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Barrel Racing...english!?

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  • Barrel Racing...english!?

    I wanna try barrel racing!

    So my boyfriend rides western and wants to do some fun, local speed events, so I thought, what the hay? Why not try some of it on my semi-retired TB who is quick and agile?

    I dont feel at all comfortable in a western saddle. The show series already said english tack was okay for the events. (I was thinking either english or bareback hah!)

    I have no clue how to train my horse to do barrels. We practiced a few times this past weekend. Tried it at the trot, which went well, then cantered. He got all of his lead changes before we got to the next barrel...apparently he DOES know his changes and can anticipate!

    Our turns were a bit wide, especially the last one. I dont know how to get him to do tighter turns. My natural instinct is to keep contact in my outside rein around the barrels, so his shoulder doesnt bulge, but my boyfriend suggested I use only inside rein and inside leg? I havent tried it yet...I dont wanna confuse my poor horse with an already new activity.

    He does neck rein pretty well, so I could try that, but i'm much more comfortable direct reining.

    Charlie Brown seems to LOVE it already...he kept wanting to do the pattern/prancing...
    Charlie Brown (1994 bay TB X gelding)
    White Star (2004 grey TB gelding)

    Mystical Moment, 1977-2010.

  • #2
    Believe it or not you can use basic dressage to teach the horse to shift back and roll around those turns-without falling on his forehand and shoulder or knocking the barrel over as he will if you just use inside leg and inside rein.

    There are some real good dvds out there by big name barrel gals, lots of good hints that can help with anything else you attempt by really getting a good foundation on the horse. Not as different as it looks.

    Don't think you will be able to really step on the gas in an english saddle-look at pictures of the Pro racers, lots of hands on that horn as they drop low and wrap around then sprint away. Hard to stay on if they are really trucking.
    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


    • #3
      semi-retired TB
      Why is he semi-retired?
      Barrels done right are hard on a horse.

      You develop the pattern at walk & trot, learning the correct aids for yourself at the same time - much better to have a lesson with a good barrel coach then decide if this is going to work for your TB.
      Also try a western barrel racing saddle - it supports the rider correctly which your cc (?) saddle won't - if the saddle fits you & the horses, it should feel different but comfortable.


      • #4

        I have done it! Well, poles and cones, not barrels. Kind of as a joke.

        At our little local shows. On my then-20 yo 15hhArab gelding. In a Stubben Parzival. Dress boots and all.

        It REALLY PO'd the serious-about-contesting qh competition because we'd regularly come in - say, 5th or 6th (just out of the money) out of 30-60 entries.
        Him doing that famous Crabbet-bred extended trot!

        Why did we place as high as we did? Because he was very response and nimble, never too excited, never knocked any thing down, never ran off-course, never did that hysterical "pogo-sticking" barrel-horse thing at the start after timer was running. AND he loved it! He'd be snorting with delight at the end of it. It would crack people up, and we'd often get a standing ovation.
        But most of the other entrants just glared at us.


        • #5
          Some shows won't let you show barrels in an English saddle. 4H dictates a stock type Western saddle but the local riding club lets you run in anything you choose. That being said, I think you should try a barrel saddle and see if it changes your mind. It's designed with a deep seat and a high horn which you might need if he really slings around a barrels. At the County 4H show last week, my 14 year old daughter's horse caught a toe in the deep sand, went down on his knees and rolled over on her. I think the horn is what actually kept him from rolling completely over and because of the high pommel and cantle, it gave her room when he did go down. Horse and ride popped right back up and rode the next class. Plus she won barrels and moves on to Regionals. My daughter competes regularly and she uses short gaming reins and typically holds onto the horn with one hand and directs the horse with the other. The horse is pretty much sideways coming around the barrel.
          Lots of pics here, under shows: http://ctgponies.blogspot.com/


          • Original Poster

            Charlie is semi-retired because he had surgery 1.5 years ago to fix an infected tendon sheath. He recovered fully, but is not supposed to jump. He's 18 and I bought a new show hunter so he just gets hacked and played around on right now. (ETA: he is completely sound and shows no signs of arthritis etc).

            The show specified that english tack is fine. I've actually ridden him in a barrel saddle (my boyfriend has one for his horse) and I felt SO awkward and could not get comfortable. I felt not so secure in it. I could practice more in it, but I would rather do english if I can.

            These are going to be tiny little local schooling shows. I'm not going to be uber competitive...I just want to have some fun!
            I dont mind if I cant "step on the gas" too much in an english saddle. If we can canter around the barrels and have tight-ish turns, I'll be a happy camper! If we start to get more serious, I suppose i'll have to get used to that barrel saddle!
            Charlie Brown (1994 bay TB X gelding)
            White Star (2004 grey TB gelding)

            Mystical Moment, 1977-2010.


            • #7
              It sounds like you're doing it for fun, so do what's fun and comfortable for you and your horse. Just add a neck strap if you think you'll need a handle. For a while as a teenager, I had the trained horse but no saddle so was practicing the barrel pattern bareback (yup, at the hand gallop), and polo players routinely bust a move in Englishified tack.

              Get someone who's good to show you how the see the 'pocket' around each barrel, so you know where you're aiming and can plan where to place your horse's feet at each gait.


              • #8
                I've done it. It was fun, and like you, I just was not comfortable riding Western. I never rode Western until I started doing our local shows here, because days are split (AM-English PM Western) and my horse gets really bored standing around for half the day. But as I've learned to ride Western better, I've realized that the way it sits you does make you much more secure for the quick turns that barrel racing requires to be competitive. My runs are a LOT faster since I've started doing them Western as you get to feel like you can REALLY dig in and run.

                If you're just going to some fun shows for the heck of it, no reason to change over. But if you want to do it regularly? Western is really better, IME.


