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Barrel racing...where to start?

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  • Barrel racing...where to start?

    I don't have access to a dedicated speed/gaming instructor, though I am taking lessons from a dressage/jumping instructor and I would guess a lot of the basics are the same. There is a play day "series" that takes place about a 10 minute trailer ride from my house and I thought it would be fun to give it a try.

    My mare use to run barrels with a previous owner, I am not sure how competitive or good she was, but she knows the pattern. Right now I only have room to set up one barrel in the area that I ride in. I did play around with her on the pattern a little bit this summer, she had no issue cantering to the barrel, but would put on the breaks and go around the barrel at a walk or trot then pick up the canter again. She also had a tendency to swing kind of wide coming out of the turn. What are some good exercises to help improve that? Also, what are some good things to work on on the flat to help improve around the barrel?
    Maggie Bright, lovingly known as Skye and deeply missed (1994 - 2013)
    The Blog

  • #2
    You could go talk to your local barrel racing association, the ones that put that barrel racing series there.
    They can tell you how to go about that and who can evaluate your horse, your riding and help you learn.

    There are many videos out there from the top barrel racers you could buy also.

    Just like with everything else out there, there is a technical aspect to any we do, seat of the pants won't get you there and not consistently.
    Good of you to look for someone to explain this a bit better.

    Barrel racing is a very small world, everyone knows each other and helps all, especially newbies.


    • #3
      Ask for speed only after you have control, to many people do it the opposite way with poor results.

      If she is swinging wide you can help that by entering a bit wider and turning after you are past the barrel instead of trying to turn at the front of the barrel. Clear as mud I am sure. Think of it more of a triangle rather than a circle.

      Lope lots of circles, vary the size and speed. When going around the barrels LOOK to the next barrel, keep your chin up and the rest will follow.


      • #4
        I haven't done any gaming events, but since gaming is really common where I live I have seen a fair number of competitions and people practicing. The most common thing I see among the successful riders is being really solid in the basics. They have a great seat and know how to help their horse balance going through the turns.

        As far as improving going through the pattern/tightening your turns, go slow first. Jog the pattern until your mare is completely comfortable with it. If you have a problem in the middle of the pattern, don't worry about finishing the pattern as much as correcting the problem first. Once you have her jogging the pattern without breaking gait going around the barrels then add the speed.
        It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.
        Theodore Roosevelt


        • #5
          Rating down coming into the barrel is common.

          Youtube has tons of good tips from Dena Kirkpatrick.


          You should really get some hands on help- it sounds like the horse has a good foundation and you don't want to screw that up. Whereabouts are you located, someone may be able to suggest trainers ...


          • #6
            good example of her lesson style


            • #7
              Don't over practice the pattern. Sounds like the horse knows it. If you know it focus on practicing the turns. Basics for a good barrel horse and a dressage horse is the same. You want to be able to move the hips and shoulders and get them using their hind end.
              When you practice the barrels are you going rigt next to them for the turn? There are 2 styles of turning. One is a pocket the other a rollback. With a pocket you want to be a a foot or two to the side of the barrel to finish the turn right next to the barrel. A rool back you go in next to the barrel pushed past and rollback to come off the turn right next to it.
              What I would practice is doing rollbacks to free up the shoulders. When working on turns leave the horse drop from canter to trot (good barrel basics for rate) but keep him driving with his hind end. Don't leave him fall on his forehand on the turn. Since you are trying this for fun go to the first show and have fun. Watch the people ride. Find one you like how they ride and ask them where they get lessons or do they teach. Most gaming people are friendly. Make sure you know your events and have fun.


              • #8
                Dressage training definitely helps, both you & the horse.
                There are also some good barrel clinicians, and weekend clinics are held all around the country. It would be a good place to start & a good place to meet some other barrel racers in your area, some of whom may be pretty experienced & helpful as you progress. Dena Kirkpatrick mentioned above is good, also Ed Wright, Charmayne James, Marlene McRae. You can google their websites for clinic schedules, most will be posting soon.
                Also, NBHA (National Barrel Horse Association) is split up by states & districts, and is set up for beginners to professionals. You can look up your local district, and call the director. I was a district director, and got lots of calls from people new to barrel racing wanting to know how to start. I always enjoyed talking to them & meeting them. They may know of more things in your local area. We had small, inexpensive clinics a few times as fundraisers with local trainers. If there is something similar in your area, it would be a good way to get started & meet some local trainers. You may meet one you like that could help you get started.
                Good luck & have fun!


                • #9
                  Wanted to add, if you can't find anything close by, Martha Josey videos are really nice beginner barrel racing videos.


                  • Original Poster

                    Thanks for all the advice everybody. I have contacted the farm that puts on the summer show series near me but haven't heard back. I am coming in pretty tight to the barrel, so maybe I should swing wider coming in to get tighter coming out?

                    I am stuck at the walk right now, all I have is an outdoor riding area. We got some snow finally with more on the way. I am hoping the next snow fall will give me enough cushion so I can start trotting again. The ground is soooo hard, and I worry about my horse's joints.

                    I have been working a bunch on getting her to bend and move her shoulders over at the walk, it can only help I hope!
                    Maggie Bright, lovingly known as Skye and deeply missed (1994 - 2013)
                    The Blog


                    • #11
                      she may be going wide because you could be leaning forward a bit to much trying to make her go faster but as you put weight on the front end it is making her try and turn around the whole barrel without picking up anything to get her going if lean back (also putting most of your weight into the one stirrup that you are leaning towards) and put your weight on her back end letting her pick up her front end to go faster around the barrel and pick herself up so she can get really tight to whip around the barrel. it also depends on how big your horse is compared to you if shes a smaller horse this applies ALOT! if you are kinda small on your horse it doesnt apply all that much but it still could be right give it a try and good luck!