Barrel Racing Conditioning For Success
What is the first thing that you think of when you think about a barrel racing horse? For me, it’s explosiveness and precision. How in the world do you go about creating those properties within your barrel racing horse? The answer, in short, is strategic and effective training and properly conditioning your barrel racing horse.
Do you want to be competitive? If so, you need to know how to set your horse up with the tools and power to BECOME competitive. Athletes are built, and they are not built overnight. It takes time, consideration, and careful planning to create a really effective plan for each horse you work with. Now, I don’t want to discourage anyone or put the thought into anyone’s mind that “this is too hard, there is too much that goes into it, and I can’t do it.” While there always needs to be careful planning and consideration when it comes to riding and training horses, this does not necessarily mean that it is hard or extensively time-consuming. You just need to have a great method that is proven to work, and be able to work on any horse you work with. In this article we are going to talk about barrel racing conditioning for success, some proven methods, and much more.
What to consider when adopting a new conditioning program
One of the first things that need to be carefully considered is that your horse’s needs and conditioning/ training program are going to change with age and training/ conditioning level. Just as an athlete works their way up through the ranks of training and conditioning, so do we and so do our horses. Make sure that prior to starting any new program you have thought of the potential benefits and risk factors to each thing you do with your horse. Make sure that you have the right gear, you are doing everything you can to protect your horses legs and joints, and are practicing each exercise safely and properly. Sometimes, doing the right exercises the wrong way can cause far more damage than benefit. Please feel free to reach out to us any time if you have any questions or concerns about what you are doing with your horse. While we are not vets, we have many years of riding, training, and horse handling experience and can give our thoughts on the situation.
With all of these things considered, a new training or conditioning program with your barrel racing horse will be exciting and if done correctly, you will start seeing results in your horses fitness, maneuverability, and competitiveness within weeks.
A general list of considerations when thinking about conditioning for success
- What does my horse need
- What is my horses strong points and what are my horses weak points
- Does my horse have medical conditions or issues I need to consider? Conditioning can many times benefit horses with problems if done correctly, as it can lead to muscle strengthening and body condition improving.
- How much time do I have to devote to my conditioning program? Do I need to do most of my conditioning under saddle?
- What are my goals with this horse?
What does conditioning your barrel racing horse look like? A “typical” session
Conditioning taking place on the ground can look a few different ways.
- Primarily in the arena/ lunge line
- Primarily in the round pen.
Conditioning under saddle can also look a few different ways as well.
- Primarily in the arena
- Out on the trails/ working different terrains
Both methods are equally useful and equally important in creating a broke, well-rounded, physically and mentally fit horse ready to run hard and outperform its competitors. Fitness of the mind is essential for a barrel racing horse and isn’t something that should be undermined.
Conditioning your barrel racing horse under saddle
If you are not the biggest fan of traditional conditioning methods, you can always transfer your conditioning program to under saddle work. There are various exercises you can use to accomplish your goal. Here are some of my favorites:
Long-trotting and cantering under saddle
There are many benefits to long-trotting your horse under saddle. It’s great both for you as a rider and your horse’s conditioning and fitness. If you are a trainer, there are many warm-up tasks and bending exercises that you can have your assistant trainer do with your training horses to speed up and optimize your training sessions.
Long trotting and cantering both can aid in your horses cardiovascular development and overall health along with balance, symmetry, and consistency. I’m not sure if you have ever gotten on a horse that is not balanced before, but it is an odd sensation that you can feel immediately. Long trotting and cantering (especially on a circle or out on different terrain) can help in many areas of fitness for your horse.
Isolating the shoulder (while doing circles) Shoulder in- slightly varied from traditional
“Shoulder-in is a movement performed on three tracks, in which the horse’s shoulder is brought to the inside while the hind end stays on the wall. In a correct shoulder-in, the inside hind leg and outside fore leg step on the same track. The outside hind leg remains on its own track closer to the wall and the inside fore leg also remains on its own track. It can be ridden in walk, trot, and canter.”- FEI.org
This is one of my personal favorite warm-up exercises. It helps to get your horse loosened up, and thinking simultaneously. You will want to start out walking, bending, and getting your horse moving and thinking. Once your horse has established a good working rhythm, then start bending slightly more. Alternate your bending from side to side. Next, start taking your horse in a large circle while still alternating your bends. When you are working on isolating your horses shoulder as mentioned in the snipped above from the FEI article, you want to ensure that your horse is maintaining the correct amount of bend while still staying on a straight track with their hind end on the wall and the shoulders standing up and crossing over. If your horse can do a good shoulder in, they will begin to have the foundations for everything else you hope to accomplish with them.
Standing the shoulder up
Having the ability to control your horse’s shoulders gives you the ability to create precision in your runs. This means control entering and around the corner and the ability to also begin diagnostics on issues entering and around the barrel. Correct shoulder position will also aid in creating your entry strategy on the next barrel or add extra power to your run home. When you school your horse or clients’ horses to properly stand their shoulder up or position themselves you are going to want to aim to work on control on the front end and exercises to get your horse lifting off of their front end and shifting the weight backwards.
Some exercises you can incorporate to work on strengthening the back and shifting weight off the front end are:
- Backing and rollbacks
Backing is going to build your horses topline and hind end muscles and aid in the development of collection and maneuverability. Rollbacks will continue to build on these principles while also helping develop lightness and responsiveness and will help with precision in your turns.
- Alternating loping and extensions in circles
Alternating loping and cantering extensions and then bringing your horse back down to the slower gate and repeating will build responsiveness and control with your horse. Many people have out of control barrel racing horses, but when you are looking to develop a championship winning barrel horse, control is going to lead to power and speed.
- Straight-line alternations in gait
Similar to practicing your alternations on the circle, practicing on a straight line will help you as a rider develop focal points and the ability to ride straight lines while developing control and feel with your horse and they speed up and slow down.
Conclusion and final thoughts on barrel racing conditioning for success
Thank you for tuning in today, we hope that this article on barrel racing conditioning for success has been helpful in your training and conditioning program with your barrel horse or clients barrel horses. Let us know how these exercises worked for you and your horses and what kind of differences you noticed in your horse!
Bible verse of the day
Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
I wanted to take a minute today to share with you all something that I find truly amazing. Our God is a God of promise and love. He loves each of us dearly, just as much as his very own son, Jesus Christ. In the Bible there are so many promises given to the believer in their life that God will care for them, answer their prayers, and guide them. I recently watched a JD Farag sermon and he spoke about how he just started thanking God for the things that he has promised to do for us, turning his prayers into praise even though he was crying out to God about something simultaneously. He said that be began thanking God BEFORE even asking for what he wanted/ needed. JD began to see some amazing things happen in his life, and when I did the same things, so did I. It is wonderful to be able to hope and trust in the Word of God and see the promises unfold in front of your eyes.
I encourage each and every one of you today to praise God for the promises he has promised us in the Bible, and Thank God that he is a God of unshaking promise.
I am so thankful to be able to rest in His love and grace.
God bless you all! Until next time,
Leave a Reply