101 Tips for Barrel Racers Dealing with Extreme Winter Weather

101 Tips for Barrel Racers Dealing with Extreme Winter Weather

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #111 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or Google Play.

Have you been suffering from Acute Horse Related Bad Weather Depression?

If so, you’re not alone.

In fact, extreme weather and cold temperatures have caused thousands of barrel racers to be dramatically affected by this crippling disorder.

Symptoms include irritability, lethargy, frost bite, overeating and weight gain, depression, fatigue, poor attitude, shivering, crying spells, fits of anger & rage, difficulty concentrating, pale complexions, extremely long leg hair, numb extremities, excessive BarrelHorseWorld.com surfing, day dreaming of Caribbean vacations, and persistent thoughts of driving with the truck windows down.

Although sunshine and warm temperatures are the only known cure, there IS much that can be done to lessen the symptoms of AHRBWD.

In all seriousness, there actually are tons of things barrel racers can do in the winter months get a head start on a successful season – many that don’t even involve riding.

Most important is that we train ourselves to always see what IS possible vs. what isn’t, especially in adverse circumstances. Even in extreme cold weather, opportunities abound for learning and growth that we may not otherwise consider.

Being a successful barrel racer involves much more than riding and training horses.

For example, this critical “possibility mindset” I’ve mentioned is a HUGE part of what separates true winners from the rest of the crowd. Just like anything else, we can’t train our minds effectively unless we slow down enough to notice it’s necessary, THEN actually ‘practice!’

Today, I’ve shared 101 tips for how to best utilize your time in what remains of the winter to not only “turn your winter weather frown upside down,” but also get a good jumpstart on what could quite possibly be your most successful barrel racing season yet!

    1. Plan your barrel racing budget for the year with all the details for entries, fuel, expenses, etc.
    2. Remember this quote by Anne Bradstreet – “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
    3. Take a sample of your horse’s hay (or pasture if it’s not covered in snow) and have it tested for nutrient content to balance your horse’s diet.
    4. If you don’t already, put together an emergency kit or winter survival kit for your vehicles.
    5. Cuddle with your loved ones, both two legged and four legged – who and whatever is available and warm!
    6. Play the “touch it game” to give your horse some mental exercise.
    7. Wondering whether you need to blanket your horse? Click here for a great reference from Auburn Agriculture.
    8. Invite your barrel buddies over for Hawaiian pizza and Pina Coladas. Turn the heat up to 90 degrees, then sit in lawn chairs to reminisce over your past victories and learning experiences, and make plans for more good times and success in the coming summer.
    9. Wrap up in a blanket on the couch and watch training DVDs or videos like those from Between the Reins.
    10. Improve your horse’s vertical (poll) flexion.
    11. Never be without smart wool socks.
    12. Give you horse a tail massage.
    13. Talk to your employer about re-arranging your work schedule so you can get more riding in (go in early, take long lunch breaks a couple days a week, leave early on Fridays, etc.)
    14. Improve your horse’s lateral flexion to steady pressure with a halter.
    15. Improve your horse’s responsiveness by refining their understanding of how to yield ALL body parts to steady pressure, both on the ground and under saddle.
    16. Study up on the subject of hoof care, anatomy and function. Invest in Care and Rehabilitation of the Equine Foot by Pete Ramey to empower yourself with knowledge to build a healthy physical foundation for your horses.
    17. Get a fecal egg count done to make sure your deworming program is on track.
    18. Get ahead on any indoor home projects now that will free up more time to spend with your horse when the weather is nice.
    19. If you need and want to keep riding, competing and hauling, allow yourself plenty of extra time to get from point A to point B, remember it’s better to arrive late than not at all – stay safe!
    20. Watch, or re-watch Buck, The Film.
    21. Get the Success in the Saddle DVD set to boost your strength/balance, fitness and riding ability.
    22. If you don’t blanket your horse, but occasionally ride in a heated arena, be sure to outfit them with a wool or fleece cooler to gradually cool and dry their coat when it gets sweaty.
    23. Teach your horses to lead forward or backwards by the chin, ear, one foot, etc.
    24. Seasonal Affective Disorder IS a real condition that affects mostly women. If you think you may be having symptoms, consider therapy or click here for more ideas to defeat SAD.
    25. Remember “tough times don’t last, tough people do.”
    26. Read or re-read Think Harmony With Horses by Ray Hunt.
    27. Use pressure and release to teach your horse to lower their head to the lightest touch.
    28. When you lead your horse from point A to B, see if you can do so without letting them know the halter is there – will they follow your feel without you having to put tension on the rope?
    29. Spray the bottom of your horse’s feet with non-stick cooking spray to prevent snow/ice from sticking when you go dashing through the snow.
    30. Be thankful for all the green grass and hay this winter’s moisture will help produce. Moisture = more/less expensive hay!
    31. Teach your horse to pick up their feet when you tap on their fetlock – tap, Tap, TAP in phases of increasing pressure, then ask for a shift of weight and pick up the foot only if necessary, give them a treat, repeat.
    32. Using an obstacle like a log, go over it forward, backwards and sideways, both on the ground or under saddle while seeing how well you can “talk to” one foot at a time.
    33. For an eye-opening challenge, practice smoothly opening and closing gates on horseback one step at a time – see how accurate you can be!

