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Mandy from Texas

Posted by sharoncamarillo Admin on

Dear Sharon,

I have a copy of The A.R.T. of Barrel Racing, but loaned it out and have not gotten it back yet. Could you give me a daily workout plan for my horse? I want to get started right away.

Thank you so much.

Dear Mandy,

Thanks for your letter of inquiry regarding a daily conditioning workout program. I am a firm believer that conditioning is important to keeping any performance horse sound. Unfortunately, many of us do not prioritize conditioning, resulting in strained tendons, ligaments and muscle soreness.

Also keep in mind that balanced connected riding while doing your barrel work and skill drills, will help develop strong backs and underlines; short turns in roll backs and tight turns helps strengthen the density of the bone. I see lots of barrel horses that run and turn "hollow backed." This puts undue stress on front legs, shoulders, backs, loins, hocks and stifles. It's really is about managing the "whole horse."

I use a rule of thumb that horses should begin with a five-mile/day workout, three to five days/week, depending on the horse and the competition schedule.


Take Monday off if it follows weekend travel and competition. 
A day off is important both for the horse and rider.

Tuesday through Friday

  • One-mile warm-up walk
  • One-mile at long extended trot
  • One-mile gallop (faster than a relaxed lope)
  • Two-mile walking cool-off

When the five-mile program becomes easy for the horse, the trot and gallop time can be extended.

Because of the nature and physical demands of the timed events, short periods of exertion and quick bursts of speed should be included in the conditioning program; remember to add only as the horse's conditioning improves. This extended exercise helps strengthen the horse's ability to break away from the barrel, out of the roping box or through a set of poles. To add this extra "work," depending on the horse's competitive schedule, at least once every four weeks:

Once Every Four Weeks

  • Shorten the trot to 1/2 mile
  • Shorten the gallop to 1/4 to 1/2 mile
  • Finish the gallop with a sprint of 100 yards to 200 yards
  • Make sure to throttle down from the sprint to a lope, trot, and eventually to the walk for an extended and complete cool down, until the horse is breathing normally and heart rate is back to normal for a walking horse.

On these "work" days, I usually choose not to go to the arena for additional work.

It is after I do the daily conditioning program that I take the horse back into the arena for skill drill exercises, including transitions from collected to extended trot, back to collected trot, circles and skill drills at a variety of speeds and assorted transitions. Barrel work should be treated as a "skill drill," depending on the stage of training and competition schedule. This is the time the horse's education is strengthened and corrections are made to enhance the training level and competitive efficiency.

Training and conditioning work hand-in-hand. An effective conditioning program is used to build strength, muscles, structural conditioning and aerobic conditioning. The rewards are maintaining a healthy and sound performance horse. Training is the art of building on the athletic ability and maturity of the horse.

Nutrition is an equally important part of maintaining the horse's condition. Calorie intake should be adjusted depending on the level of work the horse is receiving.

Stay true to your goals,


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