Updated: Mar 10
Sometimes the hardest step you'll take is getting your foot up in the stirrup.
Hooray you've made it! Let's jump right in - but not around... As you go through the course make sure to go in order. Go piece by piece and module through module. I've designed this course to be progressive. This means I'll feed you foundational elements first, and then add some frame work and technique to be the elements of the skills you need to be fit.
At anytime you can click on the 'help me out' button in the side margin - incase you get stuck. Well...not stuck in an actual physical position (I can't help ya there) but if you don't understand something I'm only a click away! ------------>
Know this; I believe in you! You can do this. You don't have to be a fitness buff (haha get it) to have knock-out athleticism. All you need to do is be aware of the level your body and skill level are currently; and work consistently to where things feel better and buildable.
Consistency truly is the name of the game. Cranking out 30 push-ups and 100 crunches every once in a while is NOT conducive to building healthy habits that make you want to stick with the program. Neither is it actually helpful to becoming a better barrel racer. However, learning essentials skills that you can build your OWN challenges upon, is a great way to take ownership over your exercise.
3...2...1....! Let's do this!
(click for video)
Barrel Racing is awesome....but hard (like really hard)
It's kind of not fair...barrel racers don't know who to turn to for anything. Dressage riders have the benefit of training in English flat classes first. Most cow-horse events give the horse plenty of exposure to cattle in all forms before they ever enter the arena. And Cowboys usually have some type of Vaquero type background stemming from a deep value of horsemanship before they ever lay a hand on the rein. Barrel racers however, are just some kind of fusion between all these things. Both the technique the rider needs to train a horse, and the skills the rider needs stay on! We are left out in the dust to figure it out ourselves.
Barrel racing has its own set of challenges and unique flourishes. Some riding and training techniques are similar to track racing horses. While some riding techniques are just like boxing in a cow in a reined cow horse pattern. But it's also ideal that our horse has to have a dressage like handle of feel and precision. Somehow he does all these things all the while keeping his feet underneath him in a race against...himself! What's a rider to do??? As if training them for such a feat wasn't tricky enough, we actually have to STAY ON! I think many of us would say that we are in awe of what our horses can do. Their speed, stamina and willingness to submit to our barrel racing antics is amazing. We might not even be able to dash across the arena with out gasping for air, but yet we still conjure up the courage to shove a foot in the stirrup and hold on for dear life. Indeed it is a thrill of a lifetime.
But unlike what the mainstream world says and portrays about being athletically fit, horses and horsemanship is much, much different. The world says the only way to be fit is to be muscularly chiseled, with the ability to run miles up mountains, and lift twice our weight. Although it is admirable to be THAT fit, it doesn’t quite fit into our method and means of riding.
I also want to point out another frustration that the mainstream fitness world gives us. Which is, the only way to be functionally athletic is to be thin. While a marathon runner has a lean physique and a ballerina’s boney balance is commendable, it is not at all relevant to having success on horseback. Here’s the thing, muscle isn’t feel, and skinny isn't fit.
Similar to the saying ‘my horse was really on the muscle’ means he was strong but not really paying attention or responding. Muscle isn’t feel. So the more bulk we add to our bodies, and weight we train with is NOT going to enhance our ability to control or communicate well with our horses. And skinny isn’t stable. Just because someone can run for miles and miles or balance on their tip toes doesn’t mean that the condition of their body is responsible for that.
With any athlete it is not the ‘look’ of how the body is developed into, but rather the skill that develops how the body looks. Since we compete as a TEAM with our horse, and equines are extremely powerful, horse sports are an exception. Our horse makes up the lack. His genetics, training, and natural propensity to perform often out-adapts our short comings.
Barrel racing (and similar equine sports) are equal parts strength, stability, and mobility. We need strength to control our rambunctious race bred babies as well as to endure long training hours. We need stability in the form of excellent balance. Track jockeys never have to change their rate of speed as quick as we will. And we need mobility to adapt to fast acceleration and deceleration. Stability and mobility can be considered ‘dynamic balance’ - meaning we need to stay balanced while moving.
Despite barrel racing being the same course (3 barrels no matter what) every go round, we still need to maintain precise body awareness. The thing with speed events is…the faster you go the better you do. So if we are constantly making little adjustments on the pattern during a run, you are eating up time on the clock. The more awareness we have about where we are in space, and time is called proprioception. And this is the make or break factor in some cases for runs that look identical but clock different. Inches and feet count….literally.
