Dena Kirkpatrick’s Barrel Racing Webcast Part 2

Make sure you check out Part 1 for all the warm up tips from the webcast.

Here were some important tips I took away from the webcast when it comes to teaching a horse the barrel pattern. Let me first say it’s very important you warm up your horse before you start working on the pattern. You need to make sure your horses muscles are loose and stretched before you start working him hard or you could risk your horse getting hurt.

  • Start with a straight line about 5-6ft out from the barrel – When starting towards the barrel at a slow pace keep him balanced and not leaning on either side.
  • As you get closer to the barrel don’t let him fade in – If your horse does start to fade in put pressure on your inside leg to make him move back out.
  •  Don’t start to turn to early – Of course early turns = barrels down and time added. To prevent this from happening wait until the horses hip is at the barrel before you start turning. Also when you get to the barrel give him a “bump” with your inside leg to push him over.
  • Start with perfecting a circle around the barrel before moving on to the next – Dena likes to do 2 perfect circles around the barrel and then move on to the next. At first she recommends starting at the walk. Circle the first barrel trying to keep an equal distance around it. Circle it twice and then go on to the next. Continue that doing the circles until you have finished the pattern. Once you and your horse can circle the barrels without moving in increase your pace until your eventually loping the pattern.
  • Think about the “feel” while your riding – This was something she said that really hit home. I think we all know when we’ve set our horses up right and rode the pattern perfect. We know this because everything about the ride felt right. We stayed balance in the saddle, we rode to the barrels and hit the pockets right, our horses didn’t stumble or fade just was right.
  • Spend time getting your horse relaxed at the front of the arena where all the horses anxiety starts – I feel like this is pretty important too. I like my horses to continue to pay attention to me as I’m going into the arena. I don’t want them focused on anything but the task before them. I want them to be focused on the first barrel and the ques I’m giving. I’ve seen many horses that start getting hyped up long before they get to the arena and when that happens majority of the time they run right past the first barrel. That horse was only focused on running rather then paying attention to the rider.
  • Make sure you get your horse set up before the barrel –  Dena suggests that if your horse has a tendency to cut in early, stop before you start the turn and make him stand where he should be. If he moves then push him back into the right place. She also says to keep him there until he is standing still and listening for the que to move on.
  • Too much pressure on the outside rein will cause the horse to drop his shoulder in – When a horse drops his shoulder in he’s lost his balance and has a good chance of hitting the barrel. So make sure to keep light pressure and use the inside rein to turn him around the barrel. You want him turning in so that his rear end will drive around.

Here’s a great video I found about Barrel Positions with Dena.

The last important tip Dena gave and the one I can’t stress enough is: Don’t over work your horse on the pattern or you will burn them out or have a horse that will out think you. This tip is true for any horse in any discipline. Over working your horse just makes them burn out and not care as much about their job. We don’t like doing the same thing over and over and over and keep in mind your horse doesn’t either. Change things up and keep them doing new and fun things. I like to spend a lot of down time trail riding and I find my horses really enjoy that too. I also like to give them time off when I can and just let them be a horse and enjoy pasture life. Normally their pasture time is in winter when I can’t ride much anyway.

What are some of your favorite barrel tips and how do you keep your horse from getting burnt out?

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