Barrel horse prospect?

Hi all. I’m a semi pro level english rider interested in making up a barrel horse for myself. I’m knowledgeable about confirmation specific to the sport horse/warmblood dominated disciplines, and what would lend itself to general soundness and athleticism. But is looks, to me, like there are some different preferences for western horses.

I understand that is a gross generalization. With so many different “sports” in the western world, what are you looking for in a gymkhana horse specifically? Bonus points if you can talk about what might be different from the uphill balance, sloping shoulder, and long leg to body ratio considered desirable in the sport horse world. Book recommendations also very welcome! I’m 40, so looking to bring along something with real potential, not just to run fast without a plan. Next post I’ll be asking how to train this beast! :grin:


How to choose a barrel horse and train your own without having barrel raced previously, is that your question?
If so, being an English rider, think what you would answer to a semi-pro barrel racer that asked what should be a good jumping prospect to train yourself for someone that has not jumped before.

Given those premises, I would say, get someone that is competing in whatever you are interested in, giving clinics and teaching and learn from them would seem best.
No sense in reiventing the wheel all by yourself and not fair for whatever horse ended up being a hapless test pilot for that beginner in that discipline.

if the question was not as above, but looking for an instructor or recommendations for a good one, indicating what part of the country would help direct you to one.

There are some posters that are active barrel racing.
Maybe they will have a better answer for you, @beau159 one of them, I think.


Totally agree with what Bluey said. This is a case of you don’t know HOW MUCH you don’t know in regards to Barrel Racing.

As said, attend clinics, watch competitions, find a trainer who can explain the MANY details behind the horse speeding thru the barrels. There is stuff you cannot learn by watching others, you have to be told about it.

Horse picking is a tough one, part looking at winners, bloodlines, getting a suitably built horse, and often the skilled rider is the final piece to winning. Not nearly as easy as it looks!


Agree with @Bluey and @goodhors --find a trainer who is working with successful riders in your discipline of interest and let that person guide you --in finding a horse, tack, competitions, training etc.

Having said that, when I first started out in the horse world (1968) --I was simply given a horse. Everything else I had to figure out for myself for the next 10 years --books in the library were my go-to. This was all pre WWW. There were no small time trainers in my area, I had no money (I was a kid) and no way to go to anything. But IN MY MIND my horse and I were in every discipline ! We jumped, hunted, did barrels, poles, roped. captured bad guys after a long chase and --well, did everything together. Only when I went to college (I took her with me although she was very old by then --not being a young horse when I was given her) and had my first job at a “real” stable did I learn how much I didn’t know.

My point is, there is something to be said for just having a good time with your horse, regardless of breed or discipline. That is still the majority of my time --just sitting on the back of one of my boys.

However, if a specific discipline is what you want to do --then definitely get a successful trainer and follow his/her advice.

When speaking about the build of a horse, the word is CONFORMATION not confirmation. I am a crotchety old English major

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Oh jeeze, typos happen. :shushing_face:

On top of what everyone else has suggested, even googling barrel horse sires can show you what some of the best producers of barrel horses look like and the lines that are popular. I’ve seen WP and halter horse bred horses be pretty good barrel horses, heck there are even TBs and STBs doing well at higher levels, but it’s always an idea to see what bloodlines are proven producers.

If you have friends who barrel race, spend some time with them, find out if there are some good on line places to spend time and pick up things by reading.

Have fun on your new adventure!

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Autocorrect will change conformation to confirmation pretty much every time.

Just like it changes the spelling of the name of the town I live in pretty much every time I type it. Another example of the many ways in which modern technology “helps” us.




As a barrel racer myself, I am going to be the third echo of the advice you were already given.

I assume you are currently riding under an English instructor?
The same should be for your barrel racing.

You wouldn’t turn to the internet to train your English horse. And the same should apply to your next endeavor. Find a barrel racing trainer to help you.

First of all, what are your aspirations? Do you want to do local level fun Gynkhanas?
Do you want to do jackpot barrel races?
Amateur rodeos?
Go Pro?

Many, many, many different levels of competition out there and it would really be useful to know where your goals are. Any horse can learn to barrel race and do gaming. Even one with conformational flaws could potentially do it well, if they’ve got the heart to do it.

In general, you want a horse that is balanced. You want them to be able to collect easily. You need a long stride to cover ground and you need powerful hindquarters to blast off with speed.

Books are always valuable but I would steer you towards video, and even more towards attending a barrel racing clinic. Two of the best clinics I have ever been to, with a great emphasis on horsemanship and training your horse correctly, are Jolene Montgomery and Paul Humphrey. Jolene doesn’t do many clinics at all, as she is so busy with the futurity horses (and extremely successful at it) but I was fortunate to get to do one of her clinics.

BetweenTheReins would also be a great website for you to check out and subscribe. Jolene is one of the trainers, along with Ashley and Joy. All very, very good and very successful.

Phil Haugen is more horsemanship-based but he also does incorporate some barrel racing into it.

Bottom line is your horse needs to be broke, broke, broke. Same way you have a dressage horse broke, broke broke. Or a jumper broke. Etc. You cannot navigate a barrel course correctly and FAST without your horse having a proper foundation.

Kassie Mowrey would be a great role model for you to follow as well. (I do not believe she actively does clinics.) She grew up riding English before she started training barrel horses. The NFR just finished. Kassie rode a huge 17 hand horse, who is one of her young futurity horses. And out of the other horses that were there, I believe about 5? of them had been through Kassie’s hands at one point in time during their training. That speaks volumes that she had so many horses be able to perform at basically the top top top of the barrel racing world, the NFR.

Barrel horses come in all different shapes and sizes. There’s been 17 hand horses at the NFR and there have literally been ponies (14 hands) at the NFR. It just depends on their individual athletic ability and their heart to do it.