starting a horse on barrels...need help!
So a horse I've been working with has come a long way - she's a little bity buckskin with a ton of speed. Her owner thinks she wants to try her for barrels, and has asked me to work with her on it. I usually work with western pleasure and reining horses, so I feel a bit out of my depth! We have a good, well groomed and deep arena, and a set of barrels. My question is : how do you start a horse for barrels? I am kind of stuck as to how to start/proceed. She also wants to try poles and keyhole racing.
My only concern besides how to start is that she is small. About 14hh. She's a quarter horse but she's finer boned than some. I know Arabians and other 'light boned' horses do well at barrel racing and gaming, but I want to get her strong and also protect her for the motions of the sport. Anything I can do as a precaution to help her out? Splint boots/polo wraps? Certain exercises? Thanks for any advice!!
The biggest thing I have found while watching other people and working with horses myself is do it slow! Take a lot of time to get the basics then work your way up. I did it the other way around with my horse and spent 7 years paying the consequences. He will never be a great barrel horse because I made him hot and trained him poorly when training barrels. He has habits that are hard to break and make for an overall okay gymkhana horse once I fixed the major problems.
Before thinking of starting to patterns make sure the horse is well broke. So you have control over hind, shoulder, barrel everything. You should be able to bend and counter bend, stop, do roll backs, lead changes and the works...all before! It will make your life a lot easier.
From there its hard to say, I would suggest looking up books written by barrel racers. I like the Charmayne James barrel racing book, there is so much to know about rating, pockets the lead changes, patterns thats its hard to put down here. I will leave the rest to other more experienced people. The main thing I wanted to leave you with, is get the basics right the first time and take it slow!
eehh... okay do this.
the first few days walk the horse around the pattern. when you leave the 1st barrel head to the 2nd like your going to hit it and then a few feet before you get to it step to go around it. when you head to the 3rd position the horse as of going around the left of it, but when you get closer move as you are going around the right of it.
next walk to the first trot the 2nd and 3rd... keep doing this for a while.... once you got that down trot the whole pattern.
then lope from the 2nd to 3rd this will help with speed and turning- you already know about speed and turning from reining but this is different as you know. once you are okay doing it from the 2nd to 3rd move up and lope the whole pattern...
you are only teaching the horse the pattern. is what im assuming by your post. this needs to happen before any speed is brought to him.. and yes some people do "lope" a pattern and win..
I do suggest making sure the horse is "bendable" knows lead changes, and responds to the bit you use.
oh and heres a good hint with barrels and all... when you are wanting to turn make sure your horses rear is next to the barrel when you turn... and get close to the barrel when you do turn.... but not too close..
see my attachement if it did post... where the arrows are the tips of the are where your horses rear should be before you turn and the arrows show how close you should be to the barrel. hope that makes sense..
No offense, but I question why the owner is having you start her horse on barrels. If she hopes to be seriously competitive, she should really have someone with experience in the discipline do it. If you were training your own horse, I'd say go for it, because you have to start somewhere....but it's a little different when you're taking client's money. If someone were to ask me to train a jumping or dressage or WP horse, I would decline.
i do agree with Bubba... it is odd. unless this owner just wants the horse to have some kind of knowledge of the pattern.
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