how to start barrel racing?
So we do many things with our horses from jumping to setting up our own drill team etc. etc. but recently we've been running barrels just for fun. I really like barrel racing and i would like to do it more often with the horses i ride so i was wondering if you guys could help me with the turns and just barrel racing in general. So my big question is, how would you go about starting a horse on barrels?
Alright so I am just going to copy and paste one of my previous answers so I don't have to type it all out again...
This is a rough, short and sweet version of how we do ours.
Well we start them on the pattern in the early Spring of their 4 yr old year, at the end of their 4yr old year they are consistently loping the pattern usually. Depending on the horse itself some might be going a faster lope if they are mentally mature enough to handle that much. When starting them we work the barrels at least 4-5 days a week (time varies on how well they are working), we also do a lot of different drills and exercises off the pattern as well. We also try and haul them to some of the races and exhibition them to get them used to the surroundings and environment.
In the spring of their 5yr old year we start packing them and letting them cruise the pattern (a fast lope really) and through the year letting them just go their own pace and not pushing them at all. They usually get faster at their own pace when they feel they are ready. We still do a lot of slow work on the pattern at home and do a lot of drills. In the fall we usually cruise them through to see where there weak spots are and where they are falling apart and go back and work on those areas.
Then their 6 yr old year we start pushing them (if they are ready) and not full out. We push them but only to what they can physically and mentally handle. And by the end of their 6yr old year they are usually handling the pressure and speed well so are running good.
Their 7 yr old year is when we push start pushing and asking of them. They should be pretty well matured and seasoned on the pattern to where they know they have a job to do.
But our training program consists of a lot of slow steady work, we don't push our horses until they can handle it. If they are falling apart mentally (getting gate issues, rushing the barrels, shouldering, ect) they are not ready or need to really be backed off. And we try to avoid the nasty habits or gate problems and don't let them get sour or fire breathing dragons.
But before they even get close to the pattern they need to be broke and have a solid foundation. I want my horses to do the following and do it well before they even set foot close to the pattern...
Flexing (neck and poll)
Control their shoulders/hips and move them when and where I want
Light to leg
Soft and Supple from mouth to tail
Collection at all 3 gaits
Keeping the shoulder up on their own
Being able to control and collect themselves at all 3 gaits while doing circles, and going around objects
Solid, Smooth, Snappy stops
Light to my seat
And I am sure I am leaving a few details out, but you get the point I want them broke with a solid foundation. Because without a solid foundation your going to find your self fixing many things and it is going to take you way longer to fix the simplest things.
It applies to any horse of any age that is just our program from the get go.....make sense?
Even if you are going to do it for fun, it's nice to do it right.
Provided your horse already has a good foundation, you basically need to pattern him. That just means getting him to memorize the pattern. When you see a barrel horse run full blast at a barrel and turn it on a dime, it's because that horse KNOWS he needs to turn it, when, and where. Patterning the horse is reached by doing the actual pattern, but also doing things "off" from the pattern. It is possible to over-do it on the pattern and make your horse sour on it. (Wouldn't you get bored and resentful doing the same same same same day after day?) So that's why you can mix up the barrel pattern by adding more barrels and/or doing them in different drills. You'll still build on teaching the horse how to turn the barrel, without making them bored out of their minds.
The biggest thing, even if you are doing this for fun, is GO SLOW. Asking them to go too fast too soon only leads to a horse getting jerked and pulled around the barrel. Not fun for horse or for rider. I much rather see a rider take a horse slow and correct, than someone flying through the pattern kickin and spurring and yanking.
Wow! Yes that definitely makes sense. So really work the pattern and do it at thier speed, not yours. What kind of drills do you do? Are there any that you do to get a sharper faster turn or do you just turn them around the barrel and eventually they understand what they need to do and sharpen it on thier own?
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Have Fun, and Take it Slow.
Alright, so here's my tips!!! First get comfortable with the pattern, really get to know it, and let your horse get used to it. :-) I would recommend walking it and then going up to a trot, and then to a lope. Make sure you use your legs: for instance, if your going around the first barrel put your right leg on your horse and your left leg clear off. Then next barrel put your left leg on and your right leg off. For the last barrel it should be the same as the second barrel. Get used to using your legs :-) it will help a lot. Good luck!!!!!:lol:
I completely agree with what Beau and BarrelLvr have already said.. It would probably be good for you to read through the thread I'm going to link..There is a ton of good information for beginners.
^^^^Yes, check that topic out! Great exercises to do.
Also, for some visuals, you can check out YouTube. Dena Kirkpatrick has a ton of great videos. One of them is here.
And you can just click on her name to watch the rest of them.
Sherry Cervi also has a few problem-solving videos on.
Overall, you want to practice the turns slow to teach your horse how to handle them. You also want to be sure to give the correct supporting rein cues, leg cues, and body cues to help them make a perfect turn.
When you get to run with speed, things happen in a split second. Maybe you didn't set yourself up perfect for the turn. That's where leg cues and body cues come in handy to fix the turn while you are doing it. All those leg/body cues are usually subtle to the viewer watching and you don't actually know how the rider is communicating a lot of things to the horse.
It can take up to 2 years to have a finished barrel horse. So patience is key!
This is awesome guys, thank you for everything. I need to sit down and go through all of this and decide what my plan will be. I've always really been interested in barrels and now i think i might have the horse :)
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