I'm curious about barrel racing! I usually ride english but I'd love to have a go at barrel racing. There is a barrel racing club in my town open to novice, open rounds. etc. which allow to go at trot and canter as well as galloping.
I've never done this before and I want to know the risks, good things, differences about barrel racing?
What I can expect when I first start etc.
question indeed, but I'll try to give you a few pointers.
The biggest lesson you can learn about barrel racing is that SLOWER is better. Even if you are only going to be doing this for fun at local shows, you do not want to push your horse too fast too soon. Or else you may make him resent the barrels. So start slow! Enter the trotting barrels classes.
Risks, well, like any other horse event, you want to make sure you horse is in good shape and has been conditioned. You also want to properly warm up and cool down before each event. It's meant to be a sport of speed, so I highly recommend a helmet, but of course that's usually not required at most gaming shows.
Differences in barrel racing depends on what association you are running with (their rules) and the arena size. Some gaming shows have a rule where you cannot make a running start. Rodeos and jackpot races usually do not. Some horse clubs have large arenas with a large barrel pattern (so the times will be higher in the 17 to 20 second range) and some have small arenas with small patterns (13 to 15 second range). Some shows have a dress code and some do not. Just know the rules of where you are going to compete.
For those of us who have been barrel racing a LONG time, we would much rather see a new rider (like yourself) come in a do a nice, correct, slow trotting pattern with a relaxed horse. I hate seeing people come blasting into the arena, yanking on a horse that clearly has not been trained for barrels, making a sloppy and terrible looking "fast" pattern. Do it slow and right or don't do it at all.
As far as what YOU should expect .... just expect to have fun! Who cares how fast your run is. You're just giving this a try. Make your horse do the pattern slow and nice and you'll both learn something from it.