I am going to start training my gelding in about a month to see if him and I can run barrels. I've never done it before and am not the most experienced. I am dedicated, determined and my horse and I have been riding together for years now. Everyone I've talked to so far thinks he is a great prospect with the build and speed for it and so I was just wondering what kind of advice anyone might be able to provide.
Find someone to help you. Lessons. That's my advice
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I would make sure you have good lead changes before going into barrels, preferably automatic. It will make the barrel training less stressful both physically and mentally. The barrel trainer at my stable always starts out horses by walking and trotting them tightly around one barrel for a while and then alternates. Then she works the patter but circles each barrel about 5 times before moving on to the next. She calls it "patterning" and I don't know much about barrels but her horses usually do very well when she competes. I know she usually works with a horse a minimum of 6 month before actually going on a real run for the first time too.
Agreed with the trainer. There are a million differant pieces of advice I could give you for every certain situation, and it would be impossible to get it all down on paper.
Before you go off to the trainer though, I would reinforce all buttons (Haunches/forehand/sidepass), led yields, and just make sure theres a good foundation so the trainer only has to start patterning and getting him "Rodeo Ready" as my trainer calls it. I know that at my barn, I get VERY frustrated when people send their "Barrel horses" out and expect a miracle when they have no foundation for it and we have to go through ALLLL he basics again.
Things like moving body parts, a soft and supple mouth, flexibility, respect on the ground and in the saddle, decent transitions already and knowing their leads. Backing up, able to back up squares/circles, counter flexion is nice to have but not excessively necessary, it's easy to add on to a horse with all the other buttons.
Storytime. I once had a girl bring me an unstarted colt, saying she had a rodeo in a MONTH that he had to be ready for and she wasn't paying us unless they were ready for it in that month. Yeah. This is an extreme case and obvious your horse isn't an unstarted colt, but needless to say a horse without foundation sent to a trainer for a specific thing is irritating unless they are actually sent there to get a foundation in the first place.
I'm rambling/ranting, but that's my little slice of advice.
Ah. Too much to say, so here's one more vote for getting a trainer...
Lead changes are important, and just walk/trot around barrels- speed comes LAST.
Try to do different patterns- set the barrels up in different places so the focus isn't the pattern, but going around the barrels. This is a big peeve of mine, seeing horses ruined because all they're taught is to take off when they get in the gate and do that pattern... I saw a horse that had to be wrestled in the gate by three people, and they just let him go, and he took off and did the pattern with the girl on his back holding on for dear life- she had NO idea how to ride a horse...
I'm sorry, I'm just ranting now. But I just want to drive home that speed shouldn't be the top priority, and that's the biggest lesson there is in learning barrels, to me. :)
Collection, your not just walking and trotting the pattern. Your making the horse stay collected while doing so, making sure his butt doesn't swing out that he's property uses himself around the barrels. The same goes for cantering. Nomrally I stop mine and back them up infront of the barrel or do rollbacks off the fence to achieve collection at the canter in barrels. That's one of the main things I see lacking in alot of horses, they get all strung out while turning the barrel. I only suggest a trainer, or just lessons, anyone to help you, because there are so many little things to think about while starting a barrel horse that people who have never down before don't see. Like pockets, no one has mentioned pockets going into a barrel. In the end having someone help you will benifit you better and you will advance quicker than if doing it alone. Around here most people are friendly and willing to give any free advice they have, and most is right.
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