New to the forum and barrel racing. This was a sport I've wanted to get into six years ago but instead did english (hunter/jumper). I rode, believe it or not, six days a week. I was obsessed with riding and becoming a better rider. Haven't ridden in six years but haven't forgotten what I learned either. I will be doing a rider eval tomorrow (yay!)
First, I will advise you to check out the barrel racing sticky on this forum. Barrel Racing Exercises and Drills.
It's got lots of great information for beginner barrel racers. That's why we created it.
There are some big difference between riding a hunter/jumper than barrel racing, so be prepared to learn different ways to do the same thing.
I know this, because I myself took some hunter/jumper lessons in December, and I had some interesting discussions with my instructor (also helping her to understand barrel racing more!) The way you use your reins, body, legs, weight, etc will all be slightly different because you are no longer heading straight for a jump and making gradual round circles .... you are running full kilter, and making a 8-foot turn around a barrel. Different dynamics!!
1. What is with joining an association? I don't understand what the associations are for.
Associations are not necessary that you join. But they are often what put on barrel racing events.
For example, the professionals are members of the Women's Professional Rodeo Association. They must go to WPRA sanctioned events in order to earn money to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo.
Another example (in the extreme opposite) is a small local association that puts on a barrel racing series where you compete every 2 weeks. Points are kept and the winners at the end of the series can win extra prizes. But you've got to be a member to get prizes.
So you don't have to be a member of any association, but that's just where you will find a lot of barrel races.
2. I'm trying out some stables to see which I like best to start with. I know I will be using school horses but when I get to a level like loping and doing like an absolute begginers' competition, will I use a school horse?
If your instructor is a good one, they will put you on a FINISHED barrel racing horse. If they don't, go find a different trainer.
You will have enough to learn as the RIDER. You don't need to try to deal with the horse at this point. That's why you should be on a finished barrel horse, because the horse already knows his job and can help you learn.
Whether or not you use a school horse for competitions will depend on your agreement with your trainer. Some will let you take the school horse to a competition (or maybe bring the horse for you). And some won't. So it will depend on your situation.
3. I don't own a horse at all sadly enough. Would it be possible to later lease or horse or would it be better to eventually buy a barrel racing horse?
Many barrel racers lease their horse. And it often is a wonderful idea when you are just starting out.
A FINISHED barrel horse (which you NEED to have for minimum of a few years while you learn the ropes) is not cheap to come by. Even if it isn't the fastest horse winning everything, there will still be a good price tag on the horse. This is also why leasing a horse is a good option, before buying.
But just remember to take it one step at a time. Take lessons first. Don't think about leasing or buying until you are truly ready. (Don't buy the cart before the horse!)
4. When barrel racing, is it a requirement to ride/race solely in a western saddle? I have tried some aussie saddles (they even have hybrid western/aussie saddles) and like the feel of them.
Most barrel races do not have any rules on the tack you can or cannot use. So technically, you could race barrels in an aussie saddle.
However, would you go play a game of basketball, while wearing football cleets? NO. Because it's not the proper equipment.
Same thing where if you are truly serious about barrel racing, then you should get a barrel saddle. They are specially designed to help the rider complete a barrel racing run.
So you can start out with whatever, but if you want to get serious, then you need to buy a barrel saddle. (You don't see the NFR girls riding in anything but!)
5. What is gymkhana? Is it like an extension of barrel racing or some sort of precursor to it?
Gymkhana basically means "games on horseback". They will have a variety of speed events, and non-speed events. They often will include barrels and poles.
Here's a few examples: