I have an eight year-old gelding and have been training on barrels for almost three years now. We were really doing well, but at one event, he got out of control. I exercise him and at a slow pace, he runs the pattern great. He is a very powerful horse and has a lot of speed. He gives me everything he has during competition, but I have no control! I have tried different bits and a tie-down, but that really makes him mad. I am honestly running out of ideas. Also, any plans for doing a clinic in the Kansas area?
Your situation is not a training dilemma. It is a classical example of what happens when the horse is taken into competition too fast before he is prepared mentally and trained to handle speed. Horses become anxious, frightened and suffer a huge amount of performance anxiety. It has been proven that 85% of all performance horses suffer from gastric ulcers caused by the stomach enzymes that are excreted under stress.
So with that said, I would immediately recommend purchasing and reading my book, The ART of Barrel Racing. Though there are many way to achieve successful communication with your horse, pay particular notice to the “training” snaffle and the use of the German Martingale. This will provide you direct control to contain your horse and help you to ride him back between your hands and legs. At this point, you need to help your horse regain his confidence.
I would also suggest that you study the chapter on Remedial Round Penning. The use of the round pen gives us a closed-in, protected area to begin retraining. Work on the skills introduced in the book only at the speed that you maintain control by precisely placing your horse’s feet where you want them. Make sure you understand your cue sequencing and become consistent in how and what you ask your horse for. As the horse regains his confidence, variegate the speed in the controlled exercise. Your horse needs to know he can accomplish the same task at a variety of speeds with the same cue, and the same response and reward.
Barrel Racing is a tough event on horses. Some of our horses begin to figure out the pattern on their own, but the larger number of horses become anxious and frightened and eventually refuse to enter the arena altogether. Now is the time to adjust your program to avoid additional frustrations both for your horse and for you.
We hope to see you at a future Sharon Camarillo Clinic.
Ride safe and smart,