Obviously there is A LOT when it comes to barrel racing, since people have dedicated their whole lives to learning about the sport and since entire DVD sets and books have been written on the topic.
My biggest advice: Take it slow. Don't push your horse faster on the pattern than they are ready. Going too fast too soon will create bad habits, frustration (for both horse and rider), and can sour your horse on the pattern.
I would advise you to get some resources to get started. A trainer is the best resource, so keep looking for one. If you've got fairs that have barrel racing, there's bound to be someone around who trains. Also, any books or DVD's you can get will help with your foundation. Even if you are only going to do it for fun, it is good to have a general overall understanding of the sport and how you train for it. A few of my favorites are Charmayne James, Sherry Cervi, Connie Combs, Ed and Martha Wright, and Martha Josey. You can usually get used copies for a decent price on Ebay or Amazon. There also are some training videos on YouTube. Sherry Cervi has got some good ones; ExpertVillage has some okay ones.
You don't have to have western tack to do barrel racing, but of course it is nice to use the proper equipment for the sport you are doing (kind of like a basketball player wearing football shoes and pads .... you can do it, but it's much easier to just wear basketball shoes and your uniform). Check local tack shops for used name-brand saddles as they will hold up better than a cheapo off-brand saddle will. Good name brand saddles I like are Circle Y, Billy Cook, and Tex Tan.
Start your horse on the pattern with a smooth snaffle. If you can't do something (other things besides barrels too) in a snaffle, then you shouldn't be doing it until you train your horse better. A curb bit is meant to be a finishing bit and should never be used to "gain control" of your horse.
And in general your horse should be responsive to your legs and seat, direct rein and neck rein easily, stop when asked, and can be asked to travel at any gait and hold it. Your horse should be able to do all the fundamentals required in barrel racing before you ever show them a barrel --- make sure you horse is 100% broke!!
Thank you for the advice! :)
Learning patterns the slow way is the best way to go. :3 We can start at a walk and work our way up trot and once he''s solid at that canter and so forth. It's always better to have a good solid foundation.
I'll be sure to check those people out. There's a stable up the road that might teach it (I'll be checking in with them later anyways because I'd like both ponies to start in lessons this winter.), although I'm pretty sure they're all english, but I'll keep an eye out for a trainer who might do both english and western, though if anything I can always ask one of the guys who works on the farm and see if they can give me pointers (They might be guys but they competed in other things and watch/judge.). Trick is getting one with enough time.
I don't mind which tack I use but I agree having proper equipment for the sport or discipline you're doing can help a lot. I'm going to see when my Landlord gets back in the country if I can use one of his western saddles from his other farm (There's a couple kids saddles in the barn here, but nothing that would fit me or my horse, but I'm sure he's more than not got a couple that would suit both of us quite well.).
Snaffles no problem, it's what I put on him when we do decide to use tack. I have him trained to listen more to my legs and seat than anything. I've started neck reining him and he's pretty good about it. The most I usually use on him is either a halter/lead and the odd time just a small piece of yarn I can have on his neck, the most I usually need to use either is just the odd time to tell him to stop and that usually just takes a small tug with your finger. But if I put a bit on him he's pretty good as well. So I'd say he's pretty broke. :3
Thank you again for the advice! Very appreciated. :3