Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Alberta, Canada
First off, it would be great if you could determine why he is taking off. It can only be one of three things: fear, disrespect or a learned behavior that was perhaps enabled by pervious owners.
Many barrel horses I have met that have only been trained to GO GO GO have had issues like this, where the horse actually cannot stop himself because he is running out of fear, not pleasure. The horse does not think in moments like this and forcing him to run faster may only make it worse and confirm his belief that there is something to run from.
That being said, there are times when "matching the horse's energy" can cause him to settle down. It's sort of like if you are upset/freaking out and someone starts freaking out at a higher level, it sort of makes you stop and think what the big issue was in the first place.
Luckily, it's a 50/50 chance, so if keeping calm and bending him isnt working, you can always try making him run faster and visa versa.
I would go back to the basics. DO NOT resort to a bigger bit because this will not fix the issue. If it is infact a fear/confidence issue, you need to get him confident with you as a leader.
Contrary to many beliefs, horses only throw their heads up like you've described when they are in pain or unconfident/afraid. A horse that truly wants to take off on you and is disrespectful will put his head down and drag you off.
"If a horse fails to do something that is because he was not trained to do it. If a horse fails to do something properly that is because he was not trained properly." www.wildestheartart.com