I have a seven year-old Quarter horse mare I am teaching to barrel race. I can’t get her to lope on the course. I’ve tried spurs, over and under, whip, nudging and squeezing with my legs. Nothing seems to work. What can I do to get her to run?
Thank you for your question. You mention that your horse won’t lope on course. I interpret that to mean she will lope when you are not on the barrel pattern.
First, let’s review that spurs are not for making your horse move forward. Spurs are for assisting with very subtle requests for lateral movement. I do not advise that riders use spurs to make their horses go forward or faster.
It takes a very secure rider with the ability to use timing and their seat and leg aids precisely at the correct moment to address a horse resistant to moving freely forward. If you are having trouble staying centered in your saddle and being specific with when and how you use your seat and leg aids, perhaps you can obtain some assistance with your position. Once a rider gets the forward movement requested, it is important that the rider releases the aid to reward the horse. The horse will try much harder if there is a perfectly timed reward. Often times riders obtain the movement they asked for, however never release the aid, and so the horse stops trying.
I suggest that you take this horse off of the pattern until your horse is willing to move freely forward in all gaits consistently off of the pattern. Once you have accomplished this, I suggest you add the All Right and All Left Exercise from my Western Horseman book, The A.R.T. of Barrel Racing. Do not be in a hurry to re-start work on the pattern.
The other consideration would be to have a discussion with your veterinarian to make sure there are no health issues that are contributing to your horse’s resistance to move forward.