Become a better horseman and barrel racer by not just watching and learning from reputable sources but studying your own skills as well.
The more days I spend around barrel horses, the more I find it important to keep learning. There are so many jockeys, trainers and caretakers of these great animals from whom we can learn. With social media and increased television coverage, we have tons of access to information about barrel racing and how to improve our horsemanship. There are many ways to learn and grow, such as working with a coach, attending a clinic, or watching and observing through social media and in person, that anyone at any stage of life can find ways to improve.
As a kid, I had easy access to information about barrel horses. I was blessed to grow up with a mother who taught me, and continues to share with me, worlds of knowledge about horses. The times I get to ride with her and watch and learn her ways of working with a horse help me immensely. If you are one of those lucky ones with an experienced parent, be sure to observe their techniques, respect their experience and thank them for their time. If not, I suggest finding an experienced barrel racer or horseman nearby who can help you. Having someone to ride with daily or weekly will give you an advantage in your journey of learning. Regular exposure to correct care and management of horses, as well as proper skills, will continuously feed your repertoire of ability.
If you do not have an instructor figure in your life to assist with your barrel racing endeavors, I highly recommend attending a horsemanship or barrel racing clinic. There are many great clinicians out there in our discipline. Any successful barrel racer will tell you a good foundation of horsemanship is crucial, so even if you cannot find a barrel racing instructor nearby, finding a horsemanship clinic will get you going in a safe direction. A barrel racing instructor will help fine-tune your horsemanship skills to apply them to our sport. As I do not personally offer clinics, I always refer those who ask to other barrel racers who do, as they carry so much experience to share. Attending a clinic can help you get started on the right track, avoid bad habits and help you find a style of riding that fits you and your horse.
When I got into high school, I found myself on YouTube watching videos of great barrel racing runs and training tutorials. I was so nerdy about running barrels that anything related to the subject entertained me for hours. When we went to jackpots, my favorite part of the day was early morning exhibitions, where I could watch my mom and her friends, who were such talented trainers, working with their horses. It was a behind-the-scenes look at what makes them great. If you are that nerdy barrel racer, you are even luckier than I was. You have unlimited access to videos and pictures of barrel runs and training that can easily be found on the Internet. Plus, more rodeo events are on TV. I challenge you to use the information for your own good—don’t just watch it, study it. Mentally jot down what the greats do, how they ride in competition, what they do to keep horses fit, what makes a great run, so on and so forth.
Use this access to your advantage and start to apply some of that knowledge to your own game. You will see what works for you and your horse. At a barrel race, observe the techniques that great trainers use, then ask your coach how and when a certain technique may be applied before you do it. For example, in terms of equipment, you may see a successful barrel racer using a certain bit and think that bit would work on your horse. Before trying it, ask your trusted source what that bit does, what your hands must do to make it work, and how it works on a horse. Soak up all the information you can, and as years go by, you will be thankful when things start to come together in your mind.
I hope you can attempt one of these ways to grow your skills. With coaches to work one-on-one with you, a clinician to direct you and Internet access to fuel you, you are sure to get better, step by step. Let’s take advantage of these opportunities to learn and improve and become better barrel racers every day.
Until next time,
Hailey Kinsel-Lockwood is a two-time WPRA World Champion barrel racer with more than $1.5 million in lifetime reported earnings. Each month she shares her tips, advice and expertise with Barrel Horse News readers in “World Champion Reflections” in the magazine and online.