By Abi Price
Intern at The Stairs Ranch
At the Stairs Ranch we ride and train a vast amount of horses throughout the year. All year long we have our training minds working; teaching and perfecting the skill set of a horse to run a barrel pattern. As the training progresses and a horse’s skill set grows there is the opportunity to see the effectiveness of the training by doing a practice run.
Now this run doesn’t have to be perfect, the purpose of this run is to see where the horse is strong and where the horse needs correction. It’s important to allow the horse the opportunity to make a mistake during this run by turning your training brain off and cruise him through. But it’s hard to make that mental switch from trainer to a jockey because we want success for the horse and to see that all the hard work is paying off.
We have a hard time forgetting the mistakes our horses have made in the past and are determined that our horses won’t repeat those mistakes in the future. We want to control the horse and make sure we set them up for success when what we really need to do is just ride and trust them and not nit-pick your horse during your run. A lot runs through your mind about where you’re going, what you’re going to do, and how you’re going to get there.
Picture this, the barrels are set in the practice pen, you’re on your horse, and you’re getting ready to run through. You’re talking to your horse, but mostly yourself, gearing up to send them to the first barrel. You’re running towards the first barrel at around 80% potential speed and your hands are soft, run them to their spot and turn the barrel easy and smooth. Your horse comes out of the first barrel and switches leads for his second turn. You breathe, remember soft hands, and run them to their spot resulting in a smooth turn around the second and the same to the third. Your run is complete, you trusted your horse, and got to see a picture of what the potential finished product will be.
Now most of the time this run isn’t perfect but the important thing is to have confidence in your horse and in yourself. You have been working hard and diligently to train a horse to run a barrel pattern. Just like how Rome wasn’t built in a day neither is a barrel horse. Trusting your horse and yourself will help not only build your horse’s confidence but also your own.
When the day does come for your horse to be hauled to his first race or if he is a seasoned runner you will both have confidence in each other because your trust started in the practice pen. Going and running at in a new pen may be scary for your horse or you but remember to breathe, have soft hands, and run him to his spot trusting that he will do his job.
If the run turns bad and he blows past, knocks a barrel over, gets spooked from a banner, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a barrel horse. Learn from the bad runs and remind yourself that there will always be another barrel race to try again.
Trusting yourself and your horse places you both on the road for building confidence and running the race you both have worked so hard for. Don’t give up and remember that confidence is key success. Keep up your hard work and God bless.