Tips & Tricks For Both Beginners & Experienced Barrel Racers

Hello and welcome to our practical guide for barrel racing!

You may have found yourself here because you’re either…

  • Brand new to the world of barrel racing and can’t wait to get started. -OR-
  • You’re looking to gain some new insight into the sport you already know & love.

This guide will help broaden your knowledge of the sport and give you practical barrel racing tips and tricks to help you improve your performance.

Before we get started with a few barrel racing tips, let’s first go over some of the common terms you’re likely to hear in the world of barrel racing.

Barrel Racing Terms

Be Thinking: When you hear this at a competition, you’re the 4th rider in line.

Derby: Similar to futurities, these competitions are made for horses of the same age. Horses in these classes are typically 6 years old.

Equi-Stat: This is an online database that holds results and earnings related to barrel racing competitions.

Futurity: These are competitions designed for horses of the same age and experience that compete against one another. These are typically held for 4 and 5-year-old horses.

In The Hole: When you hear this at a competition, you’re the 3rd rider in line.

On Deck: When you hear this at a competition, you’re the next rider in the ring!

Perf: Short for “performance,” this refers to a scheduled performance or show where there’s an admittance fee.

Producer: The person who oversees a barrel racing event.

Rookie: A competitor within their first year of professional competition.

Season: You can “season” your horse by taking them to different competitions to expose them to new environments.

Side pot: Some competitions offer these to give more opportunities to junior or senior riders. Competitors can pay to enter this class for the chance to win additional money in a smaller pool of competitors.

Slack: A slack happens before or after a paid performance for contestants who didn’t draw during the performance.

The NBHA: This stands for the “National Barrel Horse Association,” and is the largest barrel racing organization in the world.

The NFR: This stands for the “National Finals Rodeo,” which is the top level rodeo competition in the United States.

The 4D System: This is the system that the sport runs on. All riders run the same race, but they’re divided into categories. The fastest time sets the time brackets and wins the first division. The second division is won by the time that is ½ second behind the fastest run. The third division is won by the next fastest time that’s 1 full second behind the fastest. And the fourth division is two seconds behind the fastest.

Up: When you hear this at a competition, it’s your turn to enter the arena!

Barrel Racing Essentials

Now, if you’ve never practiced or competed in barrel racing before, it’s imperative that you understand how the sport works. Let’s discuss it!

The Pattern

Barrel racing is a speed event where a horse and rider race through a cloverleaf pattern of three barrels. The goal is to be the fastest pair through the pattern without any penalties. If you make a mistake and knock a barrel over, you’ll get a 5-second time penalty added to your score. Sounds simple but it’s harder than it sounds!

Running The Pattern

To run the pattern, you’ll begin at the start line with a timer. Once you cross the start line, you ride directly toward the barrel on your right or left. From there, you’ll ride around the barrel, make a loop, and head toward the next barrel that’s opposite the first. After that, you change direction as you’re turning to create a figure-eight pattern. Finally, you ride toward the final barrel that’s furthest from the starting line. After you loop around this barrel, you head back in a straight line to where you began.

Barrel Racing Tips For The Rider

Improving your skills in the saddle through practice is the best way to improve yourself as a barrel racer. Use these barrel racing tips and techniques to make yourself the best rider you can possibly be!

As with most sports, it’s important that you practice, practice, practice! Here are a few tips:

Practice Your Riding Position

It’s important for you as the rider to have a strong, balanced position. Focus on sitting tall and straight in the saddle. Also practice pushing your weight down through your heels and having a firm feel on your horse’s sides. Keep your hands low and steady on the reins. You should practice this whenever you’re in the saddle, and not just when practicing patterns!

Join Your Local Barrel Racing Club

In many areas of the country you’ll be able to find a local chapter of national barrel racing organizations. Do your research, find a group, and participate frequently in meetings. Many organizations offer free and paid levels of membership, so you’ll likely have some options for involvement.

Video Yourself Riding

There’s nothing quite like watching yourself in action! Oftentimes, you can’t feel every part of your ride. But if you can watch a video of yourself, it’ll be much easier to visualize various ways you can improve your riding. And if you’re a member of X Factor Barrel Racing, you can even upload your videos to get advice from expert coaches!

Find A Mentor Or Trainer

If you want to be the best barrel racer you can be, you should find a mentor or a trainer to help you along. Personalized advice and guidance will help you overcome challenges and unlock you and your horse’s potential. You can learn more at X Factor Barrel Racing and even find an online barrel racing mentor!

Barrel Racing Tips For Your Horse

No matter how skilled you may be as a rider, your horse needs to learn its job as well. Coordination, athleticism, and agility are all important characteristics of a good barrel racing horse. While bloodlines play a role, here are some tips to improve your horse’s overall performance.

Use these tips to hone in on your horse’s skills before the competition!

Circle Drill

The circle drill is an easy drill to practice at home. You’ll need to set up six items, such as barrels or tires, to form a circle for your horse to work around. First, walk the pattern, focusing on precision and control. Make sure that you’re staying balanced in the saddle and focus on your horse’s straightness. When you’ve mastered the pattern at the walk, you can try it at the trot. Again, focus on controlling your horse’s body. Finally, you can work up to the lope and increase your speed within the gait as you feel comfortable. You should work this drill going both directions.

Triangle Pattern Drill

For this drill, set up barrels in a triangle with each barrel an equal distance apart. Approach the first barrel like you’re riding the pattern. After completing the turn around the first barrel, continue straight to the next barrel and make your turn. From there, continue straight to your third barrel and make your turn. Repeat the exercise as necessary. Again, you should start this exercise at the walk, then progress to the trot, and then the lope as you feel comfortable. When you’re content with your horse’s turns going one direction, go ahead and repeat the exercise the other way.

How To Find Barrel Racing Competitions

Now that you’ve practiced your barreling racing skills, it’s time to show ‘em off!

Once you feel confident and ready to enter a barrel racing competition, there are a few websites you can reference to find the perfect event for you. We recommend searching through these sites:

Take the Next Step with X Factor Barrel Racing

Are you ready to join a top barrel racing program?

Now that you’ve read through several important barrel racing tips, you’re probably ready to take things to the next level. To get the real meat and potatoes, so to speak. Join X Factor Barrel Racing to learn more tips and techniques from world-class barrel racing champions like Hailey Kinsel, Lisa Lockhart, Dena Kirkpatrick, and Tammy Fischer.

By joining the member’s circle, you’ll gain exclusive access to some of the best barrel racing resources on the web, and for all experience levels too! Whether you’re looking to overcome training hurdles, increase your winnings, or produce a champion horse, you’ll find expert barrel racing tips and inspiration in an easy-to-digest online format. With this membership, you can stream live barrel racing events, access exclusive training videos, receive one-on-one online coaching from barrel racing champions, and much more.

If you’re ready to find inspiration and unleash you and your horse’s true potential, join X Factor Barrel Racing today!

About X Factor Barrel Racing

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