Finishing a Barrel Horse
I'm looking at a pony who has been started in barrels. He has all the basics and was ran in 4-H in the Jr. Div Pony class by a 13 yr. old girl and won most of his classes. The current owner hasn't done any contesting with him. In fact, he's been mainly sitting for about 4 years. He's had a few rides here and there but not consistent. I talked to the old owner, who I believe is very knowledgeable and it turns out she knows my 4-H leader and owned my 4-H leaders pony who I leased last year. She said he has the basics and told me about him being run in 4-H. Of course, he was in a Pony class and also in the Jr. Division. I'm in the Senior class and horses and ponies run together, so I expect more competition. I looked up "finishing a barrel horse" online and most people said finishing a barrel horse is just hauling it to shows. Is this true? I don't know if I have what it takes to finish him, especially since he hasn't been worked with much. All I have to work in is the pasture so I can't really run him at home (which I know that's not something you want to do a lot anyway) but I can set up things for him to turn around and just work on basic riding skills and then take him to the 4-H grounds to actually work on barrels, poles, keyhole and flags. I won't be able to take him to many shows, but I'm not finding any horses I can afford that are finished in barrels. If I got him now, took him to the 4-H practices every week and worked with him almost every day in between, could he be ready by June? I wouldn't expect to be able to do super well by then and of course, you can't really answer that without seeing the horse being ridden, but do you think he could be back into shape by then. Basically refreshed on what he already knows? Any tips on finishing a horse on barrels? I hope all this makes sense. Thanks~ poundinghooves
Do you know exactly all he has done on the barrels? Like walk, trot, lope...ect. Because if he knows the "basics" he isn't really ready to be hauled. For me there are 2 "finishing" stages. One is actually finishing the horse on the pattern. Which involves having them running, being consistent no bad habits, and running decent times. Then there is Finished where the horse is seasoned and has been hauled and is used to running at many different arenas, ect.
And after 4years and him only knowing the "basics" you will probably have to start back at the beginning depending on how much he really knows. Because 4 years off a lot of time for a horse to sit, eat, and will be pretty rusty.
^ This is definitely it.
Ah. Google has an answer for everything; including how to finish a barrel horse.
Because of the fact that many individuals have devoted their lives to learning how to train that winning top-notch barrel horse, "how to finish a barrel horse" is certainly not something we can accurately explain over the internet.
There are entire books and detailed DVDs sets on how to train a barrel horse. I suggest you try to get your hands on some. A few names to look for: Charmayne James, Sherry Cervi, Sharon Camarillo, Ed and Martha Wright, Martha Josey, Dena Kirkpatrick.
I think the main thing here though, is what level do you honestly and realistically expect to compete at this year? I'm not saying that ponies can't compete with the larger horses, but that's one disadvantage you have against you to start with.
Have you ever run barrels yourself? You didn't so say so it sounds like this would be a completely new thing to you. That's another disadvantage.
I don't want to be a debbie downer, but if you are out to run barrels for FUN, then everything should be fine. But if you do want to place or win once in a while, that might not be realistic this year (of course I haven't seen this pony run the barrels, so that's just a guess).
Horses are very smart and they do retain information well, but he HAS been sitting around for 4 years.
I agree with barrelhorselvr in that there are two different stages of finished a barrel horse. 1) Perfecting the pattern at the lope at home. 2) Hauling to shows to get them used to the show environment and running in it.
But you've got to start with the right basics. Your pony should be able to:
--walk, trot, and lope relaxed on a loose rein
--stop softly from any speed
--back easily when asked
--sidepass and two-track
--turn on the fore, and turn on the haunches
--direct rein and neck rein
--simple lead changes and flying lead changes
Basically, you want to be able to move any part of your horse's body (nose, neck, shoulders, ribcage, hindquarters) at any time and at any speed. A well-trained and well-broke horse!!!
Make sure you can do everything perfectly at the walk on the barrel pattern (because you will start here, since he hasn't been r idden in 4 years) before you progress to the trot. Perfect everything at the trot, before moving onto the lope.