I want us to be aware of the privilege but also responsibility that our sport requires. There truly is NOT any other equine sport that is comparable to what our needs on a fundamental, technical and athletic level. So we must be willing to dig in and train our bodies to rise to the occasion of riding the best we can. No one else knows what a barrel horse and barrel racer need unless they’ve been in the same arena themselves. When we take the time to study these needs, and the accountability to take on developing them, we can become better partners and more fit riders for our sport.
Previously, I mentioned that you don't have to be the most muscular or most lean athlete to have success on the pattern. What gives you success on the barrel racing pattern are principle oriented movements. The strength and communication to control the animal, the balance and timing needed to stay on and the engrained muscle memory of correct movement can help you build and independent seat with smart hands that stay out of your horses way.
Strong principles in your exercising habits will carry you through in less than ideal circumstances. Here I am 4 months pregnant competing at a PRCA rodeo - my center of gravity was just starting to shift and my pants were definitely not buttoned making this run very challenging. When you train with healthy and correct muscle memory you and your horse will receive the benefit no matter what.
What will we cover in this course?
The general flow of this course will go like this:
First, we learn to stretch properly to encourage whole body circulation. This helps us have the opportunity to activate healthy posture and gain good proprioception. These things are important and the basis of everything (despite being simple) that we add movement on.
We will then strengthen and mobilize ourselves from the healthy baseline postures.
This means that from our postures being correct, we can know where and how to move our body through the exercises without getting hurt or compromising the quality of technique.
Through these principles we will be able to adjust movement that was once painful, into correct patterns that will create healthy muscle memory that translates to barrel racing.
Finally we will learn how to safely progress and build our strength, endurance and tolerance levels. Progressing becomes totally customizable after you become familiar with the initial principle postures and movement patterns.
The goals and primary focus of the course is to circulate, stabilize and strengthen our body.
Through out the course we will focus on fun memory techniques that way you can easily apply and remember the whole exercise so you can do it from anywhere! When you put movement to something you are trying to memorize, it has a lot more 'stick and stay' affect in the brain. Memorization in the mind helps our routine become consistent, and when our routine is consistent, we attain memorization in the body; aka muscle memory! And the less we need to worry about when we are actually on top of our horse.
Where we are at, where we are headed
Here's the deal friends, I want us to be wildly successful coming out of this course but I also NEED us to be steadfastly safe.
So here are a few house-keeping and barn-sweeping items:
If you are pregnant or dealing with, or recovering from some medical issue, you need to be honest with me and yourself and ASK your care provider if this exercise course is in your best interest. Your health and quality of life is worth taking care of. Humans are incredibly resilient and you need to give yourself the chance to be fully ready to workout.
This course is not a diet program. It is also not a traditional work-out program, and it is not an end-all be all, fix-all problems program. You are responsible for what you put in and take out of this course. I will not tell you something that is misleading, untrue or purposefully reckless. In order for you to exceed your own goal's and expectations, you have to make sure you are in the right place. This course is for becoming more stable and more able on the pattern!
Take your health seriously, but don't be too serious in your attempts. You can, and should have some fun in this course. Be flexible (pun intended) and feel free to play around with what works for you. Sometimes just having fun doing something, can loosen up tension better than anything else!
Lastly, take your fitness and riding goals into consideration. The way that you add or subtract difficulty for fitting what your exercise program needs is by adding or subtracting repetitions of movement, and adding or subtracting repetitions of resistance. Once you have the gist of the routine down, you can build or modify on it how ever you'd like too.
I'm honored that I get to coach you through this! I have also overcome a lot to be here with you, so it's my complete joy to join you all!
(Also... you are going to have to deal with a lot of 'Kat' memes and gifs. It's okay to keep things laughable when you are feeling vulnerable or silly learning something new. )
Here are some things you might consider doing to monitor your progress. This is completely optional but I consider it wise to have a baseline of where you are starting so you can responsibly navigate your journey AND celebrate your progress.
Open a word document 'journal' on your computer, or use a notebook to keep your thoughts about the questions and prompts at the end of each module:
a 'good' run
a 'bad; run
Picture of a turn in a regular run
General fitness evaluation:
I can't run across my arena after my loose horse without getting winded - pant > so tired!
I can't even touch my toes to buckle my spurs - groan > so tight!
I can't hardly stay in the saddle if my horse bobbles around a barrel - whoa > so close!
General goals or improvements:
Better stamina during a run, or riding multiple horses
Better balance in the saddle with a more independent seat