Barrel Racing Feel and Timing

Barrel Racing

Hello and welcome back viewers!

Developing Feel and Timing In Barrel Racing

Today we will start a surprise series on developing feel and timing in barrel racing.

This week and next week we are going to discuss in depth breaking down your runs and working on troubleshooting, diagnostics, and setting yourself up for success in your barrel racing runs. 

Makala and I have an exciting plan up our sleeves. We will be starting to focus more and more on barrel racing, rodeo, western events, and the methods used to train these highly athletic horses. We are excited to have you join us as we make this shift, and you can expect some pretty exciting things coming in the near future!

Before we get started:

Our names are Jamie and Makala. We are both the co-founders and lead trainers of Rafter 3 Horse Development.

My experience is in biomechanical training, showing, and barn management and Makala grew up in the horse-trading industry working with high-caliber prospects for barrel racing and roping primarily. She later ran barrels and was successful herself.

We are a team on a mission to present the world’s best, most strategic, and most effective barrel racing program available to date. We take the insights from all of our combined experiences and industries and mix in a heavy dose of scientifically backed horse training to create a fundamentally correct, well-structured program. Our program takes the best of every industry, combines proven and effective horse training methods and exercises, strategic thinking, data backed goal setting and gives you the most effective program you have ever worked with.

If your goal is to create gentleman-like mannered horses with explosive power and effortless precision we have the program for you. 

If you are interested in becoming part of our R3 ProRodeo group, please send us an email and we can get you put onto our waitlist for the unveiling! The first 10 people to sign up, will receive a free bonus!

We would love to also know a little bit about you, your horse, training program, or if you are a professional rodeo rider a bit about what you do. If you are a trainer, please tell us about yourself, your clients, and your program. We look forward to hearing from you!

*Please also let us know if you would like to join our mailing list-

How do feel and timing work in barrel racing?

Your goal as a rider, trainer, or competitor is to curate a horse that is quick and precise along with consistent each time you run them. One of the best ways to do this is to work on your feel and timing as a rider.

When you incorporate optimized feel and timing, even without any additional training methods, you will see a huge turn around in improvement for both you as a rider or trainer and your horse as an athlete. Feel and timing in barrel racing is extremely important to achieve the winning runs you desire.

Definitions and examples of both
Differences and similarities between timing and feel
Differences and similarities between timing and feel


“FEEL” is a horse training term that describes the ability an exceptional rider has in regards to predominantly the communication they have with their horse.

Feel goes beyond basic communication and aids with your horse and extends to the point that you know and are able to sense exactly what is happening in your horses body, down to the point of being able to feel and visualize in your minds eye where each foot is falling. Having exceptional feel gives you the ability to obtain subtle and invisible aids that while invisible to a bystanders eye, are loud and clear to the horse.


“TIMING”  is the ability to appropriately use pressure and release while riding and training.

This also extends beyond the basic ability of understanding and performing pressure and releases at the right time but well-ingrained timing develops to the point that it becomes secondary nature.

You start incorporating the exact right amount of pressure and a release to reward the horse for correct performance at the exact moment it needs to be done to trigger a response in that horse. This always ends up generating softness within our horses. Having good timing is imperative because when we remove the pressure applied to perform an exercise or maneuver, that is what signals to our horse that what they did was correct while simultaneously rewarding the horse. If this is not handled appropriately, the communication between horse and rider will become eroded and the horses training may experience issues because of the erosion of communication.


why you should actively work on developing your feel and timing in barrel racing

Benefits of developing your feel and timing
Benefits of developing your feel and timing

Barrel racing is a high-intensity sport for both horse and rider. I think everyone who either competes or watches the event will say that this is very accurate.

Because of this and also because of the extreme speed and sharp turns performed by a barrel horse and rider, feel and timing in barrel racing is even more essential and useful. Many riders and trainers (throughout history) have missed certain “pieces” or “buttons” as I like to call them in their training program or process. There are two main reasons for this.

  1. A lack of understanding of fundamental and consistent training processes such as not basing your training program off the German training scale or something of similar sorts that offers a consistent and proven approach through the years for horse training. 
  2. A lack of feel and timing.

Without both of these things, you cannot have ground shattering runs.


Have you checked out all of our barrel racing resources?






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Exercises to develop your feel and timing in barrel racing has this to say about actively working on developing feel and timing and the different aspects that tie into it. There are many parts and pieces of barrel horse training that are developed or taken to the “next level” by properly developing feel and timing.

