Finding A Champion Barrel Racing Prospect

Finding A Champion Barrel Racing Prospect

Finding a champion barrel racing prospect- the quick ;list

The number one question on every barrel racer’s mind is how do I go about finding a champion barrel racing prospect, or how do I create one? Today, we are going to answer the first question.. how to FIND that champion prospect. In today’s article we are going to cover:

  • The key aspects of a champion barrel racing prospect
  • Finding a great younger prospect
  • What to look for in an older, finished prospect
  • What to look for in a beginning barrel racing horse

Key aspects of a champion barrel racing prospect

The barrel racing horse is going to be determined and smart, agile, athletic, capable, trainable, and have excellent working conformation. Beyond these key aspects, bloodlines and training level or training techniques used on the horse may also play roles contributing to the level of the prospect.

Shop Ariat H20 Womens Boots has a great article all about finding “sleeper” prospects and gives some insider insight into some of the top pros experiences finding their sleepers in the least expected places.

The younger prospect– The younger prospect can be chosen based on bloodlines, conformation, and even movement. It really also depends on age. You are going to pick a weanling different than you would a long yearling or 3-year-old horse. If the horse is already started, check to make sure they have the proper fundamentals in place. They can’t go anywhere if they are not being taught effectively.

If you are considering a horse that has not yet been started, bloodlines, conformation, and movement are going to be your greatest allies when it comes to picking your prospect. This is one reason if you are considering purchasing younger barrel racing horses that you get well educated in barrel racing bloodlines and heritage along with conformation and biomechanics.

The finished prospect and older horses– Finished and older horses are a bit easier to shop for, but usually also more expensive. Depending on your needs and budget, some great tips for finding an exceptional finished prospect.

  1. What level of conditioning is the horse in? How do they currently run barrels and how is the current rider handling and riding the horse? All of these are great indicating signs as to what the story is behind the horse. They may be great in one area and lacking in another, not that having lack would disqualify the horse, but it is good to know exactly what you are buying BEFORE you buy rather than after.
  2. Know the horse’s strengths and weaknesses
  3. Watch them run in a barrel race
  4. If possible look up the horses record and any recordings of the horse
  5. Try the horse out (even a couple of times) to see if it is a good match.

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Beginning barrel racing horses

The beginning barrel racing prospect is worth their weight and gold and are the horses that you purchase for either your youth riders, as a lesson horse, or if you are just starting out with barrel racing and want a great horse to learn the ropes and technicalities on. A great beginning barrel racing horse is going to be calm, kind, extremely well-trained, and have a lot of miles on them. They are also going to be horses with very few, minor, behavioral issues (if any.) Finding a beginner’s barrel racing horse can be more challenging than finding a money winning champion because not every horse, even the most competitive, can eventually move on to become a beginners horse.


What you need to consider when finding a champion prospect

As someone who has bought and sold quite a few horses in my day, I know a thing of two about finding high-quality prospects. Some may believe that if you throw enough money at something, you are going to end up with top dollar quality… this CAN be true, but it really is not applicable when it comes to horses, especially barrel racing horses. One million dollar barrel racing horse may cost a fortune, and the next may have been picked up at a horse auction.

Here is my breakdown of the most important aspect to consider when looking for your barrel racing champion:

In this section, we are specifically talking about the elite horses that are going to the NFR and other large competitions.

Conformation is going to be king

If you can image doing a job that you were extremely physically unfit to do, could you imagine doing it? Take a moment to imagine a sumo wrestler in a ballet onesie and tutu attempting to dance gracefully on the stage… it just simply isn’t going to happen. The same can be said for your horses! If you pick out a horse because you fall in love with them instead of picking out a horse based on a well-thought out structured set of principles

Breeding and training

The horses bloodlines can have the ability to greatly impact the athleticism and ability of the horse you are looking at. Bloodlines do not always matter, but in some cases they can play a major role.

The current training level of the horse is important if you are looking for a horse to hop on and go win with. You will need to make sure that the barrel racing prospect you are looking at is solid and finished in all of the fundamentals, on and off the barrel. Be aware that if you find a hidden gem, they may have some rust on them and need a tune up in order to be as competitive as they once were. This is always a fun process to embrace and gives you the ability to put your signature stamp on your barrel racing prospect.

