It takes me around 2 years to completely train a barrel horse. Generally the first 4 months are just walking and trotting the pattern. After that I slowly will add a lope between the barrels, but I drop down into a trot around the barrels. I also tend to push my horses past the barrels by quite a bit because when you do start adding speed, they tend to get it in their mind and cut the barrel too soon. So I add an extra 5-6 feet in my pocket for about 8 months, then I slowly over the next couple of months I'll get them closer and closer to the barrel.
I don't start pushing them into the turn at a lope until I know for sure they they know what they are doing. A lot of times, I'll ride on a really loose rein and see what they do when the pattern is set up and I point them in the general direction of the first barrel. 9 times out of 10, they head straight for the pocket just the way I taught them.
After about a year, they are high loping a nice, consistent pattern, and I let them do that. I don't push for anymore speed. A lot of times a horse has to learn how to run anyways and eventually they naturally start adding speed themselves. The only thing I'm concerned with after a year, it a super nice, clean, smooth, safe pattern.
Once I'm comfortable with the high lope, I start pushing for speed. But this is usually half way through their 2nd year of training. So they've had 1-1/2 years of walking, trotting, and loping the pattern. I don't use spurs, and I don't use a crop on these horses. I do use a crop on my seasoned horses, but they have years of racing under their belt.
And I never start a horse on the pattern until they know all of the basics. Walk, trot, canter, whoa, back, side-pass, leads, flying lead changes, roll-backs etc.
"The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with
him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too."