Barrel Racing Exercises (for Smooth, Fast Turns) are Useless, Unless…

Barrel Racing Exercises (for Smooth, Fast Turns) are Useless, Unless...

One of the main reasons I ended up dividing up my first book (intended to include barrel racing exercises) into two parts, is because the “prerequisites” section was getting too darn long.

I decided that shortening it was simply not an option, and so Secrets to Barrel Racing Success was born. I wouldn’t have been doing anyone a service, if I had left out the lesser-known details that are so critical to the success of any exercise.

This might come as somewhat of a shock, but I’ll be honest with you – barrel racing exercises aren’t really THAT important.

Sure, barrel racing drills and exercises are a tool, but unless we know HOW to use them, they are useless. You see, the WAY we go about implementing exercises MATTERS. For example, if our horse has a tendency to weight himself more on his front end in the turns, as Madison’s horse does in this week’s Q&A below, then a certain exercise is NOT going to be the magic fix.

A horse that doesn’t use his hindquarters properly in a turn, probably doesn’t use his hindquarters properly in general. If we lack the awareness to notice that, AND the skills to influence a horse to use himself properly, we’re stuck. We can do exercises until our horse is blue in the face, but the less than ideal way of moving is likely to continue (and unfortunately become an even more solidified habit).

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Two (Contradictory) Tips to be Straight and Fast Between Barrels

Photo by Schaffer's Photo Express

Listen to more on this topic in Episode #73 of the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
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We all know that the fastest path between two points is a straight line. Even one or two wasted steps between barrels can slow us down dramatically.  If your barrel photo has every looked like the one shown above – then it’s possible your path between the barrels is not as straight and fast as is could be. Read more

Selecting a Bit for the Hard to Please Barrel Horse

In many cases, “hard to please horses” like the one Stefanie describes in the Q&A video below, who toss their head and gap their mouth, don’t have a bit problem.

As I state in Secrets to Barrel Racing Success, the way we go about performing maneuvers, applying techniques and solving problems, matters. In many cases, it’s not the BIT, but HOW our horse responds to it, that we must be concerned with. If our horse is not responding in a way we would like, we need to ask WHY, and develop a solution from there.

The Solution STARTS here

This time of year, as intense rodeo action is playing out at stock shows nationwide, I’m reminded even more, that the horses who excel those little pens, with short runs and funny angles to the first barrel, are the horses that are especially soft and supple to bit pressure (and through their entire bodies). They not only especially excel in those more difficult set ups, they excel more in general.

Putting the odds in your favor requires a commitment to creating feather-light response to bit pressure. When you do, your horse is more likely to wrap around those barrels wickedly fast, even in less than ideal circumstances – leaving the stiff, resistant horses in the dust! Read more

Should I Take on a Barrel Horse with Issues?

We’ve all been tempted…

We stumble across a barrel horse for sale with good looks or impeccable barrel racing bloodlines, and then – the PRICE! Too good to be true!? Maybe so, when it comes to horses with issues.

They might pull back, have the beginning of arthritis, signs of an old tendon injury, or they might (occasionally) buck, or have issues at the gate. The problems may be minor or major. They may be physical, mental or behavioral in nature (or most likely all of the above). Regardless,

there’s usually more to the issue than meets the eye.

It’s not uncommon for the outward symptoms to be just the tip of the iceberg. Under the surface there is often much more to be discovered.

The question is, are you ready and willing to handle any surprises that may be lying under the surface? Chances are there are some big gaps in the horse’s foundation, and truthfully it takes well developed skills and experience to properly and thoroughly fill in these gaps.

Everyone loves a fairytale story of an underdog horse and a rider that rise to victory against all odds. As much of a dreamer as I am, when it comes to horses with issues, I’m afraid it’s my duty to say that those cases are more exceptions than rules.

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How to Fix a Wide Turn on the Barrel Pattern

Out with the Goals, In with the New

Ever feel like you might as well put a sign on your horse’s rear end that reads “Caution: This Equine Vehicle Makes Wide Turns!?” 

A wide turn means covering extra real estate on the pattern, which results in drastically slower times.

Addressing this issue starts with coming to terms with a simple fact…

The Horse is Not Responding Appropriately to What Has Been Asked

The solution comes in determining WHY?

Caution Wide Turns

Two common causes of wide turns are:

#1 – Our horse is not taking responsibility for traveling in the direction we point them indefinitely. Keep in mind that the horse is really not at fault. It’s our responsibility as riders, to ensure our horse understands their responsibilities!

