I learned that practice is so important from playing sports in school. I had a very good coach ““ this lady believed in the value of sports. She dedicated her entire life to winning. I idolized her because she was a winner and she made me want to win. She taught me that if you lost and had not put forth your very best effort, that’s when you should feel bad. She instilled a lot of pride in us, and we played together as a true team. We demonstrated determination, discipline, confidence and unity. The same qualities are also essential for you and your horse to become a winning team. The athlete who uses practice to achieve full athletic potential will out-play, out-think and out-perform competitors.
How to Practice
It is important to know how to practice. You must know when your horse is making mistakes and how to correct and prevent them before they become habits.
In my early basketball training, I learned another principle that applies to barrel racing, never do anything in practice unless it’s the very best you can do. Never let yourself or your body learn how to make mistakes. I stayed after school every day and practiced free throws. I would make 100 free throws before I went home. Soon, I could make almost 100 % of my shots and it didn’t take me long to make a 100 a day. I hit such a high percentage of my free throw in games that I was soon the leading scorer in the state. I learned how to practice perfectly, to take advantage of the practice and to excel whenever possible. The same thing applies to barrel racing. It you lope a circle, lope a perfect circle. When trotting the barrels, always get your pattern perfect before accelerating.
I have always stressed perfect practice at my clinics and schools. If your horse can’t run a good pattern, he usually cannot trot a perfect pattern correctly at a walk, then that is where you start.
You should be going slowly so that you stay in control and are performing properly, then, gradually increase the speed. Most mistakes can be corrected at a trot. At this pace you can concentrate on the position of your horse going in and around the turn and yet think about your own correct form.
My favorite speed is a calm, controlled lope. Lope your horse through the pattern several times. He will feel better each time. This is a good opportunity to get your horse collected and in his correct leads.
Learn how to be cool, calm and collected, thus helping your horse to maintain his cool!
Be a quiet rider ““ easy and light with your hands. Sit in your saddle without an excessive amount of leg and foot movement. Help, do not hinder, your horse. Use your horsemanship skills.
Practicing barrel racing is like practicing any sport. You have to want to learn how to teach yourself (and your horse) to do everything as perfectly as possible in practice. Then, in competition, trust your training and go for the win!
When to Practice
One of my favorite times to practice is very early in the morning or at night, when it is cool and quiet. My horse and I are focused and he is ready to learn.
Get your horse ready several days before an event so that if you have problems you can work them out slowly. Never wait until the day before the barrel race, then work him too hard, and have him sore when you need him. Give your horse light training or riding the day before an event.
When you practice, be dedicated and do the very best you can. When you go to your next barrel race, you will see the rewards of your dedication.
Where to Practice
Practice under all conditions. Working different patterns in different arenas is as important as doing the exercises. Your barrel horse does not need to grow too accustomed to the same conditions. Variety keeps him interested and fresh.
Horses that are always worked inside arenas get fence trained. Too much arena work can cause them to use the fence to help them judge turns. Then, when you go to a large arena, and the horse doesn’t have the fence to judge by, he will run past barrels. When possible, work in open arenas on large and small patterns, indoors and outdoors.
Why to Practice
Barrel racing is so competitive. The rider who out-thinks and out-rides his competitors and makes the fewest mistakes will be the winner. Practice perfectly so that when you are in competition you will react naturally, letting it happen instead of forcing it to happen.
Never practice in a hurry. Hurrying causes frustration and creates mistakes.
About the author:
Martha Josey personifies barrel racing for many people. She was the first and only cowgirl to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in four consecutive decades. She has the distinction of winning both the AQHA and WPRA World Championships in the same year. Her career has stretched, win-to-win, over four decades.
Martha continues to compete in and win on the WPRA circuit. She produces educational videos, markets her own line of equine products, and puts on numerous clinics throughout the country. She and her husband also train and market the very best in barrel horses at their home ranch in Marshall, Texas. The ranch is also home to world-class competitions.
For more info: Josey Enterprises, Inc., 8623 SH 43 N, Karnack, TX 75661″¢ (903) 935-5358 “¢ www.barrelracers.com