Tag Archive for: barrel horse problem solving

Speed Kills – How to Resolve Issues that Only Occur at Speed

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Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #27 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
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When it comes to training barrel horses, it seems like everything can change when we add the pressure and challenges of competition. If you’ve been barrel racing long enough, you’ve probably had experiences where it seemed like everything felt perfect – until your horse found a few more gears. Or that you could make an awesome run at home, only to have it all fall apart in competition.

While some horses have more ability to efficiently maneuver their bodies at speed than others, our job as riders is to help balance out their natural tendencies. We want to polish up what’s good and better develop the weak areas. But what about when we feel like we’ve done EVERYTHING, and things STILL come apart at speed or in competition?

With one of my horses in particular, I felt like I had left no stone unturned when it came to developing a foundation that would carry through to our performance on the pattern. But for years, we would miss the mark. It was insanely frustrating!

In this article I’d like to share WHY I think things tend to fall apart at speed, as well as how my horses and I have overcome the challenges that speed presents. As with many issues that come up on the pattern, they are often only symptoms of deeper issues. I feel as though understanding the “why” gives us insight into “how” to successfully troubleshoot. I’ll also be sharing a few exercises that have been valuable to me for ensuring there are no disconnects between my horse’s slow work and speed work, that I think will be helpful for you as well.

One of the first reasons our runs go downhill at speed is because we, OR our horses, resort to old habits that are not efficient or no longer serve us!

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Top 10 Barrel Racing Tips Countdown

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Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #19 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or Google Play.


I’m no David Letterman, but am sharing a Top 10 list that’s even better than any Late Show countdown!

As you can imagine, as the creator of BarrelRacingTips.com, I’m asked quite often for “barrel racing tips.” 

Although that very phrase is this web site’s namesake, I admit to being at somewhat of a loss when posed this question.  In fact, I can’t help but immediately think “Where do I start?” or be tempted to ask “How much time do you have?” 

So finally, I’ve taken some time to develop my “Top 10 Barrel Racing Tips” and have shared them below.  These tips are based on the lesser known, but critically important areas that I have found to contribute most to barrel racing success. 

If you’ve been part of the BarrelRacingTips.com community long enough, you’d know that this web site, and my book Secrets to Barrel Racing Success are not your average barrel racing resources. 

I learned many lessons the hard way, and over time I began to notice that others were misled and mistaken, as I was.  Many barrel racers struggle to find barrel racing success because they are looking for it in the wrong places. If you are ready for real, lasting positive results, these tips will get you started…

Heather Letterman

Number 10 – Put Education before Specialization

When you put horsemanship first, you are on a path to developing ALL the tools, skills and knowledge you will ever need to accomplish anything you can dream of with horses.  There may be some people out there who have achieved some success without good horsemanship, but truly, if you are serious about achieving barrel racing success, and you put horsemanship first, this path is as close to a “sure thing” you can get!

Consider making the development of your own horsemanship and your horse’s education a priority over learning about barrel racing.  It’s OK to focus on things specific to barrel racing too, but it’s real difficult to be successful at barrel racing, without a solid educational foundation in yourself and your horse!  Seek out resources to learn more about horse psychology, training, riding, etc.  Read books, go to horsemanship clinics, watch DVD’s, seek out resources, etc.  Just because you’re technically not in school anymore (or even if you are), doesn’t mean that you stop learning outside of the school environment.  Be progressive, keep climbing the ladder, set your sights on becoming a better barrel racer, rider, and person than you were yesterday! Read more

How & Why “Buck, the Film” Relates to Barrel Racing

How & Why “Buck, the Film” Relates to Barrel Racing
The early years in Wyoming – fortunate to be influenced by Ray Hunt and Buck Brannaman.

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #16 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Play.


I’ve often said – “There’s a lot more to barrel racing, than barrel racing.” 

This understanding is a big part of why I chose to offer a copy of the award winning documentary movie, “Buck, the Film” to those who purchased the Secrets to Barrel Racing Success Pay it Forward Package during the book’s initial launch.

If you don’t get the “a lot more” part, your barrel racing will always be lacking.  That’s where Buck Brannaman comes in.  An early protégé of the legendary late horsemen, Ray Hunt and the Dorrance Brothers, Brannaman has dedicated his life to “helping horses with people problems.”

After having called Wyoming home for nearly 15 years, I’ve jumped at opportunities to be in the presence of these legendary horsemen and learn from them in person. I chose to offer the DVD as a free gift, because it brilliantly displays a message, actually many messages, that have been instrumental in my barrel racing success. In this article, I wanted to share more about how and why, these horsemen and this movie, have shaped my horsemanship and barrel racing path.

If you follow “Buck, the Film” on Facebook, you’ll see they regularly post images with quotes.  One of my recent favorites was this…

“My daughter’s all grown up now compared to what she was, but I used to say, I’ve got to have my horse to where if she’s leading my horse somewhere, and she’s got a big armload of Barbies and drops something out of her hand, that son of a buck ought to stop and respect her while she’s gathering up all her dolls and not to walk on her or take advantage of her. And if I’ve done my work right, by gosh, that’s what they’ll do.” – Buck Brannaman

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Peel Back the Layers and Get REAL

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #14 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Play.


In all areas of my life, “peeling back the layers” is something that has changed it for the better, so it seemed like a subject more than worthy of sharing.  Like the contents of my book, “Secrets to Barrel Racing Success,” this web site provides technical information, but is unique in that it goes even deeper to uncover “the REAL secrets,” the things that matter, but aren’t always addressed through mainstream educational resources for barrel racers.

Resist temptation to bang your head.
Resist temptation to bang your head.

I’ve experienced it myself, and know many other barrel racers have as well… We set out to sharpen up our barrel horse, troubleshoot an issue on the pattern, get that elusive last ½ second…  We flounder around, some light bulbs go off, we get excited, then hit a wall, redirect again, repeat….

Eventually we go back to the drawing board, and proclaim (either out loud or to ourselves), “I AM doing THIS and THIS, I have done ALL THIS, and my horse STILL isn’t ( fill in the blank )!!!” It’s like we try hard, we study up, we put the time in, we feel like we’re doing EVERYTHING.  Things improve a bit, we get our hopes up, but eventually realize that it’s STILL not enough!  Ugh.  Some of us, shaking our head, confess, “I just don’t think HE (the horse) has IT,” (the speed, athleticism, mind, etc.). We think “If only HE would just do this ____________!” or say “Well, ya know, he’s just so front endy, sore, not fast enough, or too sensitive…” it goes on and on.

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