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When it comes to barrel racing, it’s more often a matter of WHEN our horses will get HOT vs. IF.
Even with careful development and maintenance, it’s likely that at some point we’ll be challenged to have perfectly clear communication and emotional fitness from our horse when we need it most under high pressure circumstances.
Speed and anxiety seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. To the barrel racer, however, it’s not a very enjoyable combination.
Before we can REALLY help resolve our horse’s tendency to become tense, anxious and impulsive, let’s take a close look into WHY this happens to begin with.
Consider horses in nature – usually they don’t run full speed UNLESS they’re (believed to be) in serious danger, or must outright flee to save their life. When a horse’s feet really get moving, things start to change within their body biochemically, including the release of adrenaline.
Some horses, due to their innate characteristics, tend to be more concerned with their safety than others, and these horses are likely to unravel emotionally more quickly, more deeply, AND take longer to become “level headed” again.
This doesn’t necessarily make them less any desirable as barrel horses (it’s largely a personal preference). In fact, in my book, this mental/emotional sensitivity often translates into a naturally heightened physical sensitivity as well, which to me, IS desirable. Whichever type of horse we end up with or choose, it’s our job to find a balance that brings out each individual’s greatest potential.
Speaking of level headed, have you also ever wondered why so many horses raise their head with they get emotional? This also has everything to do with safety. In addition to the fact that horses raise their heads higher in order to see more clearly through the lower portion of the lens in their eye, a horse with his head low to the ground is in a vulnerable position – a perfect target for a predator (or a perceived predator).
Does this mean that your aged rodeo campaigner is scared for his life when he’s all jazzed up? Not necessarily.
However, these behavior characteristics that are based in fear can become learned behaviors, brought on by triggers. Horses catch on to patterns quickly. When you start saddling up at a competition, it doesn’t take long for them to understand what happens, before what happens, happens! Read more