  1. Catch up on episodes of Women’s Pro Rodeo Today, click here to check TV schedules (make sure it’s set to record on your DVR).
  2. Get your horse more comfortable with having their mouth/tongue handled and examined.
  3. Explore options for riding with me, such as Video Coaching (we can analyze your most recent runs!) and Barrel Racing Clinics.
  4. Write a note of thanks to those who make your cold weather horse care + activities possible (husbands, facility managers, event producers, etc.).
  5. If you decide not to ride/compete in extreme weather or just “take a break,” don’t feel guilty about it. Everyone, including horses, can benefit from a good break.
  6. Heat up your crock pot and make lots of hearty, healthy soups with root vegetables and warming spices.
  7. Browse the forums or ads at BarrelHorseWorld.com.
  8. Browse Real Estate for Sale in Texas or other warmer, southern states.
  9. Keep your legs extra warm with some leather chinks, like these affordable ones available on e-bay.
  10. Organize your closets and get a head start on spring cleaning.
  11. Choose a certain temperature that is your determining factor between “too cold to ride” and “cowgirl up,” (I personally don’t ride unless it’s at least 10 degrees above zero).
  12. Consider just not riding during the most extreme weather – it’s OK to be a “fair weather cowgirl” when conditions are dangerous. Know when to be tough, and when to be smart.
  13. Can you swing a rope, rope a dummy, or even rope your horse without him being bothered? Use approach and retreat with good timing to build your horse’s confidence.
  14. “Box step” by asking for one step left, back, right, and forward, then reverse. Get your horse more comfortable, calm and responsive when asked to move their feet very precisely.
  15. Increase responsiveness and respect by regularly backing your horse in and out of the pasture/pen/or stall.
  16. If you can’t ride, spend some quality “undemanding time” with you horse. If you horse can be hard to catch take these steps to resolve the issue.
  17. Learn more about equine anatomy and body work with Beyond Horse Massage by Jim Masterson.
  18. Look ranchy and stay warm with a silk wild rag, then click here to learn how to tie them properly.
  19. Ride bareback to cut down on preparation time and keep your legs warm.
  20. Invest in high quality winter riding gear, such as long underwear, gloves and boots.
  21. Make sure you have the right level and balance of coolant in your vehicle.
  22. Catch up on issues of Barrel Horse News.
  23. Sweat every day if possible – working out boosts circulation and elevates mood. Healthy circulation is necessary for staying warm!
  24. Build a solar water tank (horses are more likely to drink water that is slightly warm, increasing hydration and lessening the likelihood of colic).
  25. Read or re-read “Secrets to Barrel Racing Success. Click here to receive your FREE copy of The Barrel Racer’s Guide to SPEED Development!
  26. While standing in front of your horse, practice backing and bringing him back toward you on the ground with just a look, intention or suggestion (use your energy to drive/draw, send a wave of feel down the lead rope if necessary). See Exercise 7 in ‘The Next 50.’
  27. Teach your horse to move forward and backward by one stride only, then half a stride, then just a shift of weight, until he can rock back and forth and side to side based on only your subtle suggestion.
  28. Teach your horse to be responsible for standing still without being tied, such as with their foot in a rubber feet pan or standing on a rubber mat.
  29. Think of any annoying habits your horse has, do your homework then take measures to deal with and start resolving them now.
  30. Find a hot tub, any hot tub (even call a nearby hotel to see if they allow locals), and have a good soak once a week.
  31. Get an automatic starter for your vehicle.
  32. If your horses are extra fresh due to being cooped up and ground conditions are poor, bundle up and take them for a walk by hand instead of riding.
  33. Get a bit warmer to avoid the cold shock to your horse’s mouth when you put the bridle on.
  34. Put honey on your bit to help your horse become more enthusiastic and accepting of being bridled.
  35. Is your horse truly comfortable being touched everywhere on his body? If not, use ‘approach and retreat’ to work on this.
  36. Check out the Pistol’s Progress Playlist on YouTube.
  37. Look cute even in the cold, with a ladies stormy kromer hat.
  38. Spend five minutes stroking your horse’s neck lightly and slowly. It’s surprising how enjoyable this can for you and your horse.
  39. Practice hindquarter and forequarter yields on the ground or horseback.
  40. Consider giving your young horses a break and only keeping your seasoned campaigners going in the winter – it’s much easier to exercise a horse than it is to train in cold weather (it’s hard to have “FEEL” under six layers of clothing!).
  41. Ask your horse to sidepass down the barn aisle with either steady or rhythmic pressure.
  42. Visit WPRA.com to print and fill out your permit application (if going pro is your goal, post it in a visible place and set a date for when you’d like to be ready to start entering).
  43. Create a vision board or mind movie.
  44. Introduce you horse to equine pilates, to strengthen and stretch their abdominals and topline.
  45. Load a syringe with apple sauce before you head the barn (when it’s warm enough not to freeze right away) and give it to your horse regularly to help him be more accepting of oral medication and deworming.
  46. Remember that you’re not the only one. Drastic weather has slowed us ALL down (even those of us in Texas) – we’re all in this together!
  47. Read True Horsemanship Through Feel by Bill Dorrance and Leslie Desmond.
  48. Organize your photo albums, scrapbooks, or consider creating an online photo album.
  49. If your horse is blanketed, make absolutely sure the blanket fits properly (doesn’t cut into the withers or rub hair off). Be sure to take it off regularly (especially when it warms up) to check your horse’s body condition.
  50. Winter is a time of rest and renewal, there are seasons and cycles in our life – accept, enjoy and embrace them rather than fight or resist them.
  51. Teach your horse to have patience at feeding time and wait behind a barrier (such as wood pole on the ground) until your signal (such as lowering your hand) to come eat. Remember the leader decides who eats and when – don’t allow your horse to rudely invade your space for food.
  52. Bring your saddles, bridles and tack the house, spread them all out on an old bed sheet in the living room and watch a movie as you clean your tack.
  53. Get together with your barrel buddies to reserve and share the expense of renting a heated, indoor riding facility on a regular basis.
  54. Get some tropical screensavers for your computer with sun, white sand, turquoise water and palm trees!
  55. Look forward to never complaining that it’s “too hot” again!
  56. Find your horse’s favorite itchy spot.
  57. Organize your recipe collection (after all – who has time for this in the summer!?).
  58. Make sure your equine first aid kit is well stocked and that items like bute, banamine, etc. are kept in a warm and easily accessible place.
  59. When you feel like you’re losing your identity, remember this quote from NFR barrel racer and top futurity rider & trainer, Jordan Briggs – “Barrel racing is what you do, it is not who you are.”
  60. Check out CinchChix.net for hay (and money) saving slow feeder nets.
  61. Research and consider investing in an EquiVibe Platform, which can help keep your horse’s bones, muscles and other soft tissues conditioned.
  62. As you walk, can you get in time with your horse’s footfalls? Practice getting in harmony with one another going forward, backward and laterally.
  63. Make food ahead of time and load up the freezer for quick, easy meals for those late evenings at the barn or arena.
  64. Repeat a mantras over and over such as “green grass and hay, green grass and hay” or “at least we don’t have hurricanes.”
  65. Get some Cowgirl Boot Slippers to keep your tootsies toasty.
  66. Always remember – it could be a lot worse. It REALLY could be.
  67. When you must exercise your horses in a snowy pasture, do more straight lines than circles. On slick footing like snow, the smaller the circles, the more likely your horse is to lose his footing.
  68. Visit the Articles + Videos page here at BarrelRacingTips.com for over 175 free resources.
  69. *BONUS: Lastly, remember this quote – “On particularly tough days, when I feel that I can’t possibly endure, I remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days is 100%.”