Click here to refer to a previous Q&A for a review of an exercise called “Point to Point” which helps accomplish this.

#2 – The horse does not have high level responsiveness to our hands and a solid foundational understanding of leg cues, making correcting their position on the pattern difficult.  The truth is that speed changes everything, requiring more from horses in the barrel racing discipline than any other.

In the video below I describe these two points in detail and demonstrate what the level of responsiveness we’re after looks like.  Below the video are some helpful how-to’s for developing this kind of responsiveness. 

Be forewarned however, you’ll likely need a new sign – one that reads “Caution: Sharp Turns Ahead!”   Read more

Help for a Barrel Horse that Fights at the First Barrel

Help for a Barrel Horse that Fights at the First Barrel

No matter what form it shows up in, when a horse exhibits resistance, there is a separation occurring.

Any kind of resistance (subtle or extreme) creates a delay, and any delay will equal slower times on the clock.

Whether it be a wringing tail, shaking or tossing head, pushing against pressure, or just tension through the body, as long as the resistance is allowed to continue, there will be a disconnect, a disagreement between horse and rider.

When resistance occurs, our idea and the horse’s idea, are NOT the same idea!

If we look beyond the outward symptoms, we’ll find real reasons for our horse’s resistance. Until we commit to understanding the reasons, and providing a solution, this will prove to be a BIG road block in the way of progress on the pattern.

Rather than try to cover up the symptoms, let’s consider just a few reasons WHY a horse might show resistance, in the form of fighting at the first barrel.

They tend to show up in one of three categories – physical, mental or emotional

1. Physical Problem – May not be obvious, but horse is physically uncomfortable
2. Lack of Education – Horse does not understand his responsibilities/what is expected
3. Lack of Leadership – Horse is not motivated to follow the rider’s suggestions
4. Lack of Communication – Horse is frustrated by rider’s lack of clear instructions
5. Too Much Repetition at Speed – Horse loses desire and/or becomes anxious
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Solutions for a Barrel Horse that Ducks at the Barrel or Runs Up the Wall

Solutions for a Barrel Horse that Ducks at the Barrel or Runs Up the Wall

Is this issue driving YOU up the wall!? 

The anxiety you feel when wondering whether your horse will duck out or run up the wall can be extremely damaging to your confidence as a rider. 

After all, if you’re worried about this in a run, you can’t ride to your fullest potential and chances are even greater that your horse WILL duck or go up the wall the more you allow it to consume your mind. 

But it should consume your mind, right!? When something like this happens, the discouragement you feel after first investing time and effort to prepare for competition, only to have it all go down the tubes (in such a BIG way) can be overwelming. 

As time goes by and the cycle continues, the frustration only grows between horse and rider, until now… 

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How to Kiss Bad Barrel Racing Habits Goodbye!

How to Kiss Bad Barrel Racing Habits Good-bye!

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #9 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
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Train your body, ride better, and unleash your potential!

Judging by the title you might guess that this article will cover steps to overcoming bad habits – quite the contrary!

This article WILL cover a step by step process that will allow you to embrace new habits in your riding; habits that will better serve you in an actual run.

There’s quite a difference between the two (overcoming bad vs. embracing new), but more on that later…

When it comes to the mental game, there is plenty of talk about the importance if quieting the mind. It IS ideal for us to hand the reins over to our subconscious and let go of “thinking” our way through a run.

To do this, however, we must rely on our bodies to operate in a way that allows our horse to perform to their fullest potential.

But what if our body doesn’t hold up its end of the deal?

Over time we find ourselves riding in a way that may have worked for us as a kid or may have worked for a horse we had in the past. When it’s time for a change – feelings of frustration are common.

Because barrel racing is a high speed event, there is only time to react, making it very difficult (if not impossible) to think about changes we must make in our riding during a run.

As barrel racers, we can be hard on ourselves when our riding doesn’t measure up to the way we want to ride in a run, and how we know our horses must be ridden to perform at their peak. 

Studies show that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Sounds simple enough. That is, until you apply it to barrel racing!

The reality is that most of us don’t have a string of finished horses to make several runs on every day for 21 days straight. And we wouldn’t want to jeopardize our horse’s physical and mental health to better ourselves. But if something doesn’t change, the wheels continue to spin.

The good news is that you don’t have to keep banging your head against the trailer! IF you are determined to accomplish your goals, it IS possible to create new habits, and do so without sacrificing your horse (or your sanity).

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