Rate In Barrel Racing

Rate In Barrel Racing
Rafter 3 Horse Development - Revolutionary Western Horsemanship Training
Rafter 3 Horse Development – Revolutionary Western Horsemanship Training


What is rate in barrel racing?

Rate in Barrel Racing is referring to the ability that the horse develops over time and training to be able to shorten its stride, shift its weight, and prepare for the turn around the barrel.

Simultaneously, you are also asking for a lengthening of stride immediately after the preparation for the turn.

Rate in barrel racing is commonly considered one of the most misunderstood parts of barrel racing, but it is one of the most important aspects in creating fluid, fast runs.


“Selecting the right point and obtaining an effective rate are key to an efficient turn. Running by and shouldering into barrels are byproducts of a rider’s inability to identify where to rate her horse. Keep in mind your horse’s ability, the arena size and ground condition when identifying a rate point for the first barrel. Remember to always be consistent. Practice cueing your horse to rate with consistent cues and work on them at different speeds.”- Horsemansnew.com From the Article The A.R.T Of Barrel Racing Part 2 

If you have time for an extra read, the A.R.T Of Barrel Racing is a great read.


Why is rate in barrel racing so important?

When you break it down, rate is absolutely essential to a good barrel run because it is what helps create a proper turn.

You cannot set your horse up for a turn without rating the turn.

Even beyond not setting yourself up for the barrel, without rating you would end up leaving the barrel crooked and lacking in speed.


So, there are multiple reasons to familiarize yourself with rate and begin practicing with your horse. 

Rate In Barrel Racing
If you want to get around the barrel properly and effectively, make sure to incorporate rate into your training routine.


How does rate in barrel racing help your runs?

Proper and strategic rate in barrel racing is going to improve your runs by a landslide.

If you are able to prepare your horse, prepare your body for the proper positioning you need to be in around the barrel, visualize how you want to get around the barrel, and where your horse’s feet need to be at each point, you are going to improve your turns, your time, and your horsemanship and training abilities.


Biomechanical aspects of rate and why its important:

Since rate is essentially asking the horse to lengthen, shorten, lengthen their stride, shift weight and collect in preparation around a turn, biomechanics plays a major role in rating.

Your horse is going to have some sort of natural ability to rate if they are far enough in their training, but each horse will vary of how “ratey” they are. There are numerous factors for this. Some of these include:

  • Conformation and correctness 
  • Conditioning
  • Training level
  • The horse’s natural tendencies
  • Riders abilities and tendencies

Thankfully, rate can be taught to our horses. In the next section, we are going to discuss HOW to train rate in your barrel horse.

You can teach rate in barrel racing methodically and slowly to a horse at the walk and trot before moving forward with added speed. Practice the pieces and get them correct before you add speed.
You can teach rate in barrel racing methodically and slowly to a horse at the walk and trot before moving forward with added speed. Practice the pieces and get them correct before you add speed.


What can you do to train rate in barrel racing?

Rate is something that needs to originally be approached in steps, as with most advanced horse training techniques. Each horse and rider team is going to have a different rate point. Your rate point is the point in which you begin the process of rating the barrel and preparing for the turn.

Depending on the arena, conditions, and other factors your point of rate may change ride to ride.

One of the most important things to remember when approaching a barrel is that horses have a tendency to fall in and drop their shoulder. This will ultimately lead to poor turn quality and a lack of power exiting your turn. 

The process of developing proper rate:

  • Pick your focal point prior to beginning your go.
  • Check your body positioning. Your body positioning can throw off your horse even if you are unaware of it. Many times, issues around the barrel that are presented as the horse falling in or doing something unproductive are actually a result of rider error. 

Rate is primarily going to be reinforced by your seat and hands. It is also best to begin practicing rate at a walk or trot.

When determining how to rate your barrel, using Axis points can be a helpful tool in figuring out where you need to begin preparation.  We are going to dive deeper into Axis points in the future, but here is a recap about what they are and how they are beneficial:

Axis points are spots around the barrel, usually five axis points that help you determine where to position your horse around the barrel and also help problem solve issues around the barrel. Charmayne James gives a great presentation on Axis points here.


A horse needs to be fit enough to be able to rate properly, make sure that you have a solid conditioning program in place.
A horse needs to be fit enough to be able to rate properly, make sure that you have a solid conditioning program in place.

Some exercises to try to encourage learning rate:

Slow work around barrels

Practicing axis points at a stop, walk, trot.

Backing, backing circles/ alternating circles

Transitions up to/ around barrels



Your body angle during rate:

Your body position is going to greatly change as you begin to rate the barrel.

The angulation of your hips will change from being upright to sitting back on your rear end. Think of rolling your hips up and underneath of yourself and tightening your stomach.

As soon as you start shifting your weight back in preparation for the turn, you will want to simultaneously apply rein pressure backwards.

At this point, you will feel your horse respond to this shift in pressure and rein aid by rocking back and shifting their own weight back onto their hind end and hock and shortening their stride to prepare for the turn.


Rate Is Essential In Properly Running Your Barrels AND For Protecting Your Horses Body During Hard Turns. Set Your Horse Up Correctly & Reduce The Stress & Tear On Their Joints. Barrel Racing Is A High Intensity Sport. 


They should do this while maintaining a measure of straightness with slight bend through their body before you get to the turn. You will want to be prepared to drive your horse up underneath himself if he doesn’t start shortening his stride with the lighter aid.

Make sure that you keep forward momentum through your turns without letting your horse fall in or out of the turn.

Either can happen, drifting around a corner can be remedied by using proper rating techniques and using your outside leg through the turn, encouraging them to pick up their front end and engage their hind end.

Once you get to the point where you are properly practicing and executing rate, your horse will be able to use momentum and propulsion to glide around the barrel and react the same way a slingshot does if you were to pull it back and let it go.

The same thing will take place midway through your corner.

Rate is one of the most misunderstood aspects of barrel racing.
Rate is one of the most misunderstood aspects of barrel racing.

Final thoughts on rate in barrel racing

Rate in barrel racing is essential to making quick, correct, and effective turns. Learning how to prepare your horse and yourself for turns is going to make a world of difference in your runs if you implement it into your training program.

We would love to hear from you on how this article helped and what you would like to learn next.

Thanks for tuning in with us today, looking forward to next time.

Trainer Jamie


Bible Verse Of The Day

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

Did you miss our last articles on barrel racing?
Check out Barrel Racing Feel and TimingBarrel Racing- Conditioning For Success
Benefits of developing your feel and timing
Benefits of developing your feel and timing

3 responses to “Rate In Barrel Racing”

  1. […] turns at extreme speeds. Your horse is going through an entire process of preparation for the turn (Rate) shifting their weight and adding collection and impulsion while simultaneously increasing, […]

  2. […] rate, improve your axis points (or focus on them if you are not currently using […]

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