Barrel Racing Tips with Martha Josey

Martha Josey and her Josey Ranch Team have a great website with many resources available.  There is information there suited for the beginner barrel racer just learning to barrel race, to the advanced racer that needs to freshen up and be reminded that good horsemanship is where it all starts.

In Martha’s Winning Ways section for the website you will find all kinds of tips including horse care, training and developing that winning attitude.  Seeing that it is the beginning of a new barrel racing season in many parts I thought I would focus on one section she has called The Barrel Racing Checklist

This is a great review for all levels of barrel racers.  Its a good list to go through and assess where you are at in your own program.  Kind of like a “spring tuneup” to see if you have any issues you are missing that could be improved on before you get too far into the season.

I encourage you to go to her site (, then Winning Ways) to read more, but here is a quick rundown on some of the things we need to be in tune to with our horses:

  • Check for soreness and injury.  Know your horse, know what he SHOULD feel like
  • Check his ears for soreness, check his teeth for problems
  • What is your horses overall appearance? Step back and think what a stranger would think.  Is she underweight, dull hair coat, have you de-wormed lately?
  • Assess your feeding program? Is your horse getting everything he/she needs?  Are there changes you could make?
  • Look at his/her feet? Are they up to date? Is your farrier doing a good job.  The condition of your horses feet will directly affect its ability to perform to its best.
  • Check your equipment.  Is it fitting your horse correctly? Properly adjusted? In good condition? Is it safe?  Check your tie-down, curb strap, rein length, headstall – every piece.
  • Is your tack clean?  Dirty tack can make a horse sore and uncomfortable
  • How is your saddle fitting?
  • As a rider – are you doing your part? Are you fit and able to ride to the best of your ability?  How is your mental game?  Are you mentally prepared to help your horse?
  • Consider videoing your run to see if you are causing your horse problems – perhaps sending an incorrect message.
  • When you are trailering, is your horse comfortable? Too hot? Too cold? How’s your driving…are you giving a smooth ride so your horse doesn’t arrive more tired than when he left?
  • Are you remembering to properly warm up and cool down your horse before and after a workout or run?
  • Is your practice productive/constructive.  Are you over practicing or not enough?
  • Is your horse in adequate condition for what you are asking of him/her?

Martha Josey goes into much more detail than I have here and has so many other great tips on her Winning Ways section of her website.  I encourage you to check them out.  She is very positive and offers  great advice that stems from decades of barrel racing experience.

Comments 30

  1. I am having trouble leaving the 2nd and 3rd barrel up when i ask her to give it all shes got. I have tried all those shoulder dropping excercises and if i just let her run at her own speed
    we leave them up. If I push her at all we knock them down. I do not know how to fix this problem. Do you have any tips?

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      Its difficult to say without seeing a video to know exactly what is going on. What I would try is doing loose relaxed slow work keeping her moving forward around the barrels. In a run, focus on sitting up, riding centered and driving her deep past the barrels before letting her turn. I know sometimes I feel like I’m riding deep, I look back at the video and I’ve actually sat down too soon and cued for the turn too soon getting us too tight. Maybe this is the case for you too – watch the video with Dena Kirkpatrick again and you will see why its so important their hip is past the barrel before we ask them to turn. Good Luck out there – Michelle

  2. I am a barrel racer and i need barrel racing tips. I am in the rodeo. Im in the junors. If there is some way that I could get you to contact me on email that would great! you are such a great horseman! When you get an chance contact me at my email my email is

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  3. i would deffinatly go back to slow work and get the horse to work 2x past the barrel because when you speed up the horse will turn quick. Also, horses dont just plow over barrels on there own.. they arent stuid and it hurts them when they do it.. So when i hit a barrel i go back and watch what i did wrong.. NOT THE HORSE. but deff. go back to slow work and give alot of room going into the barrel and behind it so you can get good room at a better speed

  4. i have problems with calming my barrel racer down. he goes right into the arena with no problems, but then he starts to rear and get really hot. then he blows the first turn i cant get him to turn it tight at all. do you have any tips? thankss

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  5. Hi, my horse isnt a barrel horse but i do compete for fun with my friends in western games. My horse at the second barrel always goes WAY wide and doesnt go to the third barrrel right away. How can i get her to turn tighter and get her to the third barrel?


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      I would look at how you are approaching your second barrel. If you are going in too tight or turning too early he may need to take the room on the backside. Another possibility is that you are rushing him through the turn so he starts running before he finishes the turn. Slow yourself down in the turn and wait on him. In your slow work you can double or triple that turn (go around it again). To emphasize you want him to finish it and not anticipate leaving it too soon.

  6. So, I have a quarter/Arab who is a little hot in the aren. He tends to drop his shoulder around the barrel and we cut it too short which ends in a knock. I have worked with him and nothing I do works. Help???

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      Did you check out the tip from Fallon Taylor on here? You’ll need to correct him going slow in practice but when it comes to competition make sure you ride him deep into the turn.

  7. Hi,

    My horse always tries to turn to tight when going around the barrels, and when I try to correct him, he just knocks it over! I’m not sure why he does that. Thanks.

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      Sticky feet! Keep those feet moving in your slow work and keep his feet in four wheel drive. You might try and keep him loose and working the pattern free. Look over his ears and ride him to where you want him to go. Don’t look at the barrel, look where you want to go

  8. when my horse goese around the first barrel its back end twirls out and she dousnt turn all the way any advise???? THanks

  9. My morgan takes extra lenghts and sidesteps alot when turning a barrel . Also getting him to lope heading to the first barrel is hard. but coming back from the third he runs… How do i fix these problems?please and thank you

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      In practice, I wouldn’t worry about running home at all. That is the easiest thing to teach a horse (as you’ve probably found). I would work on getting your lope departures quickly away from the pattern before you try and do it on the way to first. You may also want to lope a circle before you start and get the momentum going. Regarding the sidestepping, I would work on round circles and straight lines really keeping that hip where it should be using your legs.

  10. im having trouble with my 2nd barrel. every time i run the pattern a second time, when she leaves the 2nd barrel to go to the 3rd she is extremley wide … i am not able to get her to wrap the 2nd barrel like she does the 1st nd 2nd. but she has never knocked a barrel..

  11. hi i am starting a newbe for barrel racing shes very fast she hasnt been in the arena yet what sort of things should i do to get her used to the Arena. and im wondering what and how does the fretter butterfly bit work is it good

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      I would just take her in and walk her around. Some horses won’t even bat an eye. I’m not familiar with the fretter butterfly bit so I can’t help you there. Michelle

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        1. on my barrel horse do u now y he is slowing down when i turn he still runs 16 but i dont want him to slow down when i turn the barrels you are a awesome barrel racer

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