Originally Posted by BarrelRacer1234
how many times a week should I take my horse to the arena to practice? & how many times should I run him around the barrels each time I take him?
The first rule to NOT frying your horse's brain is this: do not run him everytime you ride him! It's okay to ride your horse in an arena with barrels. Beneficial, even. But don't get on your horse every time you ride and say, "Well, today I'm going to practice barrels!"
It's best to ride your horse every single day. This could be a laid-back trail ride or maybe a quiet stroll around the property. When in the arena, a lot of walking and keeping the fast gaits to a minimum can prevent your horse from becoming sour.
Now, when you do decide to really do your barrel pattern, don't run every time. Walk the pattern, trot the pattern, walk again, lope a bit, walk, run it, trot it, walk it, etc. See? You do NOT want your horse to be sour or brain-fried. Sometimes, ride in the arena with the barrels set up, but don't do the pattern. Just go through the paces: walk, trot, lope in both directions and work on balance, steadiness, consistancy, and all that good stuff. And when you're going around the barrels, don't let your riding fall all to pieces... you should still be striving for the same controlled, steady gaits. Remember that "steady" doesn't have to mean "slow," it can just mean that you aren't letting your horse charge around like a madman.
Mostly, a lot of slower stuff will ultimately help you and keep you safe when it comes to the fast stuff. :)
Also: Remember that you should work with your horse off the barrels and see which lead he picks up easiest, and is more balanced and supple in. If your horse picks up the left lead better, go to the right barrel first; if he picks up the right lead better, go to the left barrel first.