Barrel racing can be terribly intense for both pony and rider, and you would be badly considererd if you were to try it with a horse at less than peak athletic condition. If you attempt to run a horse in not so good shape in a barrel race and he gets sore and stiff all over, it is going to form a really negative association in his mind with barrel racing. He won’t be particularly good at the game again.
When starting a pony freshly on barrel racing, or when getting an experienced barrel racer into top condition after some impairment, you must focus upon getting them conditioned before you lead them to the barrel pattern. A couple of the best methods to get a horse into shape are slow loping and long trotting. Getting them to run at these gaits builds up their muscles and their lung capacity. This means they perform better and are not left gasping after running. You have to focus on building up lung strength, capacity and staying power when you are working on getting a pony back into shape. Working your horse out on a correctly planned schedule of exercises is best for monitoring the kind and level of exercise your pony is being put thru, and also for keeping track of what elements of the schedule are suiting him best.
The location for exercising your horse should be ideal and safe. While arenas are most suitable due to the dirt or sand layer cushioning, they can become boring to the horse. Sizeable pastures are also eminently suitable. I also endorse dirt tracks that are free of rocks, because they permit changing scenery. Definitely avoid awfully hard surfaces like those made from cement or asphalt or packed ice. Protect your horse’s feet with boots before you take him out on exercise.
It is easy to get your pony in condition at reasonable speed by working up to a run of 6 to 8 miles per run, three to four days every week. Your itinerary must consist of walks to warm up with, followed by long running and then slow loping. Commence with more walk than trot or lope in the opening days. Add the walk time to the trot/lope time. After a walk of half a mile, shift to long trots and slow lopes over half mile stretches. After you’ve been thorough this routine for one week, add half a mile for the next week. Be patient regardless of whether it takes weeks or months to reach the full 6-8 mile target. You can quicken up the schedule dependent on the state of your horse when you started off. You are the best judge of this.
On those days of the week when your pony isn’t on his exercising programme, you should work him out lightly with, as an example, mild round pen exercises. Give your pony one day off each week for R&R. Let him doss around in pasture. He will continue to be exercising his muscles, but he is going to be doing it his own way. This way, you are enabling him to relax and get over the tedium of the exercise regime.
You don’t have to stick to this section of the routine when your pony starts barrel race running regularly.
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