Barrel racing began as a sport for girls who wanted a challenging event to compete in. They set 55-gallon barrels in a triangular pattern and hurried around them taking two left turns and one right turn. Barrel racing today is more aggressive. It takes more to win a race than just a fast running horse. The horse and the rider must be physically and mentally ready to compete.
When deciding to barrel race, you will need to know a few things. Your horse should already know at least simple leads. Backing up, understanding whoa and other acceptable leads are very important. He’ll need these commands for going around the barrels and keeping his balance. Running at full speed to a slow trot to turn a barrel tightly, back to full speed, makes these horses some of the most athletic horses there are. Getting your horse to put his weight on his hindquarters and to disengage his front end is accomplished by simply teaching him to back up. This enables the horse by getting down and round the barrel. You shed seconds off your time if your horse goes too wide or knocks over a cone because he doesn’t slow down enough.
Setup barrels on a place free of grass. Walk your horse through the barrel pattern. When your horse is about 10 feet from the barrel, stop the horse; take at least three steps back, ensuring the horse’s hind end is under him. Have your horse move forward walking around the barrel. It is fine to go a little wide but bring the horse in closer as you leave the barrel. Do this for each barrel but after the third barrel, go back to the starting position. Move on to trotting the barrels after your horse masters walking the routine. Trot until the barrels but continue to walk them around. Have your horse start trotting when you start moving away from the barrel. Once your horse is doing well trotting around the barrels, you should begin loping the barrels. Have someone videotape you and your horse while working the barrels to look for any problems. You’ll be able to decide whether your horse is shifting leads correctly or if he’s slowing down when needed. At any time of training, if your horse is having difficulties using the routine, fix it before it gets out of hand by going back and walking through the routine. Do not try to put speed on your horse until he is well experienced, usually at least one year.
To get your horse use to running in different arenas, let him barrel race in small shows or exhibitions. Be sure that you keep your horses’ mind fair and yours, by doing something other than barrels. Keeping your horse happy is important for him to become a good barrel racer.