until she wants to, no matter what I try to do to stop her. I also tried lunging her around first barrel and she started out doing it at a trot and then she turned to me and reared and refused to move out again. I could have whipped the c*** out of her and she still wouldn't have moved an inch. Yet if I lunged her the other direction or in a tight circle NOT around the barrel, she'd be fine. I don't know for sure but it feels like she doesn't really enjoy it....she just has so much more spark when jumping but my heart is with gymkhana and barrel racing. If you guys have any other ideas, I'd really enjoy to see what they are!
(Sorry, I should have mentioned in the first post everything I've tried with her...I'm pretty sure that's it but I can't remember everything I've tried so much! Lol)
Maybe just try sticking with her speed for awhile? Doesn't sound like you have anything to lose, if she's being a brat and acting up with you anyway that's basically making a fool of you, you'd be better off just going with her for awhile. Let her decide when she wants to go faster. Otherwise it might be time to sell her as a jumping prospect and find yourself a new barrel horse that actually enjoys it. Sometimes a horses heart just isn't into what we want it to be into.
It just sounds to me like she isn't meant to be a barrel horse. Sometimes it happens, and its not really fair to make her do something she doesn't want to and its frustrating both you and her. I know its hard to sell a horse but sometimes its for the best.
I agree with the last 2 she seems to just not enjoy the barrels which is entirely possible since she seems fromwhat you said before to like jumping more. That or you can try her in a hackamore to stop her from taking the bit and running off I had to do that with my horse outlaw he has a bad habit of taking the bit so I switched him to a hackamore and he's doing really well in it. But of course if she doesnt like the patterns then nothing is going to change her mind
An example of a barrel bred horse who is not ;) Dash of a Jet is bred to run and he is fast! What he doesn't have is the heart that it takes to be a pro 1D horse. He is 4th generation bred on the Rafter M Ranch. Sheldon loves doing his western pleasure classes at the local open shows and trail riding for fun. Just letting you know sometimes things just don't happen the way we think they should...