Slow Down the Hot Horse

Do you need to slow down the hot horse? Does your horse need more focus work? Did you miss the “adding breaks” step to your training?

Many of the exercises I use for training my horses come from Heather Smith’s and her book series. I started following Heather in 2012 when her first book, “The Secrets to Barrel Racing Success” came out. Slow down your hot horse with my favorite barrel racing exercises.

I hadn’t been back in the barrel racing scene for very long and was restarting a TB that had a blown mind and developed bad habits, as well as recovering from a bowed tendon sustained in 2010 at a barrel race. Perfect timing, right?

Before reading Heather’s books, my time with a reining trainer had me doing rollbacks and “fencing” – loping my horse down the arena and making them stop at the arena fence.

So how do I slow down and refocus a hot horse?

Many would say just ride them until they are tired, but that doesn’t work and will actually make the situation/issue worse. I still use rollbacks to help get a horse engaging by changing up where the rollbacks occur, but I also mix it up on the pattern.

I will do some drills with the barrels, like the funnel drill, the four-barrel drill, and all rights or all lefts.

The top 5 exercises I use from Heather’s books are:

  1. Exercise 41 – Cool Your Heels (The First 51 Barrel Racing Exercises)
    1. Basically, if your horse can’t (or won’t) lope on a loose rein, you want to start winding your horse down into a smaller circle while maintaining the lope. Keep his feet moving and allow him to relax. If you feel him relaxing and able to maintain that speed broaden your circles. If he speeds up again, repeat the smaller circles. It’s easier to maintain a consistent lope on a large circle than it is to lope very small circles.
  2. Exercise 42 – Lengthen & Shorten
    1. It’s very similar to the exercise above but it takes advantage of the length of your arena, as well as uses circles.
  3. Exercise 48 – Come Back to Me
    1. This exercise uses lateral flex to your advantage. Do you have the ability to move your horse’s body around? Also, ask your horse to bend his entire body in response to your leg, yield the hindquarters, move his shoulders, counter arc, etc.
  4. Exercise 15 – Break it Down (The Next 50 Barrel Racing Tips)
  5. Exercise 18 – Mix it Up
    1. Change up how you set up your pattern
      1. Make it into a square
      2. Add a 4th barrel and make it a diamond shape
      3. Add 2 more barrels and make it a Christmas Tree

Now let’s talk briefly about why your horse could be “rushing” through the pattern or a “speedy Gonzalez” in the arena!

We need to check our horses for pain. We need to ask ourselves why our horses are rushing.

The five questions you need to ask yourself before implementing the above exercises:

  1. When was the last time I had my horse’s teeth done?
  2. Does my horse need to see a chiropractor and/or a massage therapist?
  3. Is my horse current with the farrier and is my farrier taking optimal care of my horse’s feet?
  4. Does my saddle fit my horse and myself correctly?
  5. Am I doing something to cause my horse to rush through “life”?

We need to make sure we have all the pieces to the puzzle in place to ensure we are doing all we can to improve ourselves and our horses. Check out the programs we offer to help you put the pieces together!

Need help with any of the above, email me at!

Chestnut horse reacting during equine massage session (5 of 6)


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