Posts

Start Strong to Finish FAST – Catch the Correct Lead for a Stress-Free Alley Set Up Every Time

Start Strong to Finish FAST – Catch the Correct Lead for a Stress-Free Alley Set Up Every Time

The degree of responsiveness we NEED at the gate is NOT conditional – it HAS to hold up in any and all circumstances, even (and especially) when energy and adrenaline is high.

For some it’s not quite responsiveness that’s a problem, but the horse’s emotional stability. Ever catch yourself tip toeing around ever so subtly as you ask your horse to get in position because he’s SO reactive at the gate that he’s borderline unpredictable or dangerous?

If that’s the case it’s a different kind of problem, yet it also needs to be addressed before we can truly be set up for a successful run in the alley.

I addressed both these issues and more in today’s NEW Pro Members video post. Read more

Improve Horse and Human Posture for more Power (and Traction) on the Pattern

Improve Horse and Human Posture for more Power on the Pattern

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #168 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or Google Play.


The other day I was reading about some of the conditioning programs of top barrel racers, as well as reflecting back on my notes with suggestions from some veterans. They each talked about how many miles they go or minutes they spend at the walk, trot, then lope, etc. in each workout.

While it’s good to monitor this and have systems for keeping us on track, if we just trot and lope around without much focus on HOW our horse’s are moving and HOW we can help them move more correctly, when the time comes to enter up we might be leaving money on the table, or worse yet leaving our faces in the dirt. When a horse takes a digger, while it may also be a legitimate case of the ground not being prepared properly, more often than not it’s that the horse hasn’t been prepared properly.

Of course movement alone CAN condition a horse, but if you’re developing a horse for a specific event, with specific challenges (like less than ideal ground conditions) then it requires a more specific program. If your horse has certain tendencies, whether related to how he’s put together, or how he’s been trained and ridden, or even damaged and injured in the past, all this requires that we adjust our program based on our horse’s individual needs, AND make sure it’s in alignment with our goals and supportive of our horse’s long term well-being. Read more

Balance the Responsibility/Responsiveness Ratio for More Efficiency on the Barrel Pattern

How to Balance the Responsibility/Responsiveness Ratio for More Efficiency on the Barrel Pattern

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #166 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or Google Play.


As barrel racers – we’re conditioned to believe that “practice makes perfect” and that “repetition” is how we and our horses learn.

But I’m calling us out on that today.

You see, doing the same thing over and over and over, like walking, then trotting and loping the pattern for say, three months to start a barrel horse might be a recipe for disaster, IF you’re not doing it in the right WAY.

REPETITION ALONE DOES NOT TEACH HORSES. Read more

Five Cold, Hard (not-so-obvious) TRUTHS Why You’re Not Winning

Five Cold, Hard (not-so-obvious) TRUTHS Why You're Not Winning

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #161 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes or your favorite podcast app.


Andrea Otley knows exactly what type of challenges we all face on the road to better barrel racing.

In today’s post she’ll be sharing some lesser-known insights into understanding why the clock might not be stopping as you’d hope, as well as some action steps proven to change that, AND how to make this your year to reach new heights (and speeds) on the barrel pattern.

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You’ve got the horse.

You’ve got the tack – the saddle, the pad, the bit, the training equipment.

The teeth are floated. The chiropractic work is done. The feeding program is top notch – only the best for your horse.

He’s well trained. He knows and loves his job.

He’s in the best shape of his life.

You’ve taken the lessons, read the articles, watched the DVDs and corrected any problems.

You’ve learned so much and practiced hard. You’re devoted, dedicated and determined. You want this so bad!

You fall asleep each night thinking of your approach to the first barrel, how awesome it feels as your horse runs home. You get butterflies just thinking about it.

You enter each barrel race with the same positive expectation you enter the alley with, but then your heart drops again as you hear your time.

WHY aren’t you WINNING?? Read more

Master the Second Barrel with Three Simple Steps for a Fluid, Fast Turn

Master the Second Barrel with Three Simple Steps for a Fluid, Fast Turn

A few months ago, I introduced the concept of RSPA or “rate/shape point anxiety” and it’s damaging effects.

I also shared a video post in which I walked through the process of acing the first barrel with my simple 3×3 Troubleshooting Plan.

The second barrel turn on the other hand, creates a challenge unlike any other, thus making it the most commonly tipped barrel.

