Barrel racing is a tough sport on both rider and horse. Barrel
horses are athletes that need to be in really good condition
when running barrels. A horse that is not in good condition
and started on barrels may get sore and associate the pain
with running barrels. This can lead to problems that are hard
If you plan on starting a horse on barrels or are getting
a seasoned horse back into shape, start on their conditioning
before putting them on the barrel pattern. Long trotting and
slow loping are the best two ways to get a horse in top condition.
These gaits will build up muscle and lung capacity allowing
the horse to perform better and not be gasping for air after
a run. Part of getting your horse into shape is building his
lung capacity and stamina. Having an exercise program for
your horse is the best way to monitor what exercise your horse
is getting. This makes it easier to add or take away parts
of the program according to his condition and needs.
Find a good, safe place to exercise your horse. An arena
is good because of the cushion of the dirt or sand, but can
become very boring for both you and your horse. If you have
a large pasture you can do most of the exercising there. Dirt
roads without rocks are good for this because the scenery
isnít so repetitive. Make sure that you donít exercise your
horse on ground that is too hard, like on roadways, cement
or icy ground. Always put protective boots on your horseís
legs before riding to protect his legs from injury.
To get your barrel horse in condition you should work up
to riding him six to eight miles three or four days a week.
These days should consist of warming up with a walk, long
trotting and slow loping. In the beginning you should do more
walking and slowly take the walking time and add it to the
trotting and loping segments. After walking a half of a mile,
alternate long trotting and slow loping for a half of a mile.
Do this for a week and then add another half of a mile. It
can take months to reach the full six to 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 may increase the mileage faster.
On the days you arenít following the exercise program you
should your horse lightly or exercise him in a round pen.
Allow your horse at least one day off a week to rest and relax.
Turn him out in a pasture to run freely or lay around. This
allows his muscles to still work, but at his own, natural
pace. This also allows him to relax and not become bored with
the exercise program.
After following this program for about 90 days you should
see a vast improvement in your horseís condition and stamina.
He is almost at his peak performance at this point. Now you
can add a sprint to your exercise program on one day of the
week. Start out with a walk and trot to get his muscles warmed
up and stretched. Ask your horse for a sprint for about 250
yards. Ask for as much speed as he will give you, allowing
him to run as fast as he can. Slowly bring him down to a lope,
trot and then a walk. Walk him until his breathing is even
and he is cooled down. This does not need to be done more
than once a week. If you are running your horse at a barrel
race almost every weekend, you can skip this part of the workout.
Once you start competing regularly this rigorous exercise
program can be cut down to a maintenance program. If you are
competing almost every weekend you can shorten the exercise
down to 45 minutes of walking, trotting and loping three to
four days a week. Always be sure and give your horse at least
one day off a week and donít ride him hard every single day.
Horses get bored with routine and can start to misbehave.
Remember to not work him too hard the day of or the day just
before a competition.
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About the Author
Ron Petracek was raised in Souther Idaho,with a black morgan
as his adventure companion. His Love for horses has expanded
into the largest equine classified network on the internet
to date with horse articles,classifieds and social networking.
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