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Hannahhh 09-10-2013 09:34 PM

Small horses and improvement?
First off, how much does size really matter in barrel racing? I don't know exactley how tall my mare is but I'm 5'4 and her whithers are right around my shoulders. Is her height going to hurt us in barrel racing? The best I've gotten on her is a 21 with a wide second barrel, but I've been consistently getting 23's on her. I've basically taught myself (and my mare) how to barrel race, with some help but I've been thinking about starting to take lessons. Here's my latest run from Sunday...

9/8 barrel racing - YouTube

(sorry its such a bad video its off a phone)

gssw5 09-10-2013 10:22 PM

I don't think size matters as much as heart, conformation and technique. I could not really see anything in the video to comment on it. My daughters pony is all of 13.1 and she blows the pants off bigger horses. I ride a 14.2 QH when you look at him he looks perfect for barrels but has no heart for it. Smaller shorter horses can get in and out of the turns with less room, larger horses need more room to make the turns but can cover and arena with their bigger stride. I would suggest lessons to help you improve, an instructor can show you where you can improve yourself and shave seconds off your time. The important thing is to be consistent and run a clean pattern if done correctly your times should improve. Unless your horse just does not have the heart like mine and we never get out of a high lope. But try some lessons I bet you will improve.

smrobs 09-10-2013 10:26 PM

Size means absolutely nothing so long as they've got the speed, agility, and heart to do it. The fastest and quickest turning horse I've ever ridden in my life was a little QH mare that barely broke 13 hands (that would have made her shoulders 4'4" tall) . She was a cutting bred mare that, even at 19 years old and 10 months pregnant, could outrun every horse in the feedlot string where my brother worked (that would have been about 30-some horses). She could stop from a dead run, spin around, and be booking the other direction before most of the bigger horses could even get shut down from a run.

As far as your video goes, it's really too small to tell much. Are you using your legs a lot on her? Do you use spurs on her? The only reason I ask is because her stride seems really choppy to me and she's swishing that tail all over the place. Not saying that you are, but the most common cause I see for that type of thing is spurs being over-used.

BarrelRacer23 09-10-2013 11:02 PM

I can not see anything in your video. Lessons are always a great thing when getting into something new. You just have to make sure you find someone who knows what their doing, ask around for references.

As for size, a bigger horse is going to cover more ground typically. But I've seen alot of very nice smaller horses that win and place at the top from a 13.2 pony that has outran alot of horses and placed in the 1D at our NBHA state show through the years. Just because there little doesn't mean they can't be fast.
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beau159 09-11-2013 09:35 AM

Typically, smaller horses (under 14 hands) aren't going to make it at the pro rodeos. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. Christy Loflin's mare Movin is only about 14.2 hands and they won the Pendleton RoundUp last year. (Go to 4:53 of the video to see her run).

And world champion Sherry Cervi's horse Stingray, I believe, it only about 14.2 hands as well. She excels on both big and small patterns.

Size isn't so much important as is the horse's physical ability, talent, and HEART. A horse that wants to do its job will excel; no matter the size.

From your description, your horse is probably around 13.2 hands or so. That's fairly small and I've never heard of THAT small of a horse doing well for the National Finals Rodeo. However, that's not everyone's goal. What are your goals? At what level do you want to be competitive?

You video is very poor and I can't see much from it. I do see that your mare is wringing her tail throughout the run. Sometimes that can be a sign that she is in pain. Does your saddle fit well? Has she been checked by a chiropractor? Has she had her teeth done by an equine dentist? Lameness check by a specialized vet? It is worth checking out, because if she actually is in pain (trying to tell you by wringing her tail) she may learn to resent the barrels because they "hurt" her.

How long have you been barrel racing on her? It looks like you need to take a step back and go back to slow work because she 1) is not rating 2) is not listening to your cues 3) completely blows the backside of the turn.

Lessons are never a bad idea. You can always learn something from another set of eyes watching you from the ground. However, make sure it is a reputable barrel trainer who does things RIGHT and doesn't cut corners simply to win. And hands-on training is always better than trying to get information off of the internet. We can explain things but its never as good as someone showing you in person.

But it never hurts to get your hands on every book and DVD you can find. And check out this thread we made for beginners:

Also, what seconds of time you get on your pattern means nothing to us. Every barrel pattern is going to be a slightly different size, and thus going to make a winning time have a different time. The only time you can compare barrel times to one another is when the runs have been made on a Standard Pattern.

Zexious 09-11-2013 12:47 PM

Subbing. Very informative and interesting thread for someone who knows nothing about Western riding. I always thought that smaller would be better, but it makes sense when it's explained why that isn't the case.

smrobs 09-11-2013 03:18 PM

Zexious, where smaller horses generally fail in this is just that they don't have the stride to reach and cover as much ground as the bigger horses, but where they can make up the ground is around the turns if they can turn well. Often, smaller horses are able to sort of fold back around on themselves for super quick and powerful turns...that's why cutting horses are generally very compact and small, but they have the short legs which don't generally impart speed to a horse.

beau159 09-11-2013 04:06 PM

For barrel racing, the only "judge" is the time clock. It doesn't care how your run looks. It only cares if you are faster than everyone else.

Yes, a very large horse (if you think about racehorses) will be much faster running-wise than a small horse because the large horse covers a lot of ground with a huge stride.

But ...... you've got to make 3 sharp turns while you are running. Some large horses can do it well, and some can't. Most small horses don't have an issue turning the barrel, but might lack in the speed in-between because their stride is shorter.

My old horse was just finally tapping into the 1D (the fastest division in a jackpot barrel race) and he was just a tad under 16.1 hands. He was a large horse, but boy that sucker could turn on a dime, despite his size. He also never looked like we should have a fast run (looked like he was lolly-gagging most of the time) but he had a huge stride and he ate up the ground in-between the barrels. And he loved doing it.

If your horse loves its job, and has good technique, just about any horse can make a good barrel horse, regardless of size.

Think of Seabiscuit and War Admiral. Two very different sizes, but two great racehorses.

SorrelHorse 09-11-2013 04:30 PM

Agreed with everything. But now I have an excuse to bring in the Mighty Weaner :)

Meet Selena. She is my barrel horse. She is 13.3hh. She ran at the Pendleton 4D barrel race this year and was faster than some horses who are sixteen hands. She's also won gymkhana high points very consistently now that her seasoning year is over...Even when her rider gets her on the wrong lead at the start....:oops:

I can't see your video right now, but size doesn't matter as much as heart and ability. If she was a poorly bred horse with bad conformation of the same size she wouldn't be doing so well. As well as if she was a horse with zero desire to work.

My advice is to try and get another video up that people can see, and try finding a trainer to help.

TxMarine 09-17-2013 11:56 PM

Size doesn't mean anything. I'm 5'7'' and my main barrel horse is 14.3hh. We often outrun much taller horses. She's quicker and more agile and athletic than a bigger horse. Can't really tell much of anything from your video but I did see a lot of tail wringing which indicates a pain issue. Get your horse checked out and make sure everything is good. Then slow down and go to the basics. Make sure your mare is finishing the barrels. You should be doing 95% slow work.

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