Can you think of a barrel racer that rides the same way every trip? Do you recognize how confident and solid their horse is? Our horse can only be as confident as we are, and part of our own confidence is having a plan. Know exactly where you want your horses’ feet to land and send them there with your body language.
Being consistent in our riding and our demands is important to our horse and his ability to learn and retain information. It is also important to his confidence. Consistency breeds confidence. Confidence breeds consistency (in both horse and rider). Repeating the same maneuver over 3 or more times (correctly) will help ingrain that maneuver and the feel associated with it, into your muscle memory. It is important to have a GOOD plan because you can just as quickly train bad habits! At speed and in competition you need to have confidence in your muscle memory and rely on it to react on instinct. You usually have to react faster than you can think.
By consistently riding the same way your horse will learn quicker and perform better. His runs will become more consistent through your own consistency.
Drills and exercises can be used to isolate the maneuvers you need to work on. If you are having a problem at first barrel, just work on first barrel. By working the complete pattern over and over (when second and third are great) you run the risk of using up your horses’ attention span, energy and confidence at those barrels when you really need it at first.
One of the drills on the site BarrelRacingDrills.com that is great for isolating a problem at first barrel (and you can do a similar drill for second barrel) is all one way turns on 3 or 4 barrels in a row. You can set them up down the middle of the arena and go up and down, or if you have 6 or 8 barrels you can put them up both sides of the arena (pictured) and go all the way around the arena. Give yourself ample room (50+ feet) between the barrels when you set them up, you want a good approach into the barrel.
Everyone has a style of training and the nice thing about this drill is you can use your own style. The main thing is that you have a plan for each turn and you repeat that method each time. Your plan should include your point for preparation and the path you want to take to get around the barrel. There are plenty of ways to train a barrel horse but what will help their confidence and speed your training is consistency in your requests.
How: From one end of the arena, approach and turn your first barrel as you would if you were working the pattern. Instead of going all the way across to second barrel, start looking for your approach to the next first barrel and repeat the first turn. If you are unhappy with your turn, repeat the turn at that same barrel and only leave to the next one when you are satisfied with the turn. The horse learns through release, so by moving on you are saying “good job”.Since horses learn through repetition, make sure you are teaching your horse good moves you want him to remember. He can learn bad footwork as fast as the good moves.
This drill isn’t just for the horse. By repeating these turns multiple times in a row you can train your own muscle memory to react on instinct. Pretend you are burning a turn at competition speed even though you might be trotting or slow loping the turn (even at a walk). You can improve your runs practicing at slow speeds by using your imagination and training your brain. Often, the best training is done at slower speeds since it gives time for it all to sink in. Improve your riding through perfect practice one turn at a time. Use this drill to improve your timing, your horses’ response to your request and your confidence. Doing so will reduce your times and increase how consistent your runs are.
Find more helpful drills at www.BarrelRacingDrills.com