I am 13 years old and have an eight year-old appendix quarter horse named Rowdy. At home, he runs like a champion, and two of three runs during competition, he also runs great. But every couple of runs, he acts like he has never run a pattern before. It's almost like he is scared to be perfect. Is there anything I can do to make him more consistent?
Thank you for your question. You are correct in identifying that consistency is key to creating the champion you want. Consistency comes from confidence. The horse needs to know that the things you ask him to do are always asked in a consistent way. Consistent runs are created by doing homework. The barrel pattern requires that the horse be able to run straight lines, shorten his stride, maintain his balance in tight turns and have the ability to sprint away from his turns.
I encourage riders to work on exercises that improve the horse's skill level. Rather than drilling on the pattern, I like to work on skill-building exercises that create a responsive horse that has the skills needed at a high rate of speed. These exercises are described in my Western Horseman book, The A.R.T. of Barrel Racing I gauge my horses' abilities to increase speed in runs by how they handle being asked for speed at home in the skill-building exercises. It would be a pleasure to have you attend a clinic so I could address Rowdy's specific training plan.