Conditioning for Quickness – Build Strength and Understanding to Unleash Your Barrel Horse’s Potential

Conditioning for Quickness – Build Strength and Understanding to Unleash Your Barrel Horse's Potential

You may have figured out by now that barrel racing isn’t quite as simple as it looks.
Speed especially, will throw us (and our horses) for a loop if we’re not careful.

Ensuring they’re adequately prepared to perform their best on the pattern starts with understanding the elements of SPEED (which I went into great depth on here).

It’s our responsibility as trainers and jockeys to not only be aware of our individual horses strengths and weaknesses but to embrace and take responsibility for enhancing their innate talents, as well as strengthening the weaker links.

Because of Dot Com’s extreme sensitivity for example, sometimes the communication between my body, Dot Com’s brain, and his feet gets a little “kink” in it you could say – that’s one of his “weaknesses.”

This doesn’t have so much to do with his physical ability, but his mental development – which is something I’m responsible for strengthening.

You see, we have to be aware and advanced enough to realize that what WE might consider “sensitive,” could more accurately be described as REACTIVE, AND most importantly, could be turned into RESPONSIVE, IF we take the correct steps!

While building strength IS an important and necessary part in developing quickness, if the channels of communication are not open and flowing, even the most beefed up barrel horse is going to leave us high and dry. Our horses must be STRONG, but they must also be confident, mentally connected, thinking, and willing to respond in a tiny fraction of a second, together WITH us, both body AND mind.

There’s so much more to training for mental and physical quickness than ordering body parts around effectively at a fast and furious pace. If our horse’s heart AND brain isn’t in the game, if he’s not highly educated and completely understanding what we’re asking to an advanced degree (AND can stay emotionally balanced through it all) – we’re gonna be LATE!

In other words S.L.O.W.

We’ve gotta condition the physical body, but we have to prepare the mind to accept it, then educate mind and body to work together in harmony at speed with great degrees of accuracy and precision at speed – so why not do it ALL at the same time?

The exercise I’ve shared in the video below is a great one for building strength, but most importantly I’ve included numerous prerequisites and tips for troubleshooting that will help ensure you’re able to condition for quickness successfully.

To go along with today’s Conditioning for Quickness post, I wanted to also share Exercise 32 from “The First 51” in it’s entirety for downloading and printing:

It seems fitting that this exercise ends up looking like a clock when set up, but also that it has the potential to help us build much greater quickness!

A few additional reminders on this topic:

When it comes to conditioning it’s important to have high expectations for the quality in which your horse performs drills like this, but be sure to give them rest breaks for recovery time in between and even easier workout days in between more challenging ones and then a day off or just walking on days after a run to replenish glycogen stores in their bodies and allow time for the soft tissues to repair.

Being CONSISTENT in the quality of quickness you require is super important as well. We can’t expect our horses to really respond to us well consistently if we only require them to do so once in a while while allowing them to slack off at other times. It also really relieves a lot of stress and gives our horse’s confidence when they know what to expect.

I also just happened to read great feature in Barrel Horse News recently with even more tips for shaving tenths off the clock and really resonated with these from Jolene Montgomery:

“…if you can, try to get the horse a little more fit. I don’t mean more long trotting around the pasture, I mean loping circles in the arena, getting the horse to flex, doing little drills, stopping and rolling back. All of that will really make the horse work and help build up his hind end.

Some people don’t realize there’s a big difference between trotting a horse around the pasture and making him really work, making him collect up, give his face, move from side to side and trot the poles, etc. It’s the difference between somebody jogging on a flat track for a mile and doing sprints uphill. The extra conditioning will make a huge difference to your horse.

…what you do during the warm up at the barrel race can make a tenth or two difference. I get after my horses a little bit warming up; I really make them snap. I make them move their feet and I try to get them as responsive as possible. If you make them move their feet, that will for sure help you lose a couple tenths of a second.”

I would never be without my BHN subscription – highly recommended you don’t already get it!

Do YOU have any questions, comments or concerns about conditioning for QUICKNESS? If so, fire away in the comments below.

For numerous valuable posts related to this topic, enjoy exploring the collection below:

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