How’s that for making winter more tolerable?

I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts and tips for making it through brutal winter weather – I look forward to your comments below!

13 replies
  1. Jeri Martin
    Jeri Martin says:

    Great list! I gave my horses the winter off this year and am not one bit sorry. My horses get handled twice a day no matter what, but I just didn’t ride a whole lot. Instead, I rebuilt my website…again. Signed up and have been studying hoof care and trimming. Signed up for an equine nutrition course. (very interesting) AND am in the beginning stages of building another micro business. This one I am very excited about.
    Thank you Heather for the great articles.

    • BarrelRacingTips
      BarrelRacingTips says:

      Thanks Jeri. Sounds like you’ve had a productive winter – way to go! This one has really been an exception. We can choose to fight severe weather, but in some cases I think we are better off directing our attention elsewhere and declaring “no contest!” Lol

  2. Linn
    Linn says:

    great article! I liked the “no ride under 10 degrees”. Been feeling guilty for not riding but it’s been brutally cold; in minuses again with wind chill this week. In the midst of many winter obstacles living by myself caring for 2 horses and 3 barn cats, I have either figured something out or asked for help. Great friends and NEIGHbors!! Plus I have lots of “what have I learned from this experience and how can I prevent it next winter” ideas!!

    • BarrelRacingTips
      BarrelRacingTips says:

      That’s great to hear Linn – there is a lot to be said for making the best out of the circumstances we are in.

      We can’t change the weather but we can ALWAYS choose our attitude about the weather (OR change our location). 😀

  3. Caryl Anne
    Caryl Anne says:

    Great list! One thing to keep in mind with horses is to make sure they have the proper items that can help reduce injury later on down the road. A couple things are as simple as the horse stall mats and arena footing, which tend to boost comfort.

  4. 'Nicole Farber
    'Nicole Farber says:

    You forgot, read every article on barrelracingtips.com, twice!!! Or read each of Heather’s books, and then re-read them.

  5. Brittany
    Brittany says:

    Great list! I already put many of them to use and the ones I haven’t tried yet will be added to that. Thanks! Another idea…kinda goes hand in hand witht the massage therapy. I looked up YouTube videos for acupressure points and practice on my horses finding their perfect spots and seeing them relax and feel good is very rewarding and they seem more flexible to do stretching exercises afterwards.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *