The A.R.T. of Barrel Racing

 

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Carolyn from New Mexico, writes:

Dear Sharon,

I have an eight year-old daughter who wants to learn to run the barrels. Some friends who moved away from the area gave her a 10 year-old gelding and an old copy of your first book. The horse has no experience in barrel racing and is a little headstrong.

Where do we begin? I have not found anyone in the area to coach her so I am elected and have no experience. What sort of barrels do you suggest for someone so young?

The thought of steel oil drums really hurts and the pop ups are very pricey. Is there a routine she should follow to get them both in shape mentally and physically, without pushing a youngster too hard? I need all the help I can get in order to help her reach her goal. By the way, this girl is a major horse nut and someday wants to raise Lipizzaners.

Thank you in advance!

Dear Carolyn,

First, I want to wish you success with your endeavor of being your child's mentor and compliment you on seeking out your resources. In looking at a horse for a child, my first requirement is that the horse is safe, is an appropriate size and is not above the level of experience for the rider. You did not indicate if this is your family's first horse or if you have had prior experience with horses. If your family has not had any prior experience with horses, I encourage you to begin to create your resource pool of professionals.

Realizing that your daughter is anxious to begin her barrel racing activities, your mission will be to convince her that her time would be best invested in working on her general horsemanship skills and her horse’s basic education. I can't stress enough that time spent on creating a happy, responsive horse and a technically correct rider is the fastest way to be successful in the sport of barrel racing.

I hope that in your area you can find someone who can work on your daughter's horsemanship skills along with you. The logic is, that if the horse cannot perform the movements that are required during a barrel run off of the pattern, the horse can't be expected to be able to be successful in the run. Good riding and training should resolve the horse's tendency to be "head strong." Although the focus is an English discipline, I am very impressed with the United States Pony Club program for young riders.

Regarding your questions about barrels, I suggest the plastic barrels. They are available from a variety of places and generally can be purchased for $10. Avoid barrels that contain toxic materials. There are many new educational DVDs and an updated, revised copy of my book, The A.R.T. of Barrel Racing.

Best wishes,

Sharon