                • #9
                  I used to barrel race. Rode english during the week, and was on drill team and barrel racing on weekends. And no, we'd didn't hold onto the horn, that was a no no way back then. I don't think I ever barrel raced bareback, altho I rode my horses bareback almost every day.

                  It's fun. I never won barrel racing, my horses were not quarterhorses. Btu my 2nd horse could outrun every horse in Chatham Co till my neighbors got the racing QH "Bolo."


                  • #10
                    If you are not supposed to jump, then i'd think high-intesity sports are not good, so be sure you clear barrel racing with your vet. Barrel racing is a lot harder on a horse (especially with beginning riders/horses.. which both of you are) then it appears.
                    "Sadly, some people's greatest skill, is being an idiot". (facebook profile pic I saw).


                    • #11
                      Ditto on learning the "science" of barrels from the pros. If you're going to put the wear and tear on the horse, you might as well do it right and spare your horse some effort.

                      There are two basic ways to turn a barrel - make a pocket and do a rollback around the barrel, or go a little wider and run all the way. You have to find out which works best for you, your horse, and your style of riding. The amateur approach of riding at the barrel and yanking around is commonly seen at the playday beginner level, and it's only successful for some. Don't try to slither around the barrel as close as you can get. Shin guards are a nice thing to have, especially if that is the modus operandi you choose. The horse needs to keep up his speed, and the slither turn really sucks it away as well as knocking barrels over more often.

                      I'd put a grab strap on the pommel of your saddle. Riding with two hands is actually an asset in speed gaming because you're keeping your upper body straighter and in better balance.

                      Look at Martha Josey's books, and she probably has a website, too. She is a very nice lady (I've corresponded with her) and a good horsewoman.
                      "I couldn't fix your brakes, so I made your horn louder."


                      • #12
                        I've done it bareback for a club play day:



                        We weren't very fast, but we had fun. I ride english, and at the time I was waiting for the saddle I ordered to arrive


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Mist of Avalon View Post
                          I've done it bareback for a club play day:



                          We weren't very fast, but we had fun. I ride english, and at the time I was waiting for the saddle I ordered to arrive
                          rats, I'm not on facebook and cannot view.


                          • #14
                            I've run games in an English saddle in greenie classes with no particular intent to be fast (rather than correct and accurate). And I've won, too, as a nice bonus.

                            It IS more secure in a western saddle, and if I'm trying to be competitive, that's what I use - but there's no reason to spend the money on a fancy new saddle just to have a bit of fun.

                            Getting tight turns is a matter of half-halting going in so that your horse is balanced and able to get down low and drive from behind. It's just the same as doing tight turns in the jumpers.

                            I would be worried about running games on a horse who wasn't allowed to jump, though. The forces you put on their legs are pretty impressive. Check out the torque, plus the strain that's being put on the tendons in that right front as the fetlock nearly touches the ground (and no, this is not a horse with long or lax pasterns - this is normal for any horse turning a barrel hard): https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-o...relsforweb.jpg
                            Proud member of the EDRF


                            • #15
                              I would feel much more secure in a Western saddle doing barrels, but since the PDN is all I have for now, that's what we do (not at speed yet. Well, Lucky's got the hang of "last barrel means run real fast!" He likes that part.)

                              Remember, wide going in, tight coming out. And don't lean in hard! I think sometimes having a not-a-speed horse can help, just because they aren't so wired by knowing what to do they get out of hand and hit barrels, go off course, etc. One year at fair when they cancelled the open show because of a wet ring, they had a fun show and let leaders, older siblings, etc. ride. I ended up winning the adult walk-trot barrels on my OTTB because the people on trained gaming horses had a terrible time keeping them at the trot! Benny just knew "Trot around the round things? Okay, whatever you say..."
                              Author Page
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                              Steampunk Sweethearts


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by cloudyandcallie View Post
                                rats, I'm not on facebook and cannot view.
                                I'm not sure how to post photos... I tried to use this: [img]value[/img] with the 'value' part replaced with the image info, but it didn't work when I previewed it. Let's see, I tried this with photobucket instead... does it work?

                                Last edited by Mist of Avalon; Aug. 15, 2011, 10:37 PM. Reason: trying to add photos


                                • #17
                                  Your boyfriend is definitly right, let go of that outside rein!! You drop your inside hand down on the rein, drop your other hand to the horn and let 'em roll.
                                  http://image24.webshots.com/565/3/73...4RmMwQC_ph.jpg if the link doesn't work, refresh.
                                  This is one of the best barrel racers today.
                                  When you practice, always practice the turns looser than what you would want in competition. Once a horse knows the pattern, the turns get tighter as you go faster. You want to come into it wide (a pocket) and come out tight.

                                  Barrel racing (and other games events) are addicting! One of the best gaming horses I know is a TB =).


                                  • #18
                                    Our daughter won high point games in her English tack and clothing. She was on an older arabian. She had far more control riding that way then the gamers that were pushing for speed. They did perfectly controlled patterns and lead changes. The judge was a little nasty about it but there weren't any rules saying she had to use a western saddle. He told her she had to wear her English clothes if she was going to use an English saddle. She'd rather wear breeches then jeans any day. lol.
                                    Last edited by My Two Cents; Aug. 16, 2011, 10:14 PM.


                                    • #19
                                      My daughter does all different gaming classes and schools English, Western and bareback. Pat9 has some good advice about turning a barrel - my daughter's main gaming horse is 15.2 with a big stride so she turns barrels with him wider. Most of my horses are former ranch horses with a good neck rein and are very handy at other patterns. Just because they can run fast doesn't mean that they are versatile at other patterns including some with jumps. That's where she has excelled.