If you go too fast too soon, you create bad habits with your horse that are very hard to fix.
Make sure to give them plenty of room around the barrel, although ponies are usually pretty good at taking things close. Never turn the barrel until your knee is past the barrel itself.
Never be afraid to slow things back down. If you feel you are starting to get sloppy in the pattern, bring the speed down and do it right.
So as I said, it maybe just depends what you REALLY want to accomplish this year. You might not be very competitive this first year. I don't know; I haven't seen the pony run. But it would be possible to be ready to at least be at a show in June, if you ride every day (not necessarily working on barrels every day) and get some practice in once in a while. You don't have to have a barrel to practice the fundamentals you need in a run.
Great advice Beau- thanks for including those precious basics!!! I've seen so many kids get really hurt bypassing the basics.
Thanks for posting the advice beau on here im in the same boat with my quarter horse. I want him ready to at least do a couple shows in august and we are doing a lot of the steps you advised, but some we need to work on. Of course I'd love to win but this year I just want him to show up to the show, run it and not be complete spaz.
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I have run barrels, poles, keyhole and flags before, it's not a completely new thing to me, but I will be the first to say that I am no pro. And I don't have an arena so I'm concerned about that. I can set up barrels in the pasture, but I've got to be careful with our ground. It is a pasture. I don't expect to be able to go up to 4-H and win or anything. Not that I'd be against at least placing, if possible ;) But I at least want to be able to get in the arena by June and really do well. And run the pattern not trot it :D So I was just wandering if this is possible. The good thing is from what I've heard he is kind and willing so I don't look for a lot of stubbornness, etc resulting from him sitting for 4 years. Of course, I am going to ride him and see how he behaves. I really appreciate your advice Beau. I believe he's already been patterned as far as walking, trotting and loping the pattern, as he was obviously running the pattern when he was shown because he won his classes. Any advice on gradually asking for more and more speed? How will I remind him (eventually, of course, not right off) that he's supposed to run the pattern? Since he's done it before, should this just come or will it take some reminding and if so, how should I go about reminding him?
You most certainly can walk the pattern on grass pasture. Trotting .... maybe. A horse can still slip on pasture grass when asked to turn sharply.
You said you don't expect to go up and win anything. But then you say you want to "do really well".
I think you need to actually figure out what your goals are first, before purchasing this pony.
If he had any bad habits when he was run on barrels 4 years ago, chances are those are still going to be there. Again, I don't know because I haven't seen him run.
After you get his riding fundamentals back (the things I mentioned about stopping softly, lead changes, etc), THEN you can present the pattern to him. Treat him as if he has never run barrels before in his life. Pattern him at the walk. Make him do everything perfectly. Once he starts to get automatic and perfect on his own at the walk with little correction from you, then try it at the trot. When he can do it perfectly at the trot, then try the gallop.
I don't know how long this process will take because I don't know if there are any holes in his basic fundamentals, and I don't know if they allowed him to run barrels with any bad habits.
And remember: You don't have to do the pattern "in order" all the time. He'll get soured on it. Mix it up. Maybe work with one barrel. Or turn all 3 barrels the same direction. Or add a 4th barrel and do random drills. Keep it interesting so your horse doesn't get bored and doesn't get soured.
Therefore he should NOT go any faster on the pattern than you ask him to, because you've already established control at the speed you ask for. THAT'S how you will "remind" him not to go faster. He should be listening to you. That's why you should not skip brushing up on his basic riding fundamentals first.
You would be surprised at how well a horse can retain training. Good or bad. It just depends on how well this pony was trained. I would start out getting him back in shape treating him like a broke horse, and if you find holes then go back and fix them. I once bought an older gelding who was a perfectly trained barrel an pole horse. He had sat in the pasture the past 2 years doing nothing. A month of riding everyday and getting him back in shape we were running at shows together and winning. This horse had no holes though, he had been trained right from the start. It was just getting him back in shape, he still remembered his job.
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