Start your speed event horses
on poles with AQHA Professional Horseman Doug
“It’s hard to make a barrel horse a pole horse because they’ve got so much run in them already,” Doug says. “Most horses aren’t broke before they begin on barrels. A horse knows he’s going to run, but when you get to a barrel, he doesn’t know he’s supposed to turn. So, he gets yanked around the barrel and gets to run to the next one.”
Doug finds it a natural step to take the barrel horses through poles first.
“After poles, they’ve got all the basics down,” he says. “Then, I can just point them at a barrel, and they turn.”
Doug explains that barrel racing and pole bending require the same basic turns. You have a left and two rights, or a right and two lefts. The difference is that in poles, you have control of the horse’s head. “You have to have control as you’re going through the weave to get him where you want him,” he continues. “Whereas in barrels, it’s 90 yards to the second barrel, and all the horse is thinking about is running.”
So, to recap, “We walk in to the arena, walk in a preparatory circle, walk to pattern, stop and repeat until they are comfortable with it,” he says. “I’ll run the pattern one time with them, and that’s it. They’re ready to show. Once our horses know what the pattern is, they don’t see it unless they go to a show.”
However, this doesn’t mean the horses are left out in the pasture to fend for themselves. “We still ride them every day, but it is either in the field or just trotting around,” he adds. “It’s only when they start giving us trouble that we bring them back on the pattern.”
Now that you have the pole pattern down, you’ll have an easier time teaching a new event. Your horse will have great speed control and tight turns. Barrels will be a piece of cake because of your horse’s newfound speed control, ability to turn and agility.