Barrel Racing - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 05-12-2013, 09:09 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Saskatchewan Canada
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Barrel Racing

Those who barrel race, how should you get a horse into barrel racing for the first time? The horse I am riding has good flying lead changes, is fast and turns good... but has never been around the barrels, which he will be on Tuesday! Any advice?

Last edited by Breezy2011; 05-12-2013 at 09:13 PM.
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post #2 of 9 Old 05-12-2013, 09:30 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: abilene,tx
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Slow work. Lots and lots of it, walk the pattern till he can do it in his sleep then go to the trot and repeat. Only add speed when you feel he is perfect. Also you want to be able to control shoulder, haunches and speed , etc. You do not just go out and run there is tons of work that goes into making a same barrel horse, it doesn't happen over night. I'm sure beau will give you a more detailed answer soon :).

just a small town girl with a big town dream :]
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post #3 of 9 Old 05-12-2013, 10:56 PM
Green Broke
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Like BrA said, lots and lots of slow work. Control (of every body part) is your foundation, slow is the guts, and speed is all the fluffy extras (think a house).

Does your horse work off their hind end or drag themselves along on the forehand? A barrel horse can't be on the forehand to be successful, it MUST have impulsion from behind or you won't have not one good turn around a barrel. A finished barrel horse takes YEARS to accomplish because it isn't easy, there is soo much involved ( again, think about a house being built).

Now..onto the next step after your horse can sit it's ass down and work with impulsion is slow work.
Walking the pattern is the first step. While we walk the pattern, as we enter our pocket, we stop and back 3-5 steps (generally the horse will realize it's time to gather himself up and use his hind end). We then proceed to walk around the barrel with correct leg, rein, and seat cues (ask if you don't know what I mean, don't want to have to explain if you already know). If that first turn isn't perfect, you walk around, and around, and around until that turn is absolutely perfect..and then you finish the pattern the same way.

Next would be the trot work when your horse already knows that he needs to gather himself up as you hit that pocket. With trot, you'll do the same as walk, but when you make your turn after your stop/back, you'll still walk the turn. If the horse is already gathered up and on it's hind end, you can go straight to trotting the full pattern. The horse MUST be absolutely, without a doubt in your mind perfect, as the trot patterns are the most important step (IMO). Then, and only then, you can move onto cantering/loping the pattern.

With the canter/lope, you'll break down into the trot for the turns again, just like the full trot patterns. But, you're going to work on perfecting rollbacks before you continue onto cantering/loping the full pattern. Rollbacks (again, IMO) are the foundation of barrel turns. Depending on the horse, I'll perfect rollbacks before I even start patterns, or at this stage. I usually do rollbacks at this stage because I've already been working on getting my horse on it's hind end through this whole process. The concept was there before patterns, but this is the time to cement it into their little brains, lol.
After rollbacks are perfected, then we can canter/lope the full pattern. If the horse doesn't have perfect turns, start all over again and see where the hole is. Turns are the meat of your run..Turns are definitely the make it or break it part of any barrel run. A horse with bad turns won't win, even if your straightaways between barrels are superhorse speed.

After all that is done, you'll need to make sure your horse is able to handle the walk, run, walk of a run. It needs to walk into the arena on a loose rein, canter/lope the pattern, and walk back out on a loose rein. If it can't, that must be worked on. A horse that is calm will place over an insane wackjob horse that acts up at the gate/in the chute. I've seen it happen many times. The wackjob isn't focused on his rider's cues, he's focused on run, run, run. The calm horse is focused on his rider and will respond much quicker than the wackjob.

After all that is mastered, then you can add speed to the pattern. I add speed on the straightaways first before my turns, but it's acceptable to add speed all around if the horse can handle it.

Hope it helped :p I'm usually the only one around here at shows that can walk in, run, and walk out without bucks, rears, or meltdowns. Save, I haven't had a horse long enough to finish it (I always leased different ones), I know it works though. I've gone through everything I just posted, aside from finishing the adding of speed to the full pattern.
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post #4 of 9 Old 05-12-2013, 11:27 PM
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Location: Indiana
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We want a good solid ride. No spook, rear, bucking, etc.... Solid Mount first and foremost.

That bieng said, walking patterns and such are part of that.

I've personally found good riding horses can run patterns and be almost better then a seasoned racer, they tend to listen more and not go automatic.

If you're riding a good horse, know the pattern yourself, can rate and steer the horse, try it. See how it goes.

I guess what I'm saying is, get a good solid ride. Be a good rider. And try it. You're not likely to be in the money, but you'll have a starting point for you and horse.

My biggest suggestion to anyone who wants to barrel race for sport, stay as far away from barrels and arenas as possibly. Few runs a day, make em easy and enjoyable. Too many barrel horses get blown up.
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post #5 of 9 Old 05-13-2013, 09:07 AM
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Kansas
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Before my horses ever see a barrel, I have to be able to position every part of their bodies at a halt, walk, trot, and lope. They have to be consistent with transitions and extensions/collections. I have to be able to counter-arc a complete circle at the walk, trot and lope in both directions. They have to be soft and receptive to all aids. They have to be consistent on flying changes.

