Charmayne James Offers Sound Advice

A valuable resource available to barrel racers includes the website of World Champion Barrel Racer Charmayne James.

Each month Charmayne contributes an article to the Barrel Horse News magazine. If you aren’t a subscriber you can still access this information. On Charmayne’s website she has a link called Barrel Horse News where you can find the articles organized for reading right on her website.

Past topics include problem solving for barrel racing, safe hauling, proper bitting for barrel horses, the importance of healthy barrel horses (including shoeing, dental work and chiropractic work). Important lessons from her clinics, horsemanship, balance, nutrition and fitness and how they apply to barrel racing.

I encourage you to check out these articles whether you subscribe to Barrel Horse News or not. There is a large database of past articles which make for a great reminder even if you have read them already.

11 time World Champion Charmayne James sharing her experience and sound advice is something barrel racers can’t afford to miss out on.

Here is a cool video with Charmayne talking about her Bridleless run with Scamper. It is a great example of what a great team they were right from the very beginning when Charmayne was only 16 years old.

Comments 20

  1. I hope you don’t mind me emailing you but you are my daughter’s barrel racing idol. She looks up to you and therefore, I am seeking your help and/or advice. We have tried to attend two of your clinics when you come east but so far, have not been able to do so. My dilema is my daughter is currently barrel racing. Her horse has the knowledge and speed to take her far, but he was used for mounted shooting without the shoot. He ran the course and did not have to have pull up when used by the previous owner. We have him working the barrels really good, but he is not consistent due to when he hits the arena at times, he is all go and wants to pull or go wide on the barrel. We have tried several bits, including, a combination gag, a tom-thumb, a long shank snaffle, and the only bit she is able to somewhat control him with is a bit with a port but that also in not consistent. We have had to put a tie down on him with all of the bits. I am sorry to bother you with this question/concern, but we have the horse to take her on into competition, we just can’t get him consistent being we have not found the right bit for him. On the outside of the arena, he is calm and does not need a correction bit, but when he hits the arena he turns into an all go horse, at times lunging through the air and even twice over the barrel. Other times he hits his marks and one of his best times was a 17.41 and that was holding him back due to us not wanting him to go until we know he is ready. The next time out he can’t get down the arena without lunging through the air. He flexes so we have him soft, but that all goes away at times in the arena. We have had him for over a year and have held him back due to these issues, but I feel if we can get the right set up, they can move forward. His previous owner has told her to put a hackamore on him, but when he is in the arena, I want to be sure she has the tools to handle her horse and him not get away from her. He has never been ridden in a hackamore. Thank you and I do hope you have a answer or suggestion. Again thank you and I hope to hear from you or one of your staff. Kelly Dukes

    1. Post

      Hi Kelly, this is Michelle, not Charmayne. I would suggest you seek the help of a professional trainer that can help you in person. Sounds like it could be complicated. Sorry to not be more help.

    2. Hi Kelly,

      I think the horse you have will definitely bring your daughter far in barrel racing but it’s also important when buying a horse to find something that suites your level. Then when you feel you’re ready to move onto a faster horse I suggest owning something that is 10 years or older because those horses are patterned and run a consistant run. They will be pricier but they are worth it. Buying a horse that is seasoned will help her learn how it feels running on a faster horse but has control at all speeds. Then if she wants a training project I would put that out there at that time.

      If your daughter has determination to work through this with her horse than by all means go for it as long as she is safe.
      I understand if you don’t want to sell this horse so here are some exercises that may help.
      1. Sounds like you may have to work on some rating at the pocket of the barrel. Take your horse at a walk at first (then move up to a trot, then lope) when you get to your pocket, sit down and say whoa. When the horse stops ask them to finish the barrel. At a faster speed you will be asking them to slow down one gait. e.g. Trot slowing down to walk. This helps to rate them.
      2. At the back of your barrel, pivot, and then go straight to your next barrel. You should finish your pivot facing the next barrel. e.g. If you are turning the barrel to the left, pivot the same direction (to the left). This gets your horse’s butt underneath them which helps for rating.
      3. Teach your horse to “frame” or “collect”. Same thing but different wording. You can do this by first teaching them to drop their head on the ground then in the saddle ask them to tuck their head.
      On the ground: Place your hand on the poll (between their ears). On each side you will feel a bit of an in dent. Place your fingers there and sqeeze. As soon as they give, release. A horse’s reward is the release.
      Another option is to pull down on the lead rope and wiggle. This one doesn’t usually work as well or effeciently.
      In the saddle: Wiggle your reins (right finger, left finger, etc.) until they drop/tuck their head. Then release. This helps to have more control.
      4. Tip your horse’s nose in and work circles. Do figure eights and then move onto doing figure eights around one barrel and away. THen both barrels. It sounds like your horse gets anxious by the barrel pattern. Do slow work in an arena with the pattern up. Show it that this is a good resting place. Same thing with herd bound horses, work them at the barn and go for a relaxing trail ride away from it.
      5. An exercise for anxious horses: When you get to your pocket, pivot away keeping his shoulder up and nose in. When you return to you normal place continue to finish the barrel. Really round him in that barrel if he’s tight. Do circles around the barrel over and over until you see his body relax, then move on.

      Horses learn from consistancy so you will have to just work on each exercise a few times a day every day. This way you will get the best results. Stay patient and don’t over work the exercises or pattern because they will get sour or hot (not going into the gate, etc.).
      You will get many different opinions because everyone has to make their own “method”. I get tips from professionals and apply them to my training program and use the ones that work best with each individual horse. Remember, you want to work with your horse, not against them. Choose/make a method that works for you and your horse. Find barrel racers that you can relate your method to and ask those people for tips. THis way it isn’t as confusing getting so many different opinions. I see a lot of people frustrated because they’re confused because of getting SO many tips and then they go ask for more.

