Training Tips for a Better Barrel Racing Foundation

Develop this fundamental outside rein skill during training, and you'll ride consistently well during competition. Adapted from a new book on barrel racing by Sharon Camarillo.

In my book, Barrel Racing for Fun and Fast Times: Winning Tips for Horse and Rider, I offer a comprehensive program for how to have fun and succeed in barrel racing. One of the most important concepts for novice barrel racers (and experts, for that matter) is the importance of developing a strong foundation in the fundamentals of riding. Here, I’ll share with you just one of the many training tips found in the book. You’ll find out how to use your outside rein in a way that will improve your horse’s barrel runs in competition.

Build a better foundation for your horse

Use Outside Rein
Your outside rein helps balance your horse’s head and body, and in a barrel race it offers speed control. Learn to support your horse during the approach to each barrel and into the rate by using both hands on the rein, one hand on each side of the horse’s neck. This is especially important in training the young or green horse and equally important for finished horses that may depend on you for support and balance.

One of the most crucial areas of any winning run is the last straight stride at each barrel into the rate point (where you change speed) and the start of the turn. It takes a knowledgeable rider with skill and patience to ride into this position without letting go of the rein and going to the horn too early with the outside hand. If you find that your horse is unbalanced or falls apart in that last full stride before the turn, resist the urge to go grab the horn too soon. Instead, ride with two hands through the last straight stride. This way, you can use your outside rein to rate your horse’s speed and keep him straight and collected into the barrel approach; it can certainly make the difference in an efficient turn and a winning run.

Want to read more of Sharon’s winning tips? You can purchase Barrel Racing for Fun and Fast Times: Winning Tips for Horse and Rider at, or read “Fundamentals for Barrel Racing” in the June 2010 issue of Horse & Rider.

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