If you run barrels, you’ve probably dealt with alley issues at some point. Whether periodic or chronic, try these tips from trainer Kelsey Lutjen to help you and your horse overcome alleyway angst.

Check for Soundness Issues

“If I get a horse in that has alley issues, the first thing I will do is take that horse to my vet to make sure they’re not bleeding and make sure they’re not sore. I don’t think horses want to be bad. They want to do their job and they’re kind creatures, so soundness issues, soreness or bleeding is the first thing I will look for. You have to be aware—I see so many horses that are potential bleeders that people maybe don’t pick up on, especially in areas where it’s so muggy.”

Show That You Mean Business

“I bought a horse years ago who had some alley issues, and I took her to the vet and she was fine. Somebody had just let her get away with it, so all I had to do was show her that I wasn’t going to. It started with just warming her up, showing her ‘No, you’re going to do your job how I want it done. I’m going to show you how I want this, and I expect you to give it to me.’ Once she knew I wasn’t going to mess around and knew she had a job and had to do it, she was really good.”

Give Them Confidence

“I’m so big on confidence, especially in my young horses. I want them to go down the alley thinking they’re the biggest thing there, and I think that’ll help.”

Deal With It

“I’ve also rode horses that are alley sour that I haven’t got them over it, you just get by. Some horses you just can’t make them, it has to be their idea. Some are really gritty and tough and you just have to work with them. Horses are so different—some need to get in trouble and they’re like ‘Oh I’m sorry I won’t do that again,’ some are trying to tell you something, and some don’t have confidence and it’s a stage fright deal.”

For more training, horsemanship and horse health, visit TrainingBarrelHorses.com.


Blanche Schaefer is an avid barrel racer and managing editor of Barrel Horse News. Email comments or questions to [email protected]

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