      Another important thing in barrel racing is seat movement and leg signals. Do you understand these? If not, I would strongly reccomend looking into it. I ride my horse with no bridle or saddle (Bridless) and do reining patterns, etc. because I have so much control with just using my seat and leg signals. Seat movement and leg signals come naturally to a horse so you just need to teach yourself! Aren’t they helpful? 🙂

      Trail riding is one of the best things you can do with a horse. It gets their mind off of working and the commotion gets them de-spooked. There are many other reasons but those are a couple.

      As to bits…I feel when I’m going on a trail ride or doing slow work I just use a snaffle. If your horse is still so head strong after working on some exercises and you know that they are doing it well then I would work them in a bit of a stronger bit like a working cowhorse bit. It is twisted and broken in one peice, has short shanks that have 3 rings. One on the top, middle, and bottom. Great bit! You can also go on Charmayne’s website and look at her bits. She describes what the bit is useful for. I would get something that works on the poll and collection for a starter to get your horse nice and soft at all gaits (collected).

      If you have any questions or would like more tips, please feel free to reply and I would be more than happy to help!

  2. Post

    Hi Kelly, this is Michelle, not Charmayne. I would suggest you seek the help of a professional trainer that can help you in person. Sounds like it could be complicated. Sorry to not be more help.

  3. hi i don’t know how long ago you posted, but i would suggest that you first stop trying to find a bit to control the horse, that is the rider’ s job…just find one he goes nicely outside the arena in, maybe even work barrels outside the arena…next i would just stay in the arena until he calms down, no barrels, he needs to be worked at each gait and just keep practicing until he is calm in the arena…then you can start to go on barrels start at walk till it s perfect, then trot and so on…only run when he lopes a perfect pattern and stays calm, then you should only run every once in a while or he’ll just keep actin crazy, hopefully this helps other wise i agree with michelle, find a trainer that can help you with your horse good luck!

  4. hi = my daughter is 14 and has been working on training her horse on barrels for over a year now. they are working on some fine tuning and finishing. we are debating bits. we have tried several and even as of late a hackamore. i was wondering what bit Charmayne would recommend? he needs more head control and more bend. thanks

    1. Post
    1. Post
    2. Hi,
      Well, what I did to train my horse was I stopped at the side of the barrel and make sure you horse stands there and then stop in the back of the barrel and then do the same thing. Then, you can either choose to walk, trot, or lope it doesn’t really matter. Then do the same thing for the other two barrels.
      **Hope this works for you**

  5. Charmayne,
    I’m on the high school rodeo team in Az and I compete in the barrel race. When I ptactice at home my mare does wonderful, but as soon as e compete she always messes up. I’ve taken her both ways but I can’t get it figures out. My problem is while running to the seconed barrel, my mare wants to turn on the timer side of the barrel. What should I do?

    1. Post

      This is Michelle (not Charmayne). Is she turning before the barrel or drifting towards the timer line as you are turning on the backside. I want to make sure I understand

  6. Hello,
    My question involves fisrt barrel. It seems as though if I place pressure on my mare to run hard to first barrel, she always runs by. If I go slower, she turns it but she loses time. How do I fix this problem?

    1. Post

      I would slowly work up to greater speeds but only as long as she is getting her first. Remember to consider different types of ground and how she will handle and turn on it and help he accordingly.

  7. Hi,
    My horse is wonderful on the first and second barrel, but when she gets to the third barrel she kinda drifts out so that takes some time. How can I fix this?

    1. Post

      Drifts on the way to it or on the way out of it? On the way in, you’ll want to leave second straight and keep her between your legs and reins. On the way out, assess your approach – does she have the approach she needs?

  8. Hi, I have a bit question too. I realize that this was posted in August of last year… lol. 😀 My horse is 12 years old and has been running the pattern most of his life. He is very consistent, but, as of late, he has been wanting to really drop his shoulder into the barrel, especially second and third. He is fine when we slow work. I feel like he is beginning to anticipate the turn and is telling me NO MORE SLOW WORK! lol I have been playing with bits as I barely got this horse around four or five months ago. I like the dog bone piece and the rope nose, but think that maybe I need something that will help me lift his shoulders a little bit more? Any help is greatly appreciated!! 🙂 thanks.

    1. Post

      The bit you are describing is a good bit for running in but I have found it can make them push on the bit (and possibly drop). For training I would look to a bit that has an elevated purchase (part going up above the mouthpiece). You could look into an Ed Wright bit in a medium or long shank. The Sherry Cervi bit would be good too
      Your horse may think he doesn’t need slow work, but its quite likely that’s exactly what he needs. You might consider doing some drills and exercises away from the pattern to keep his mind fresh check out

  9. hi i am training my barrel horse and he is doing good so far keeping his butt in while at a slow canter, but when i ask him for more speed he throws his butt out around the 2nd and 3rd can you help………by the way he is a lefty.

    1. Post

      Hi Olivia, Its a good sign he stays gathered and collected at a slow lope, you have something to work from. Be sure you are remembering to still help him when you are going faster. You may have to sit real deep with your body and cue gently with your reins as you approach the rate point. Most horses need help until they are really seasoned. If you had a video you could post I might be able to give more details. Other than that, you might want to check out to find some drills and exercises that might help you with this problem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *