Provide Motivation and Create Consistency in the Barrel Horse

Many barrel racers experience frustration when their horse has too much GO. However, it can be every bit as (if not more) frustrating when your horse doesn’t seem to have enough GO – especially in moments when it’s needed most.  This week’s Q&A specifically addresses two issues – motivation and consistency.  The video also shares some insight into helping horses on the other end of the spectrum, who have an overwhelming desire to constantly move their feet.  

Lazy Barrel Horse
Energy Conservationist Hard at Work

Trying to physically motivate a lazy horse, can be exhausting and annoying – if you’re not careful, you’ll be doing more work than they are.  If you find yourself having to put a lot of effort into keeping your horse’s energy up, then step back and consider this…

Which horse do you think will put more effort into performing – one that moves with energy because he genuinely wants to – or one that only does so to avoid what happens if he doesn’t? 

Contrary to what most people think, a lazy horse is not a lost cause in the barrel racing world.  In fact, what “lazy” really means, is unmotivated.  Creating desire in a sluggish horse means figuring out HOW to motivate him, preferably in ways that create true enthusiasm and not resentment.  If we’re smart, we’ll cause the horse to want to move with energy, before we even ask. 

Remember also, that horses AND riders, both have responsibilities to uphold.  If our horse is not responding to our cues consistently, we must look at ourselves first.  It’s important to consider the ways in which we are (or aren’t) being consistent in what we ask, and HOW we ask for it.  To make sure you’re communicating clearly, and your horse understands his responsibilities, check out this previous Q&A which includes detailed instructions for creating feather-light responsiveness. 

Whether your horse has too much go, too much whoa, or flip flops back and forth – the video below will help you make sure you’re doing everything you can to create natural motivation and consistency you can depend on – when it matters most. 

As promised, I’m also providing this link to a previous article on Solving the Barrel Horse Feeding Mystery to make sure your horse’s diet supports consistent energy levels.

10 replies
  1. Hillary Riley
    Hillary Riley says:

    Ok I can do both excercises but I have a question on touch excercise. Have you ever played “soccer” on your horse to get them to move their feet and do you think it is as rewarding as touch and feel?

    • BarrelRacingTips
      BarrelRacingTips says:

      No surprise Cassidy, it’s not a “mainstream barrel racing exercise” for sure, but it brings so much value because it’s something that gets a horses MENTAL wheels turning. As they figure out what we’re asking them to touch, somehow it stimulates the lazy horse’s energy just like moving a frantic horse will settle their busy feet down. If I hadn’t SEEN it work for myself, I would have never believed it! There is definitely a very interesting connection between a horse’s brain and their feet and it’s SO COOL how we can adjust what we do with them to meet their individual needs and bring out the best in them! 🙂

  2. Kim
    Kim says:

    Excellent article and video. My horse is super fast but will more often than not choose to stay in his comfort zone. Will these excercises help him use his speed on the pattern as well?

    • BarrelRacingTips
      BarrelRacingTips says:

      Hi Kim,
      You’re like to notice a little bit of difference immediately, and then a bigger difference over time as you ask your horse to use his brain more and more. When it comes to expressing speed on the pattern, there are LOTS of things to consider, but these mental exercises can definitely help with that!

  3. Toni McCluskey
    Toni McCluskey says:

    I stubled upon your articles and books this time of last year, and I have to say, thank you so much for your generosity.
    I myself have a 4 year old colt, who I will be keeping as a stud. And what typically comes with a stallion is a whole bunch of testosterone. I have had such a hard time keeping him focused and on task, and have purposely been working him in paddocks next to a mare or two, to allow him to eventually settle down in the presence of other horses, and to let him know that when he’s saddled, he’s there to work, and to enjoy working with myself, rather than focusing all his attention on the neighbouring mares.

    Your tips and books have helped us along our journey immensely, and I took him to his first rodeo last weekend. Normally I’d take it very easy with a horse at their first proper rodeo outing, but I stayed in the mindframe I had drilled into myself provided by yourself, and I told myself, and my stallion that we COULD pull off a winning run; and would you believe it, we pulled a 17.304, and took home first place. I like to believe that our success was thanks to yourself, and I honestly would not have been able to do it without your amazing tips. Thank you so, so much.

    • Heather Smith
      Heather Smith says:

      That is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G Toni! Winning a rodeo your first time out with a young horse, a STALLION no less!???

      I’m soooo thrilled to have played a part in your success with my tips, but you get a TON of credit for carrying them out and applying your knowledge and insights in all the right ways – way to go and keep up the great work!

      Thanks so much for sharing – whoooo hooo! Do you mind if I share your comment on Facebook?

  4. Cheyanne
    Cheyanne says:

    My 4yr old gelding will run the pattern at home as if he’s been doing for years and its very pretty. But, when I get him someplace else I cant get him out of a trot.


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 *