You have just returned home after a very disappointing day at the local barrel race jackpot.  You have owned Brownie for the last 11 years and your dad gave him to you as a present and you could never part with him, but you want to win.

This is a dilemma many barrel racers have faced at one time or another. The first thing that sets in is fear.

Where will I find what I am looking for?  How much will I have to pay? Will he be sound? What if I buy him and find out that I don’t like him?

Sit down, take three deep breaths and relax.  It is not that hard if you use some common-sense guidelines.

First of all, one of the most important things to get set in your mind is how much you can really afford to spend. As you start to search for your next winner, remember that the chances of getting that next champion are better than you think. If you have a maximum that you can pay, you avoid the risk of being talked into a higher priced horse.

One rule to live by: “The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot.” Some champions may not cost a lot in the beginning, but it took a lot of hard work to make him a champion. People seem to see the large goal, but they don’t see the small steps it takes to get from point A to point B.  And the struggles it takes to get there.

Decide at what level of competition you want your new horse to compete at. If your goal is to go to WPRA or IPRA rodeos, it takes a finished, seasoned horse. If your goals are to go to the futurities in your area, a started colt with a stellar pedigree could just fill the ticket.  When buying, take into consideration your lifestyle. A young horse that needs lots of riding may not fit your lifestyle unless you have lots of time to ride or invest in professional training for him. Now you have decided how much to spend and where you want to compete; ask other barrel racers in your area where they got their horse. Each area of the country has many reputable barrel horse trainers that can help you find what you are looking for. 

A trainer who is in the barrel horse business full-time will do their best to fit you to a horse that makes you a winner; it helps them sell more horses. And many times, if you need to later sell that horse, will help you to resell him.

Also look for another barrel racer that is selling a horse. One thing to always ask is why.  Many times we have been asked to sell a horse so the seller can buy a horse for a higher level of competition. This is a great opportunity for someone else to get a good horse at a reasonable price. Don’t be afraid to take over a horse that is a bad fit for someone else either. Maybe the rider needs a push type horse and she has a free runner (and free runners fit you to a T) or vice versa.

With the cost of gas what it is today, it costs a lot to drive three hours to look at one horse.  If at all possible, try to look at as many horses as you can on one trip. Make notes on each horse, what you liked about him and what you didn’t like, about him.  Or maybe take a video.  This will help you once you have driven out of the driveway.

Things to consider when trying a horse are size, age, disposition, general health and the way he feels under you. You have to work as a team.  A beginning barrel racer needs a solid, seasoned horse and a young or green horse needs a confident, experienced rider.  A nervous horse needs a quiet rider and on and on.

I personally will overlook some minor conformation flaws. I will accept the way God made that animal and instead look to pedigree and any desire the horse may have. I have ridden many great horses that were not textbook perfect and have won lots of money on them. 

“How am I going to know if he fits me?”  is something I am asked a lot. Each one of us knows what feels best to us when we ride. Be confident and trust yourself and what you have learned. Be your own guide. Of course, you can also take someone you trust with more experience with you. Another set of educated eyes is always good. 

If you like a horse that is laid back and quiet, enters the gate quietly and runs the pattern then walks out of the arena, don’t buy one that is just the opposite just because he was priced right.  You won’t be happy.  If you like a horse that is on the muscle and is ready to run as soon as you unload him, the same holds true for you.

One mistake I will caution you against: If you find what fits you, and he is priced at what you can pay, and it happens to be the first horse, don’t be afraid to buy it. Too many times this has happened to clients that have tried a horse that I have for sale. They will say they want to look around awhile, look at 10 more horses, and call back to say they want that horse, only to find that he is sold. This is not to say you have to buy the first horse you look at, but trust your judgment. If he fits you, he fits you.

Once you have made your purchase, you can’t wait to go to the next jackpot and show everybody how smart you are. There are still a few things you should watch out for. When you got your second bicycle, you couldn’t ride it as well as your first one the first time on it. The same is true with your new horse. Give both of you some time to become a team. Don’t be afraid to ask the person you bought your next champion from for some help. They are the best people to help you. Don’t let the “parking lot experts” get to you. Everybody has something to say, but only listen to those people that you trust.

The great thing about our sport is there’s another barrel race tomorrow. If it didn’t go well today, learn from your run and enter another one. God Bless and happy horse shopping.

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