Training my horse to barrel race (please read)


New Member
Jul 29, 2004
Down South
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I have a 7yr old paint gelding (named Rico) who is fully broke and trained as a roping horse and has been all his life (well minus the past 2 years). Anyway I really want to barrel race with him and if there is anyone that can give me any advice, hints or tips on how to train him to barrel race I'd be thankful. I'm 17 and new to riding (I had a bay gelding last year but I only rode him once and got rid of him because he wasn't trustworthy and sorta unruly) anyways if you wanna see pics of him, email me because when I try to post them on here, it says the file is too big.. but I can send some if anyone wants to see. If anyone can help and/or has any questions about him or myself, please feel free to post or you can email me at [email protected]


New Member
Feb 27, 2002
I think you're not getting any responses because this forum just doesn't have barrel racers.

You might try a Western-focused forum, or there might even be one specifically for barrel racing. You could also try searching the web for training a barrel racer; there are probably a number of sites.


New Member
Sep 20, 2004
Enumclaw, Washington


first of all, Barrel racing is really, really fun! You'll love it. :). Secondly, its pretty easy to teach yourself and your horse to do on your own. ALl you need is a flat riding surface that has good traction (no slick grass.) and three barrels.

Hopefully you already know the clover pattern. If you've been riding for awhile, you should know what direction your horse turns best in. Most people take the right barrel first, but if your horse does better right hand turns, take the left one. That way two of the three turns are towards the right.

The first thing you need to do is "pattern" your horse. The fastest horses are that way because they know exactly where they are going. If your horse is trying to gallop the course and doesnt know before he gets to the barrel which way he turns, he's going to hestiate, boggle or slow down.

Patterning your horse is simple repition. Do so at the trot first. Trot the course many many times (but dont practice more then 20 minutes or your horse will get bored and start acting up.) . The key here ismaking the horse memorize the pattern, as well as tightening its turns aroound the barrel. Any time your horse swings too wide, circle the same barrel again, until you've tightened your turn. Then move on to the next one.

Although some people practice going both directions, i reccomend starting out only practincg the direction you've chosen. It keeps your horse on track and helps him memorize the course easier. Eventually you won't have to pull him up to make your turns, because he will be able to gauge his own abilities because he knows exactly where he's going to turn before you tell him to.

Rather then slowing him down and turning him, just pull your inside rein towards teh barrel and lean in a bit. He will slow down himself as he sees fit in order to make the sharp turns you've asked for.

After trotting it many many times ( a couple weeks worth of sessions.) move into the lope. Do so only after his turns have improved to the point that you are turning tightly. Keep the lope slow and controled, working always on the turns and not the speed. Soon you will be turning so close to teh barrel you'll have to worry your going to knock it down!!!

In between practice sessions, work on transitiong from a stop to a lope, as well as your stops and your lead changes. Your horse needs to be very balanced and comfortable on the right AND the left lead so that he can change leads himself when eh turns opposite directions. Barrel horses usually begin to do flying lead changes on their own as they get better and better.

Having an ex-reining or roping horse will be an asset in your exercises. cow horses make excellent barrel horses!!

Lastly, don't stress the small stuff. YOu'll find that going to gamedays or rodeos is MUCH differen then performance shows. People are wonderfully laid back because they know its their own time that matters. There's little competitiveness outside the ring, which I find wonderful. Don't make things difficult on yourself! Just practice over and over and have fun.

If you want to talk more, email me at [email protected] or check out my 4-H club website! We've got some great pictures of lots of my members doing barrel racing, flags, key, etc. its




New Member
Aug 29, 2004
Washington (USA)
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I am in the same situation as you. I am leasing a horse and I am trying to teach him how to barrel race. I have had a great time teaching him, but he still needs a lot of work!! In the summer he is used at a camp where all he does is go on trail rides all day, so he dosent have much experience with anything else so teaching him has become an interesting process. I am 16 and I have a 16year old Quarter Horse gelding named Cody. He is a dream to ride, and luckily he is willing to learn or else teaching him to barrel race would be difficult. PandaPotato gave you lots of info, and she is much more experienced then me, but keep me up dated on how your training is going. Cody is getting a hang of it, but he has a habbit of turning before the barrel, so I find that starting to train him at a trot works the best so he gets the idea and he is easier to control, then I speed him up once he does it at a trot. Today was funny because as I was riding him he came too close to the barrel and my knee hit it and it fell over..haha, guess we have some things to work on.


New Member
Dec 29, 2005
a couple simple pointers

Heres some pointers first of all if you want to get into barrel racing. First off, I would say.. take it slow.. I would suggest that you inquire in an instructor .. I wouldn't really suggest getting all your information off of a site like this because having it told to you and having it taught to you are 2 tottaly different things. First of all, you can do alot of bending excersises etc. Getting your horse supple is the first and most IMPORTANT part of the training towards becoming a barrel racer.. alot of neck bending, roll backs, alot of hind end excersises will stregthen your horse. And im guessing, since this horse is a roping horse, he knows how to use his hind end and is fully capable of it. Then you can start the pattern, really, even if your horse has done western rodeo etc. I would take it extremly slow. Just take your time and have fun.. the competition part will come into play later on.. I've been qualified to compete in numerous well known rodeos... and this is exactly how I did it.. just have fun at first.. and everything else will fall into place..

happy trails :)


Tripp and Olly
Dec 31, 2005
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
I do some barrel racing although I prefer pole bending myself.
One thing is to teach your horse to respect, but not fear the barrels get out there with your horse and knock some down, roll them around, feed your horse off them etc. The last thing you want is to hit a barrel have it fall over and your horse crow hop the way you are NOT leaning it's a ummm unsettleing experience..
Also don't be afraid to HANG ON! when your horse gets the pattern down ( I chose my direction based on which way my horse turns better, ensureing they are turning that direction at the top of the pattern) Basically ride with a hand on each rein, The hand on the inside towards the barrel should open up encouraging your horse to take the turn, and your outside hand should grab the horn, it will help your balance give a light neck rein cue and ensure you don't jar the mouth if you get un settled. and LOOK where you want to go!
Doing some reining with your horse can really help them become more supple better balanced and turn on a dime.
Have fun and vary your routine, if you did arena one day head out and hit the trail the next the more variety your horse gets the better they will aproach all things.
Find yourself a Gymkhana as soon as you can! most have walk trot classes where you can trot the pattern and then watch the experts do it, you can pick up tons of pointers thoughts and ideas just by watching.
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