This is in large part because we have the shortest distance between barrels and happen to be running straight into a wall – which often doesn’t have much real estate behind it, contributing to horse’s tendencies to “get short” and anticipate the turn.

There’s so much more to resolving this problem than “picking a horse’s shoulder up,” however. If you take the right steps, you can blast across the pen with speed and good timing to nail your second barrel without stutter steps, hesitation, dropping in, or all the other unpleasantries that are SO common.

As you’ll learn in the video below, anticipation at the second barrel can become a thing of the past, but only if we take two steps back to intelligently consider the problem as it’s source AND solve it in a complete, thorough, and multi-faceted way.
Read more

Four Ways to Solve Problems on the Barrel Pattern with Quality Counter Arcs

Four Ways to Solve Problems on the Barrel Pattern with Quality Counter Arcs

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #89 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, TuneIn or Spotify.


A few years ago I was having trouble with my gelding anticipating the second barrel and cutting in too closely – a common problem in the barrel racing world.

It’s even more common on the second barrel where we have the shortest distance between barrels and run straight toward a wall or fence, which definitely plays a role in our horses getting short and anticipating that turn even more.

Focusing ahead and actively riding him further in the hole helped, but I really wanted to do something to lessen his desire to drop in to begin with.

We weren’t tipping a lot of barrels YET, but I knew the issue had the potential to develop into a more major problem if I didn’t address it.

So, I employed the help of the good ol’ barrel racing standby – the counter arc.

You can imagine my surprise a few weeks later, when I tested our progress in competition. I was hustling him across the pen, and when I offered some subtle rein contact to round the second barrel, my gelding stiffened up like he had rigor mortis!

He felt like he’d swallowed a 2×4.

My almost over-bendy, soft and supple barrel horse was literally stiffer than a board in that turn – I had never felt anything quite that extreme, or that awful.

I was so shocked and confused. But after quickly flipping through my mental rolodex, there was only one thing I could attribute the change to – Read more

Train Like an Athlete – WIN Like a Champion! Fitness Tips from the Top 15

Train Like an Athlete - WIN Like a Champion!  Fitness Tips from the Top 15

In today’s video (filmed live at the NFR!), I’ve shared a summary of tips the top 15 barrel racers offered when asked “How do you stay physically and mentally fit with all the difficulties of rodeo life?

There were definitely some common threads in their answers, however I felt as though Shada and Sydni’s every word on this topic were also worth sharing in print…

SHADA BRAZILE: “Physically, I have pretty much been adapted to the rodeo lifestyle. I run every chance I get, I run bleachers. We spend a lot of emphasis on horses physical condition and it’s equally important for us to be in shape, and have a strong core to ride them the way we need to.

As far as mentally I thought I understood the mental pressure of competing watching Trevor, there are so many ups and downs I really didn’t understand how to compete when you had to win. I really don’t think you can understand it until you have been there. What really helps me is to go to the arena before I run and envision my run.”

SYDNI BLANCHARD: “I stay gluten free, which allows me to cut out wheat, barley and rye and allows me to eat more meat, vegetables and fruit. Physically, I work out every day; we have a gym at the home and I try and keep the same schedule on the road which gets hard.

I make sure I do cardio every day, so I will either run stairs or run the bleachers at rodeos or I have a jump rope that I keep in my tack compartment, so every time I open my tack I will jump rope real quick.

Just things like that you have to do, it’s hard, you are an athlete and you have to treat your body like you are one. You just have to ask yourself, how bad do you want it?”

Read more

Fit Rider Interview with Barrel Racer and Author, Heather Smith

Fit Rider Interview with Barrel Racer and Best Selling Author, Heather Smith

Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #37 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
For the latest episodes subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or Google Play.


The interview below was featured in the Success in the Saddle Fit Rider Newsletter.
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What prompted you to increase your fitness?
I’ve always been interested in fitness and nutrition but in the past few years I’d started learning more about how our riding can benefit from gaining core strength and how stability and balance in the saddle can be increased through specific exercise out of the saddle.

Being a dedicated student of horsemanship for many years has taught me that horses really are our mirrors. The way a horse behaves, moves and performs is often a reflection of their rider.

Heather & Pistol

I don’t think it’s fair to ask our horses to have a level of fitness that we’re not willing to achieve ourselves. So expecting them to give us their best in competition is a matter of giving them our best every day as well.

What is your fitness routine?
I’m not a person who’s ever been obsessive about exercising, but I am committed to maintaining my general health and have noticed differences in how I think and feel when I make movement a priority. Read more