How to Find and Train a Barrel Horse

Two Methods:Finding Your Athletic PartnerTraining: The Slower The Better

Barrel racing is a fun and exciting sport when done correctly. In this article, you will learn how to pick out a potential winner and take him to the place he needs to be.

Method 1
Finding Your Athletic Partner

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    Look locally. Don't look for barrel horse breeders, as they probably won't be in your area and will probably be too expensive. Go to your local tack shop, 4-h club, or ask your instructor if they have any suggestions on where to look.
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    Consider leasing. If you don't have time to commit to the responsibilities of owning a horse, ask your instructor if you can lease one of his/her horses, or look locally for a horse for lease.
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    Confirmation Matters. Once you have found a horse that appears to have athletic ability, take a hard look at his confirmation. Some rules of the thumb are: the hind legs should appear larger than the front end, the top line should be shorter than the underline, the cannon bones should be shorter than the forearm/gaskin, and the stifle should be wider than the hip.
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    Ride the horse on the pattern before you buy. Walk it first, then trot, then lope. If the horse bucks when he turns the barrel, don't buy. If the horse tries taking off to run the pattern full speed, don't buy. You want a horse with little to no experience on the pattern, but is still willing to do it and to listen to your speed request. If all goes well, proceed with a vet check. If the horse passes as sound, buy the horse. If he is lame, don't buy.

Method 2
Training: The Slower The Better

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    Take training slow. This may sound odd because you're training a barrel horse, but it is better to take things at a slow pace and not rushing it. When you see a horse that is rearing before they run or fights a bit when they see a pattern, that's because they were rushed on the pattern and think that it's the only thing that matters when they see a barrel is to win.
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    Develop an every day routine. When you run barrels, warm up a lot. Lope around the arena a lot, switch directions, do roll backs, and let the horse know you are always in control, while having soft hands. Walk the pattern one time, then turn him and make him face the pattern until he drops his head. Once he does, trot the pattern, then stop and do the same as before. Then lope it a few times, and after each run make him turn, face the pattern until he drops his head. Then, walk the pattern one more time and leave the arena.
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    Don't train with every ride. Don't let your horse think that once he's saddled up it's time to run. It's good to let him do other things. Play with him in pasture, go on a trail ride, or even mess with cows. Another thing that can ruin a barrel horse's mindset, is when it thinks it's only job is barrel racing.
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    Don't gallop when he wants to gallop. This is where things go wrong. After continuing your training routine for about a year, your horse may start fighting and wanting to go fast. Don't let him. When he does this, it means he's close to being a well controlled, lightning fast barrel horse, but wait until YOU want him to. Usually, he will carry this behavior for a while, from maybe a few weeks to a couple months. But once he's back to normal and is being very responsive on the pattern, it's time to let him go. If he ends up acting crazy once you start galloping him, take it back to square one.


  • Try avoiding things that could make him 'hot'. Tie downs stress horses and can cause horses to be 'hot' or crazy, no matter how slow you train.
  • Try your own ways of training, as long as it is still a slow process
  • Also, avoid stalls, those can also make a horse hot.

Article Info

Categories: Horse Training