Conditioning level and rideability

Conditioning in barrel racing competitions is critical. Barrel racing horses are expected to perform as top competing equine athletes and should be kept in incredible condition. Horses who are only seasonally conditioned are prone to more issues and ailments down the road. You will also want to consider the horses “rideability” and by that I mean how easy they are to get on and work with/ move their bodies around. Are they lacking any of the expected abilities they should have to be considered a champion barrel racing horse?
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Your match with the horse

How well do you actually match up with the horse? Sometimes great horses and great riders do not always mesh well, heck, you may love the horse but decide that you really can’t sit their lope or run well. You can obviously make many adjustments to adjust suitability, but make sure that you are aware of the horses ins and outs. There was a time when I was probably 12, before we went horse shopping at the Congress, I tried a horse that I had been in love with for YEARS, and after riding him was thankful I didn’t own him because he was uncomfortable to ride!

Barrel racing prospect conformation

Now, I know that we have already spoken about conformation a few times in this article but you can never know TOO MUCH about barrel horse conformation and how it all goes into creating a winner!

Let me tell you, you will absolutely want to guarantee that you purchase a horse with at least good working conformation.

This means that they are structurally sound and are not going to have issues in regards to barrel racing and doing the job that they need to do.

Many times, people will purchase a horse that does not have the conformation to do the job they are asking the horse to do.

This leads to a lot of frustration, for both the horse and rider.

As a serious barrel racing competitor, this will also hold you back a fair amount if you are dealing with a horse that cannot physically keep up, no matter how willing or trainable they are.

Find a horse perfectly suited to the job you are asking it to do.

Check out this article on about barrel racing horse conformation and selection.

If you don’t have time to read the article, the main points for barrel racing conformation that they recommend keeping in mind are:

“Some general conformation tips in choosing a barrel horse:

  • A horse’s neck should be one and a half times the length of the head or one-third of the horse’s total body length.

  • The neck should tie into the horse’s body relatively high, and the base should be level with the point of the horse’s shoulder.

  • The shoulder and pastern angles should be between 40 and 55 degrees to distribute weight properly and prevent injury.

  • Horses with short backs and long necks move easily and are more balanced. A horse’s back should not be longer than its underline.

  • Straight front legs. From the front of a horse, the shoulder, the center of the leg, and the hoof should be aligned. Correct legs are essential for performance horses.”-

Trying barrel racing prospects out

After shopping around a little bit, you may have found a few horses that you are interested in going to check out and ride.

This is an excellent next step if you are serious about purchasing. Do not go to trial ride a horse unless you are at the point where you are able to have a vet check performed and strike out a deal with the horse owner.

Some great tips for trying out horses are:

Make sure that they get the horse ready in front of you- There have been instances where owners, trainers, or barn managers have tried to pull the lull over my eyes regarding a horse’s true temperament. Make sure you pay attention, closely, to what they are doing with the horse.

Drugging horses is becoming increasingly common. While this is not as common in the barrel racing world, it is still something to keep in mind and be aware of.

Dealing with sellers

Sellers can either be wonderful to deal with or really not that great. You are going to experience both in your years of barrel racing horse ownership!

Make sure that you are prepared to deal with sellers respectfully and in a professional manner.

Never feel ashamed to share your thoughts and opinions if you are seriously considering a horse, as they can help you make a wiser decision, but remember that this horse is someone’s passion and pride.

Treat everyone you deal with in the horse buying experience as you would want to be treated yourself.

It is also very wise to make sure that both sides put EVERYTHING down in writing and have both parties date and sign it. It is advisable to work with an equine lawyer on larger purchases in order to protect both parties.

Pre-purchase exams

One of the most important things that you never in a million years want to skip would be the pre-purchase vet exams.

These exams may seem like an unnecessary expense if the horse seems sound, but let me tell you that I have witnessed pre-purchase exams uncover wicked lamenesses and issues that at times the current owner didn’t even know about, and at other times the owner KNEW about and was attempting to cover up in order to sell the horse to avoid vet bills.

Pre-purchase exams are also a great way to find out about your horse, their history, any potential preventative treatment measures you may need to incorporate, and many other things.

Keep in mind that there is no horse that “passes” a vet exam.

The vet will simply give you an idea of what they found, but will not tell you that the horse passed or failed.

They perform a series of exams like flexion and hoof tests, x-rays, and other tests, to determine what may or may not be going on with the horse.


Final thoughts on finding a champion barrel racing prospect

Finding a winning barrel racing prospect can be a daunting yet very fun task. No matter what level of horse you are looking at, there are some tried and true things you can do to ensure that you are finding the perfect horse! Have you recently been shopping for a barrel racing prospect? Let us know in the comment below!

2 responses to “Finding A Champion Barrel Racing Prospect”

  1. […] How do I find a great barrel racing horse? Check out our guide here: Finding A Champion Barrel Racing Prospect […]

  2. Wonderful! Thank you for al this thorough information to absorb and consider. I have been recently shopping for a barrel racing prospect and this was extremely helpful in finding the perfect horse! There are a lot of things I had’nt considered that you brought to light. Great read!

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