Once they get to this point, I send them to my trainer. She is amazing, and can put a foundation on one much better and faster than I could.

Learning never stops
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post #6 of 9 Old 05-13-2013, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Breezy2011 View Post
Those who barrel race, how should you get a horse into barrel racing for the first time? The horse I am riding has good flying lead changes, is fast and turns good... but has never been around the barrels, which he will be on Tuesday! Any advice?
First of all, welcome to barrel racing. It can sure be an adrenaline rush!

Secondly, I would advise you to check out the barrel racing section of this forum Barrel Racing
As well as checking out a thread we started for beginning barrel racers. I highly recommend you read through the whole thing.
Barrel Racing Exercises and Drills.

Now, as far as your particular situation, you should WALK those barrels on Tuesday. Yes, I am 100% serious. That is my advice.

It takes anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to fully train a barrel racing horse (and most often, it is closer to that 2 year mark). Before you can go fast, you have to go slow. Or you will create horrible bad habits that are hard to fix.

I think Judy Myllymaki says it best: "We run a barrel horse for us. We walk the barrel horse for him." You can NEVER walk that barrel pattern too much. But you can certainly run it too much, and ruin him.

You'll hear some people say: "Well why should I go slow and take my time, and avoid bad habits, when I don't expect to travel the rodeo circuit, or make it to the NFR? I just want to go to fun shows and fool around." Sure, not everyone will aspire to have a 1D barrel horse. However, there's still no reason that you can't go through the training process in a correct manner.

As always, when you start a new event, it is always best if you can take lessons or work with a barrel racing trainer. Sure, you can get advice on the internet, watch YouTube videos, read books, etc but it cannot replace the expertise of a real live person. (You wouldn't go fly a plane because you read about it in a book, right? No! You'd have many hours in the cockpit taking lessons from a trainer, certified pilot.)

So, get yourself a trainer. But here are some videos to get your started.

Dena Kirkpatrick has a lot of free video on YouTube based off her training DVDs. Here's one so that you can find the others.

Sherry Cervi also has a few trouble-shooting videos.

If you still have questions after reading over the thread we started in the barrel racing forum, please feel free to ask.

∞*˚ Βгįťţαňγ ˚*∞
It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.
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post #7 of 9 Old 05-13-2013, 11:43 AM
Green Broke
Join Date: Mar 2010
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Yes that's what I forgot a trainer! I've had a few and the one before y current trainer taught me some horrible habits. You want to find a good barrel trainer for the most part we will do walk/ trot a couple days before a race but other then that it is basic workouts and lots of trail riding.

Bad habits are your worst nightmare, I was learning on an arb gelding that had been ran too fast too soon and lost his mind. That was beyond discouraging and took months to even get him to walk on a loose rein again. Don't rush it please.

just a small town girl with a big town dream :]
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post #8 of 9 Old 05-13-2013, 12:27 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Saskatchewan Canada
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Lately we have been riding in the arena (because it is seeding time for farmers and you cannot go in fields, and roads are too busy right now) and we have been working on loping and picking up the proper leads, getting into bigger circles (the horse tries to make them smaller, but I have been working on that) and getting him to keep a steady pace at the lope (sometimes he will try to slow down after a couple strides or half a circle)... but we usually go out on trail rides, and even sometimes after riding in the arena we will go out to cool down.

Once the farmers are done seeding, the road we go on will be almost dead of traffic and we will be able to go out again, but are stuck in the arena right now.

My boss has a coach and says that the next time she comes to her house, she will get her to give me a lesson to improve my riding skills, as I know I need to improve a lot in some places (I tend to look down at the horses head the first few strides of the trot and lope, before looking forward, and when I transition from the lope to trot, it seems I point my elbows out, we took a video to see what if and what I was doing wrong.)
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post #9 of 9 Old 05-16-2013, 10:08 PM Thread Starter
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Okay so today we brought out the barrels...

It seemed like this interested in nothing type of horse is actually interested in something!!

I walked him around the barrels, then trotted and then we progressed to trotting the full pattern but loping home, but since I don't want him to get into the habit of running as soon as he turns the 3rd barrel, I would mix it up and walk and trot and lope at different times... it was fun and he perked up a lot...

Usually I will have to do everything possible to keep him at a lope, but when the barrels came out, I had to keep contact with him to keep him at a steady pace... instead of going FASTER!!! He loved it!

After we went around 3 times (once at a walk, then trot, then trot and lope) I took him out on a trail ride.

Tomorrow when I ride I will probably take him around the barrels like yesterday, but only once after working on loping circles and lead changes... then take him out again.

I won't be riding him around the barrels everyday, but before I stop, I want to get him use to the barrels and the pattern before we take a few days of barrels off.

I really appreciate all of your advice and now that I know he likes it, we will focus on this training and maybe enter him in a barrel racing event in august, but take it slow, as I don't think we will be close to loping the turns yet.
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