Barrel Racing - Part One
Originally, barrel racing was invented for women so they could compete with each other in a fair, yet challenging event. The 55 gallon Texas oil drums were used in a cloverleaf pattern with two left-turns and one right. With roping horses the ladies would see who could get through the course with the fastest time.
From that early existence, barrel racing is far more complex today. The rider and the horse must be able to remain mentally steady and physically ready. it requires concentration, stamina and a rider and horse that are in sync, and up for the challenge. Today, just being fast could get you or your horse injured, and it will not be what wins the race.
Training for this event takes times and effort for both horse and rider. As any event an established foundation needs to be set before you can earn ribbons. Knowing the leads, being supple, understanding "whoa" very well, backing-up and being able to make good transitions are required before taking your horse to the show. The transitions are vital and include going from walking to trotting, to lope down to walking and stopping. Your horse must be able to keep balanced and turn the barrels.
Barrel-racing horses are some of the most athletic horses because they must go from full-force running to a complete stop. They must turn on a dime at the barrel and run full-force again. For this reason, your "whoa" is most important as the horse has to establish a decent rate so that you don't knock over the barrel or go too wide and lose time. In addition, backing up helps your horse put his weight on the hind quarters which lets him get down and around the barrel.
When beginning to train a horse for barrel racing you must take your time to make sure he is doing it right, and there are no holes in the training cycle. Depending on the age of your horse it is usually a good idea to start with a snaffle bit. Remember, there are some bits that are not good for training, or barrel racing.
Watch for the next blog on how to train your horse for barrel racing.