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developing a partnership
with a new horse

by Donna Irvin
Dr. Douglas Langer
Introducing my new horse, Gay Sugar Tivito,
purchased from Camarillo Performance
Horsemanship graduate, Robin Schmidt.

Developing a partnership with a new barrel horse takes time, planning and patience. Just like the time invested in training a young horse, there is time required in the seasoning process when you buy a new horse. Building consistency and confidence can take a year of hauling to different events with various conditions and environments. In this installment of “Run the Plan,” I will take you along as I get to know my new horse!

Last June I purchased Gay Sugar Tivito, aka Prince Charming (as Sharon calls him). PC is a 12 year-old cow-bred Quarter Horse gelding. His first career was as a working cow horse and for the last six years he has mainly been a barrel horse. He has qualified for the NBHA World in the first division and has clocked 1D times at some of the bigger barrel racing events. He has also been to a few rodeos and won money. PC is very talented with a solid reining foundation. He is fast, quick footed and athletic.

Dr. Douglas Langer
Our first out was at a Pro Rodeo, not a good
environment for getting to know a new horse!

Our first out was at a Pro Rodeo because Ropenator was injured. This was not an ideal situation as the rodeo environment is one of the most challenging in which to compete! In order to make the best of the situation, I arrived early to allow plenty of time to ride in the arena.

The time in the arena went well. We rode in and out of the alleyway, around the arena relaxed, and then added pressure by doing some fast work lengthening and shortening the stride. We also had an opportunity to work around a set of pop-up barrels that were set off of the stakes. This helped build my confidence as he was hunting the barrels and worked the pattern like he had at home. The night of the performance, I allowed extra time for warm up so I had the chance to have him worked down if needed. He was nervous and so was I! Therefore, I worked him down pretty hard and then gave him about 10 minutes of walking before the barrel race.

Our first run was solid. He had a good first barrel, was a bit tentative running across the arena between the first and second barrel, had a nice second and third and found the alleyway on the run home. We were just out of the money in the first go. In the second go, he was a bit more nervous in the holding area, ran harder to the first and still did not run free between the first and second. He ran hard to the third and turned it so fast that I lost my balance and seat! We were faster, and again just out of the go round money. Overall, I was pleased with our first rodeo performances.

Dr. Douglas Langer
Take a new horse to some low pressure events to
gain experience. The warm-up described above
paid off, as this was my winning run at this jackpot.

We went to a few more Pro Rodeos during the summer, winning a check as well as having some timing and training issues show themselves. I identified the need to expand his competition bridles to include leverage bits and a tie-down or brow-band. He had previously been run in an O-ring snaffle without a tie-down. As I added speed and the environmental challenges of Pro Rodeo, I discovered that I did not have the rate and control needed for balanced, efficient turns. In the turns, he began to get heavy fronted and deep on the backside causing him to leave the barrels with lateral motion. I have also discovered that his second run is faster as he is freer running, therefore requiring me to stay two handed, emphasizing rate before going to the horn in the turn. This is completely different from Ropenator who gets more rate as we progress in the go rounds!

Dr. Douglas Langer
Plan and take advantage of every opportunity
to get in the arena and practice before the race.
At this jackpot, I am riding my horse upright and
balanced in the bridle on the backside of the
second barrel before the barrel race.

There is no substitute for experience when it comes to building consistency and confidence. To develop a solid partnership, we will be hauling to jackpots early this season. This will provide the opportunity to experiment with different warm-up routines, riding strategies and equipment choices.

To build his confidence in the rodeo environment, I will select the Pro Rodeos where I know I can get in the arena before the performance and we will haul to jackpots in-between. I will also be hauling my colts this season and look forward to sharing these experiences as well!