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Assessing Your Prospect's Progress

by Donna Irvin

Two years before Vaquero died, I invested a great deal of time and care to assess his development process in order to continue building his competitive foundation.
This included:

Running the Plan with Vaquero was turning him into a great athlete.
Running the Plan with Vaquero
was turning him into a great athlete.
  • Introducing him to a transitional leverage bit and working with it two to three days per week.
  • Making round pen secessions as needed, especially when introducing new bits and leverage points.
  • Continuing to work him out with lots of wet saddle blankets.
  • Hauling him to different arenas two times per week to expose him to different footings and arena conditions in order to begin the competition seasoning process.
  • Adding incremental amounts of pressure by gradually increasing speed in corkscrew, right-left exercises and lengthening-shortening drills to enhance his rate abilities and confidence at speed.
  • Reinforcing leg yields at the trot and canter to work toward flying lead changes.
  • Strengthening 360º turn-around exercises.
  • Continuing fencing and rollback exercises to improve stops.
  • Long loping the barrel pattern up to two times a week to assess his progress, while taking care not to create anxiousness in pattern work.
  • Paying special attention to body control, suppleness and mental acceptance towards increased pressure.
  • Continuing ongoing evaluation of pattern weaknesses to re-design round pen and other arena exercises.

It takes a lifetime of dedication to become a horse trainer. Ask for good advice and find a mentor. Be aware not to become frustrated. Developing any horse’s potential is a two-step forward, one-step back process. Sometimes, it takes several steps back and regrouping for challenging horses.

Barrel horses present their own set of training challenges due to the nature of the requirements for event barrel racing – speed! Some horses are able to handle the pressure better than others; some horses develop and mature earlier than others. A responsible rider/trainer will keep an open mind during the training process. The bottom line: Our horse is a mirror image of our abilities.