Barrel racing is a tough sport for both rider and horse. Barrel horses are athletes who need to be in very good condition when barrel racing. A horse that is not in good condition and that has started with the barrels can hurt and associate the pain with the operation of the barrels. This can cause problems that are difficult to correct.
If you plan to start a horse in barrels or are getting an experienced horse back in shape, start with his conditioning before putting him into the barrel pattern. The long trot and the slow trot are the two best ways to get a horse in top condition. These steps will build muscle and lung capacity, allowing the horse to perform better and not gasp for air after a run. Part of getting your horse in shape is building his lung capacity and endurance. Having an exercise program for your horse is the best way to monitor what exercise your horse is doing. This makes it easy to add or remove parts of the program according to your condition and needs.
Find a good and safe place to exercise your horse. A litter is good because of the dirt or sand cushion, but it can get very boring for both you and your horse. If you have a large pasture, you can do most of your exercise there. Dirt roads without rocks are good for this because the landscape is not that repetitive. Make sure not to exercise your horse on rough terrain, such as roads, concrete, or icy ground. Always put protective boots on your horse’s legs before riding to protect his legs from injury.
To get your barrel horse in condition, you need to work up to riding it six to eight miles three or four days a week. These days should consist of warming up with a walk, long jog, and slow jog. At first, you should walk more and take the walking time slowly and add it to the jog and jog segments. After walking a half mile, alternate long jog and slow jog for half a mile. Do this for a week and then add another half kilometer. It can take months to reach the full six or eight miles, but getting a horse in top condition takes time and patience. Of course, if your horse is in good shape before starting the program, you can increase the mileage faster.
On the days that you are not following the exercise program, you should exercise your horse lightly or in a round pen. Allow your horse at least one day off a week to rest and relax. Leave it in a pasture to run freely or lie down. This allows your muscles to continue working, but at their own natural rate. This also allows you to relax and not get bored with the exercise program.
After following this program for approximately 90 days, you should see a great improvement in your horse’s condition and endurance. He’s almost at his best right now. Now you can add a sprint to your exercise program one day of the week. Start with a walk and a jog to warm up and stretch your muscles. Ask your horse to run for 250 meters. Ask him for as much speed as you can give him, allowing him to run as fast as he can. Slowly lower it to a jog, jog, and then walk. Walk until your breathing is even and cool. It is not necessary to do it more than once a week. If you are running your horse in a barrel race almost every weekend, you can skip this part of the training.
Once you start competing regularly, this rigorous exercise program can be reduced to a maintenance program. If you are competing almost every weekend, you can shorten the exercise to 45 minutes of walking, jogging, and jogging three to four days a week. Always make sure you give your horse at least one day off a week and don’t ride hard every day. Horses get bored with routine and can start to misbehave. Remember not to push yourself too hard the day or the day before a competition.