I have a barrel horse that stiffens up when I run barrels. At slow speeds he flexes and does every thing correct. How can I get him to give his nose and remain soft and fluid when I am running him?
You are experiencing a very typical and common problem. In a nut shell we “train and work” our horses soft and slow, rarely simulating the speed and pressure they will face in competition. The request for speed often allows our horses to become anxious, intimidated and loose confidence. Under pressure they assume an escape mode, become stiff and unresponsive.
Conversely, part of the training and seasoning process it to introduce degrees of speed when you are working and training them. Speed should not be an intimidating factor for a finished horse. I am always very cautious never to let a horse get out of control. The skill sets introduced in my book The A.R.T. of Barrel Racing are designed to be practiced at a variety of speeds. I want my horse to understand that the maneuvers I introduce to him at a slower gait results in the same response I expect when increased speed is applied. In order to teach and gain confidence, this part of your training needs to be introduced and perfected in your home training arena and round pen before you haul out.
Granted, some horses are more volatile than others when speed is asked for and pressure is applied. Often times the horse is telling us they are not prepared to move into this phase of training. Your feed program, training and conditioning program all need to be examined, and at this point I would suggest you go back to my training snaffle, Reinsman #744 and compliment it with the split training reins and the #7762 German Martingale described in the in the book. When you are confidant that your slow work is balanced and correct, begin to incorporate increments of speed, complimented by controlled slow work.
Ride safe and be patient. The famous football coach Vince Lombardi said, "Excellence is achieved in the mastery of fundamentals."