|Running in the pasture|
The first few times that she mentioned it I just kind of brushed it off as a funny joke, but lately I've been thinking about it a little bit...
Please understand that I have no plans to abandon dressage, or get competitive with barrel racing. However, I've always been a big believer in well rounded horses and think that for the most part, doing something different with your horse is good for developing their minds and bodies.
I can imagine dressage principles being applicable to barrel racing. Just think, you do a big ground covering extended canter between barrels, a smooth flying change from 1st to 2nd, do a big half halt and turn the barrel with a canter volte or a working canter pirouette, and then back into extended canter. It might look different from your traditional barrel race, and the canter around the barrel would be slower, but I imagine that the increased control and balance may be useful to get a tighter turn without risking knocking over the barrel. I've seen reference to barrel racers using some dressage cross-training with their barrel horses (like here). Both disciplines strive for good power from the hind end, adjustability, being in front of the legs and on the aids, and sitting ability. I thought that someone somewhere would have tried running barrels on their dressage horse, but the closest I could find on the interwebs was this. It's a fun demo, but the rider clearly wasn't trying for speed so it's hard to judge whether the horse could be viable in a race (and I wouldn't race in dressage tack, I don't feel the need to stand out that much ;-) ).
|Slap a western saddle on Kachina and she can blend in pretty well|
On the other hand, maybe I could learn the traditional barrel racing approach instead, and later translate that into dressage skills. I'd be a little worried that that would create tension or bad habits that would be hard to reverse later though. Barrel horses are extremely good at what they do and are impressive, but when I see a typical run I don't see many of those training pyramid basics that we strive for in dressage. (Any barrel racers want to chime in and set me straight?)
|Some of the winning barrel horses at my barn|
In terms of horse type, I know quarter horses are the breed that dominates rodeo events, but one of my BO's most successful barrel horses is an OTTB (which she uses as proof that a horse without a natural aptitude for making tight turns can learn). I can see that big warmbloods would have a harder time accelerating quickly or making the turns tightly enough (and check out draft horses barrel racing here, not the most maneuverable!), but at lower levels there are a few breeds that can be competitive.
I have no idea what breed Kachina actually is, but she's kind of in between TB and QH in type, and on the smaller side at 15.2hh, which probably wouldn't be too bad from a barrel racing perspective. It's a bit of a null point at the moment considering that I can't even do a flying change, but once Kachina has the requisite training, is it possible that Kachina's speed plus a dressage approach would allow us to compete at local barrel jackpots with a decent time? (I wouldn't care about winning, I just wouldn't want to embarrass ourselves lol)
|She's always been able to outrun this quarter horse and this standardbred,|
even if they got a head start. Neither of them are the fittest though.
I don't know if we'll ever actually do it, but it's something fun to think about. It would also be social and convenient as there are a heck of a lot more barrel racers in my area than dressage riders. What do you think, should I give it a try? If any of you take your dressage horses to a barrel race, please send me results and video!!