I am a 14 year-old girl and have always dreamed of being a professional barrel racer. In the arena, my horse is having some trouble under the bit. My horse seems to do better with a gag snaffle, but I am not sure what I should be using. Would you have any suggestions to help me better control my horse when racing?
Success begins in the practice arena, not the competition arena. Be sure your horse is controllable in his comfortable environment before subjecting him to the additional stress and stimulation of competition. Unfamiliar noises, large groups of horses, moving trailers, banners and rider’s nerves are just a few of the challenges that can affect your ability to keep your horse quiet, listening to you, and under control when you warm up and enter the arena for a timed run.
The fact that you are only able to control your horse with a snaffle bit, tells me you need more work and direction in the "bitting process." Snaffles are used for training and tuning up, and a shank bridle will help control your horse as speed is added. This bitting process is just another aspect of getting your horse trained.
In today's barrel racing world, there are many resources and local events available that make competition accessible. Remember, an event producer’s goal is to get numbers. It is the competitor’s goal to learn when he or she is ready to enter. If your horse cannot make consistent performances at home, he would not, as far as I’m concerned, be ready to take the next step into seasoning at time-only jackpots or competitions.
Creating a good foundation on your horse is critical at this step of your competitive journey. Your goal of becoming not only a "barrel racer," but a successful barrel racer is admirable. Let’s take it one step at a time.
- Work on getting your horse trained and responsive to your requests.
- Strengthen your horsemanship skills.
- Understand what it takes to train a horse for your chosen event.
- Utilize resources of “how to” books and DVDs.
- Attend a Performance Horsemanship Clinic for additional skills and evaluation.
- Look for a trainer, performance coach and mentor.
Goal-setting is also important in your plan. Set short, mid-range and long-term goals. Identifying what you want to achieve this week, this month and this year will help you keep your goals in perspective and will help you reach them. Remind yourself to be rewarded by each small, yet significant step in your journey to become a barrel racer, or for that matter, reward yourself when you reach any goal that you have set in your life.
In the meantime, Victoria, remember to enjoy the process,