Why is He Doing This When we Practice?
When I practice barrel racing with Major I have some trouble. I had no idea how to explain it so I drew a couple diagrams to make it clearer. He is wanting to turn around and head toward the gate but only when we go around the barrel on the right. When I try to take him around the left one first he does fine until we get to the right one. Is it because my family is standing at the gate? I really have no idea why he's doing this or how to make him stop. It takes extra seconds to fight him and we often miss the barrel completely! I need help ASAP! Thanks!
Your horse is either herdbound or ring sour - potentially both. I had a similar issue with my youngster when we did our first barrel pattern at a show, she went to the left fine but coming around the right barrel she just started running sideways because she knew her friend was at the gate. It was her very first show though, so basically it told me I had to do more solo work with her so she didn't get as upset at being in a ring alone.
Do practice patterns at home, and don't run it. Have your family or your horses best friend standing close to the gate so you can begin to school your horse around the barrels and teach him not to get worked up when he sees his friends at the gate. Do a lot of solo trail riding as well, away from everyone else.
He was moved from my riding instructor's barn about a year ago and there are no other horses where he is now except two a couple lots away that he's never even been with, only neighed back and forth at. He is doing these things while we are at home practicing.
Then I would say he's soured on the pattern. Riding the actual pattern should only be done a couple times a week at most. The vast majority of barrel horse training should be general flat riding, working on reining style maneuvers to loosen him up and make him more responsive. Most people will only put their horse on the pattern once a week or so, before a show. A horse should not "memorize" the pattern, it should be so well schooled that it listens to every aid you give and basically render the pattern into fine tuned riding.
Think of a Dressage rider - they don't ride tests every day. They school, and maybe ride the test once or twice right before a show to prepare.
I disagree, I patterened my barrel horses everyday. But not at a run. We walked the pattern, set up at each barrel with a whoa and two steps back then went and did something else. Might have done it two times maybe three if he was not setting up right. I only ran the pattern the day before a show and at the show. The only reason I ever ran at home was so the horse could learn to adjust himself by how I adjusted myself when at a run. As far as what he is doing at home, my guess would be you are running the pattern too much. You have him sour. Do it at a walk then either go trail ride or put him on the rail and ride. Turn him into the rail to work on getting the hind end to engage. Making a horse that is naturally fast run does nothing, any horse can be sped up its the slowing them down thats usually the trick. Teach him something new and work on it like sliding stops or collection or flexion. Give him about a week break with no pattern at all and go back to it at a walk and see what happens.
My apologies, I should have been more clear. When I say "patterned", I mean running the pattern. Flat schooling should incorporate the barrels at various levels as schooling devices to teach your horse not to anticipate.
One thing I would like to add, You are trying your horse to the left and to the right. Which seems reasonable but you need to figure out what lead he is best on the pattern and stick to it. I very very rarely had a horse start to the left. The only time that would happen was if he was constantly switching leads when we were running the pattern taking up time I always started a horse on the right and after "flat schooling" for a couple months and a few runs if he was changing leads the whole time I would switch it up but basically start over from scratch on the flat work. I have never owned a horse that did very well when going to the left first. It resulted in wide last barrel and sometimes blowing the second barrel. Switching back and forth between the two different ways is confusing to a horse and although in your mind you say well its just starting on a different side it is not at all the same especially if you are running the horse....
I usually do start to the right (I've always done it that way and like it better). The only reason I tried the left also was because of the trouble I was having. I wanted to see if it would help. Usually he doesn't do the pattern every time I ride but he has lately because we're in a barrel race this Friday (my first) and I'm trying to work on speed because we're not going to do full speed around the barrels. I worked with him today and started at a walk and did it a couple times then a trot and canter. The only time he was actually galloping was on the way home. He only fought me the first time on each gate except a few times more on the canter. The problem is I won't have time to work the kinks out of him before we barrel race tomorrow so I just have to hope his first run is a good one! Wish me luck!
Well good luck. One last quick thing that I have done for years....I NEVER EVER run home when practicing. EVER... For no reason what so ever. I actually circle the last barrel completely. You are training him to blow the barrel. He is going to be so worried about the run home that he is going to cut the turn short and blow the barrel. I always circle it completely then put mine out on the rail at a walk. I can pull them out of the complete circle when the real deal comes but i never run home in practice... It does nothing but make your horse hot. My horses are always the ones that walk in head down, just ploding along short circle to get in the right lead then its on. I also never let me horse go out of the arena at a run (unless it is in a shoot because you have to) In a regular arena I walk him in a small circle and make sure he goes back out with his head down. ( ** you never know what kind of arena you will be in and if you will be completely on the horse you dont want your horse to start blowing the gate. I had one that did that would run strait through the gate in my early days barrel racing, he refused the first barrel I went over the horn and hung on his neck as he ran full speed around the arena and through the gate. they were going to shut the gate and thankfully my dad stopped them because he knew he would blow the gate. I could have been seriously injured or worse. I was only about 13 when that happened and I learned my lesson quickly!!) I dont want a crazy horse standing on its hind legs and dancing as it goes into the arena. I am assuming you are young so I know it is very boring to just walk around and not run the pattern I have ruined enough horses in my life to know that all too well..
I will not give an opinion about you taking him to run at a show tomorrow based on the issues you are having at home.
This. Huge applause. I do the exact same thing with my mare - she's a far cry from a barrel racer but we have a little fun show in a week. She KNOWS how to run, she's got RUN down pat, all I have to do is hiss in her ear and she's off like a rocket and you better not get left in the dust. The run home does not need to be practiced whatsoever. I am sharpening her up on barrels at the trot and canter, and when we come around that last barrel I drop my reins and she walks "home". I KNOW she knows how to run, and jazzing her up at home will only make her hot, difficult to control and anticipating of the pattern.
Based on what you've said, you're doing far too much pattern work. I don't care what gait it's at working the pattern a dozen times a day at varying gaits is NOT going to produce a winning or even remotely sane/well controlled barrel horse. The pattern should matter the absolute least to any good barrel racer - refinement and response should be top of the list.
For example, most reiners I know can put a reining horse on a barrel pattern and beat out well over half the barrel racers in my area. Why? Theirs horses are well trained - PERIOD. A horse listening 110% to it's rider, and perfectly fine tuned to every leg, seat and rein command is going to do better every single time on a pattern it's never seen then someone who runs the pattern incessantly (at any speed) and produces a jacked up horse who only thinks about running.
I've seen Dressage horses who've never seen a jump do better courses then half the jumpers I see who do NOTHING but jump. It works in every single discipline. Racehorses don't race everyday. Dressage horses don't work a test everyday. Reiners don't work a pattern every day. And neither should a barrel horse.
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