“To develop our horse’s knowledge, we must be willing to develop our own. As riders, the best teachers we’ll ever come across are horses, but only if we are willing to learn from them. Educating a horse then, really has more to do with allowing the horse to educate us. The horse will always tell us the direction in which we need to go, if we listen.

With horses and riders, it’s imperative that this education be something that doesn’t end in our minds, but follows through to the way in which we use our bodies. With an understanding of timing and feel in place, we can go forward and build experience, which creates opportunities to fine tune the details of “when, where, how and why” that timing and feel is applied.

Ed encourages barrel racers to focus on developing three main areas of education in their horses:

  1. Speed Control
  2. Direction Control
  3. Body Shape Control

Ed explains that “Just because a horse was educated properly as a colt, doesn’t mean they’re still educated.” At the same time, just because a horse is ten years old and has packed around a saddle and rider for years, doesn’t mean that he ever received a proper education. Not only must barrel racers learn to recognize when their horse needs to be better educated, they must also learn how to maintain their education, and continue to develop it. If you want to become a top barrel racer, AND a horseman, there really is no destination – it’s a never ending process.”


Jamie’s favorite exercise for beginning to develop feel and timing in barrel racing

“Hello, my favorite exercise for riders looking to start developing feel and timing while simultaneously building some form of control and confidence is to practice transitions.

Transitions of all sort, in circles, in straight lines, around cones, barrels, poles, everything and anything! This will give you the ability to work on having control of your horse in every situation and begin to feel changes within their body and where they are placing their feet.

When you are running barrels it is important to know where your horses feet are going. Make sure you pay close attention to your horse, watch, listen, feel in your body, feel through your hands, what they are doing. Are they tense? Are they chewing at the bit? Bending their body? Throwing their hip or dropping a shoulder? Are they better on one side?

All of these questions that you continually ask yourself as you are riding and training will amplify your training results and continue to further develop your feel and timing reactions. One other thing I would like to add is that transitions are wonderful for developing feel and timing in barrel racing is because they just about FORCE you to pay attention to your horse and what is going on within their body. Transitions can be used in conjunction with backing, turns, other pattern work, etc.”


Makala’s favorite exercise for beginning to develop feel and timing in barrel racing


“This is my favorite exercise to develop feel and timing because it gives both your self and your horse an opportunity to convey a clear communication in both while moving slow. This ability to feel your body properly communicating timing to your horse is essential to a tight turn with out knocking over your barrel.  Every point of contact your body makes with your horse sends a signal, make sure you know where your touching and with how much pressure, in short find the buttons and avoid pushing the wrong ones. When you sit down in your saddle and squeeze your inside leg, your horse knows to rate off (slow down) and start to bend his body. You have to know where your point of balance is, as to not throw off your horses balance while making that turn.

Walk up to the barrel right where the horse would start to turn, ask your horse to stop completely by sitting down, pushing your back pockets into the saddle and lightly pulling up on your reigns while using your inside leg to signal the turn. This helps to ensure your horse is set up properly for the turn, so that his shoulder is up and his inside hind leg is up under him. While also giving you the awareness of your body and position in the saddle.

Making the turn a safe, awkward free place guarantees you wont have a horse that runs by the barrel.

Doing the slow work, in increments from walking to trotting to loping, will help you both know the feel and timing of the turns moving at full speed to the point it’s automatic for you both!”


Conclusion and final thoughts on feel and timing in barrel racing

Thank you for tuning in today! We hope that you found this article helpful and we would love to hear in the comments below if you practiced either of the exercises Makala or I mentioned and what your results were after a few days. Remember, no one can get to the point where studying and working on developing feel and timing in barrel racing isn’t important. Elevate everything about your rides and runs by working on your feel and timing! Until next time,

God bless!


Bible Verse Of The Day:

Today our bible verse is speaking of the miraculous things that John will do in his life. These same things John the Baptist was called to do, so are we. Christians living in the “Church-age” or “final days” as Jesus called them. We are called to be a light to this world and to lead people to salvation by the hope and faith of forgiveness through grace by faith. No matter who you are, where you are at, or what you have done. Jesus is waiting. With open arms, and he loves you.

[Zechariah prophesied concerning John,] “You, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God.”

Today is the day of salvation.
If you have not accepted Jesus in your heart as your Lord and Savior, I implore you to do so.

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