Here is from another thread on barrel racing I responded to:
"First, there is a great book by Charmayne James. If you can pay to ship it, you can borrow mine if you want. She explains starting the barrel horse in a great simplistic way with plenty of diagrams and stuff. Read it if you can.
Before you run the barrels, your horse should be able to shorten and lengthen her stride, pick up her shoulder, back, stop, and move her hind end and fore end independantly. All of this you're going to need when you start barrel racing and I would ignore the barrels completely until you have all this down (Which sounds like you may).
I do not ride the pattern as much as randie said. I think it gets horses sour on the pattern and I want them to be alert, not bored. I always have the pattern set up though. I will use the barrels to bend around or move in or away from. My barrel horse can do pleasure in a barrel arena. You don't want your horse to start charging away from you the second she sees barrels. You also don't want her to balk when she see's them either.
Most of my work on my barrel horse is getting him soft and supple, I will run the barrel pattern three or four times three times a week on my finished horse. Change this depending on your horses attention span.
Before I start, let me say that I don't use pockets. My horse gets sloppy and drops his shoulder and I think you get a cleaner run without pockets. (I also have a stocky 15hh horse. Bigger horses seem to use pockets more). So if I don't mention them, that's why.
An important part is repitition. Everytime you ride the barrel pattern, ride it the same way. At the walk, be where you would be at the run.
I start out at the walk obviously. Getting up and out of the saddle, I give the horse her head like I would at a run. You look silly, but it works. Once I get to where I would want her to rate (start slowing down and getting under herself to turn) I sit down and say WHOA. (When you are running, you are going to sit down into the saddle to rate. It all ties in).
Your horse should be standing still and quiet with her attention on you. If she's not, do some lateral flexing and get her attention on you. If she is too close or too far from the barrel, move her. Once she is where you want her to be (standing still for 3-5 seconds) continue walking around the barrel. Look where you want to be. When you are turning, you should be looking to turn. Don't look at the ground, but look where you want your horse to be in the next stride. Eyes up, but body directing. I usually support my horses shoulder with the inside rein, making sure she doesn't drop it. Ride the entire barrel! Don't stop riding and try to run off when you're 3/4 the way through. Your horse should be round. Her butt shouldnt be swinging out to the side.
Do this exercise on all three barrels.
Once your horse starts to become light and starting to tuck her hind end during the turn, I change it up. Sometimes I tell her to stop, but othertimes I don't. This gets the horse listening to me, and gets them to learn to really get down underthemselves. Some people will start to rate, let the horse go two strides past where they want to be, then back to the correct spot. It doesn't work for me, but it does for some people.
Once it is perfect at the walk, you can move up in gaits. But like I said, I don't like to drill my horses. I want them fresh and listening to me and I don't want to be loping the same pattern for 20 minutes. Most of my pattern work is done at a controlled lope or a forward trot. I will RUN the pattern maybe once a session or once a week depending on the horse and his mood.
I also do a lot of hill work, trails, dressage, and lunging over trot poles and small jumps. I feel it gets them using their hind end, and keeps their mind fresh."
I use boots when I am barrel racing. I use SMBs. I like to use a snaffle and only use a hackamore on a horse that I am riding with minimal one-handed contact. But some that I have seen used are: http://www.smithbrothers.com/product...S+Hackamore_E_ Bob Avila Floral Hackamore - Smith Brothers
Not a hack but: Quick Bits - Specializing in Loose Jaw Bits for over 50 years