Five Pre-Run Rituals of the Top 15 WNFR Barrel Racers

NFR Opening Ceremonies
NFR Opening Ceremonies

The introduction to this week’s Q&A will be short and sweet.

But should your pre-run ritual be?

How long does it take YOU to prepare for a run?

If you’re like most barrel racers, you follow at least somewhat of a routine, but how you prepare (and how long you prepare) can make or break your run.

Learning about the pre-run rituals of the top 15 WNFR barrel racers can definitely deliver insight into potential changes that may catapult your own barrel racing success to a new level, and that’s exactly the goal of this week’s Q&A video.

When we asked the top 15 what their pre-run rituals where, and many of their answers were similar. We’ve summarized their replies and discussed them further in the video below which was filmed LIVE from Las Vegas at the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo!

Five Pre-Run Rituals of the Top 15 WNFR Barrel Racers

1. Equine body work such as stretching and massage.
2. Avoid rushing to allow time to mentally focus on your run.
3. Decrease stress for your horse by following a specific, exact routine.
4. Prevent anticipation and conserve your horse’s energy with a “performance cue.”
5. Get connected with pre-run prayer.

Although we edited out the wind, the video below still at times has background noise, which we’ll do our best to correct in the future. As dedicated as we are to bringing you helpful, quality content (delivered in a quality way), we felt the valuable tips delivered in the video made it share worthy despite the sound issue! Being at the WNFR IS loud and exciting – thanks for your understanding!

In the comments below the video, tell us what YOUR pre-run rituals consist of?

What aspects of your pre-run rituals could use improvement?

Which aspects do you feel benefit you most?

For more from the 2012 WNFR barrel racing qualifiers, you’ll enjoy:

Barrel Talk with 2012 WNFR Barrel Racing World Champion, Mary Walker

2012 Warm Up with the Top 15 WNFR Barrel Racers

2012 Cool Down with the Top 15 WNFR Barrel Racers

8 replies
  1. Nicki McKay
    Nicki McKay says:

    First off, great jacket! I have used both ends of some of those, based on the horse. I agree with all of what you had to say; some horses worry if you let on it’s time to run, and some horses are much more comfortable with a routine. I currently do a massage routine that was designed for my horse by a certified equine massage therapist, that I feel has greatly increased her comfort and degree of relaxation and softness before I warm up. I don’t put on my hind boots until about the drag before I run; she doesn’t like them on too long, due to an old scar, and it doesn’t seem to trigger nervousness to wait until the last minute. Because I require my horses to be tuned in at all times, I try to keep my mentally demanding part of the warm up for just a few minutes before I run. A horse can only stay really mentally sharp for a period of time,and I believe it’s as important to have them not mentally fatigued as it is physically. I do a loose physical warm up early, then a more demanding/structured mental warm-up for 10-15 minutes before the run. If I run more than once, I try to loosen the horse up by riding in a halter, rather than requiring them to stay tuned into the bridle for the second warm up. I believe that prayers of gratitude for the opportunity to be where you are, doing what we love, provides a positive atmosphere and energy. You are doing a great job, have a wonderful time!

    • BarrelRacingTips
      BarrelRacingTips says:

      Hi Nicki,
      Thanks so much for your input! I especially appreciate that you mentioned you don’t want to fatigue your horse physically OR mentally before your run! You’re so right, horse’s attention spans aren’t very long (some shorter than others it seems, ha!), so it’s critical that we have them right at their peak for a run, not beyond that. Thanks again for your comments, more to come this week!

  2. Italy Spratt
    Italy Spratt says:


    Great segment! Our horses are so different and need personalized pre race routines to perform best. There are many barrel racers oblivious to how they are missing this opportunity to develop relationships by listening closely to their horses special warm up needs.

    Have fun this week. I just came home from my NFR fix 🙂


    • BarrelRacingTips
      BarrelRacingTips says:

      Thanks Italy!
      You have a really great point about adjusting your warm up to fit the needs of your individual horse! There’s so much more to a “warm up” than just warming up our horse’s muscles, when we understand this it can make a big difference in our runs.

  3. Sarah Hawk
    Sarah Hawk says:

    I have a 25 year old gelding who is the most energetic of our seven! He runs great still and is clocking with the best of them! He loves doing his job (half thoroughbred-ex race horse- loves to run :p) and I want to make sure he feels as good as he can. Should I do extra since he’s a senior citizen ( no joint problems or arthritis) ? Does anyone know what would be best for him before a run? Thanks so much!!!

    • BarrelRacingTips
      BarrelRacingTips says:

      Hi Sarah,
      Great for you to have a 25 year old still running strong! I think in addition to futurities, there should also be barrel races with “longevity” awards! I always keep any of my horses who I’m riding/running regularly on a joint supplement, I feed Orthochon II from Platinum Performance, and also use Adequan IM and Legend as needed. Even if your boy doesn’t seem arthritic, I think joint support is important no matter what age they are, or whether we see symptoms.
      You might look into doing some quality stretches before each run. Troy Brandenburg is known as a favorite of NFR cowgirls, he has a basic DVD of stretches for $25, click here to check it out.
      I find with older horses that it’s very important to have plenty of space for them to move around. The more time they spend in smaller enclosures, the more “stove up” they tend to get. So although lots of turnout is important, I found that my elderly mare I used to run would do better the less I exercised her! Now, I would never just get on and make a run without her being in shape (to do so would risk injury), but the fitness routine that kept her running strong was less intense than that I would have with a younger horse.
      Hope that helps! 🙂


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