Do Barrel Racers Cross the Line into Abuse?

Barrel racing is a high speed event, and when speed is added to any activity the difficulty level increases as do the potential errors. Let’s also add to the mix the fact that it is a competition sport and involves money, and as demonstrated in Dressage, Jumping and Reining, to name a few competitive sports; money affects motivate. So, does that mean that Barrel Racing, fueled by speed and competitive cash, is subject to horse abuse the same as other sports?



  1. To use wrongly or improperly; misuse: abuse a privelege.
  2. To hurt or injure by maltreatment; ill-use.
  3. To assail with contemptuous, coarse, or insulting words; revile.


  1. Improper use or handling; misuse: abuse of authority.
  2. Physical maltreatment.
  3. An unjust or wrongful practice: a government that commits abuses against its citizens.
  4. Insulting or coarse language: verbal abuse.

I like to point out the definition of commonly used words from time to time to avoid confusion. It is easy to think that abuse involves merely the physical – as in beating a horse with the whip for example. The word abuse covers several meanings however and it seems that several of them apply in this instance.

Originally the subject of barrel racing came about from an anonymous comment to the effect of –

Barrel Racing aint abuse!!!!!!!!

My first thought was wondering if I had written off the cuff about barrel racing in the past? Nothing rang a bell though.

Look beyond the bucking, rearing, tripping and falling. I want you to watch what the RIDER is doing in each of these examples.

  • Continuing to add pressure when the horse is strongly refusing, resisting and otherwise protesting.
  • Overusing the legs which then requires them to overuse the reins which causes them to continue overusing the legs.
  • Their balance is placed in holding onto the horn of the saddle, pulling on the reins and squeezing with their legs.
  • Wearing spurs.

The first horse who makes it out of the arena, ends up backing, rearing and leaving without his rider – you can see the rider is pulling back on the reins while spurring the horse forward, a perfect recipe for rearing.

The overuse of the aids is overwhelming in the above video. On top of that none of the riders are in a balanced position so once the horse begins to protest more loudly the rider panics and uses MORE aids. In several who fall off while the horse is bucking they continue to spur the horse as they fall off because they are trying to hold themselves in the saddle with their legs, which further encourages the horse to buck more.

In contrast, the following video shows a quick and clean run with only significant leg pumps on the final sprint.

To add that finding a video where the rider was not overly exerting their power over the horse was exceedingly more difficult than finding videos of riders blatantly ignoring the needs of their horse’s well-being is not an understatement. This is not something unique to Barrel Racing though, the same occurs in the majority of competitive sports. Again the need to be better than other riders in your sport, to win the blue ribbon or the cash prize or the notoriety or to be the fastest is an effective blind-spot for riders no matter if they ride english or western.

// — The following added and updated January 16, 2011

I refer back to the third and fourth definition of Abuse above –

v. To assail with contemptuous, coarse, or insulting words; revile.


n. Insulting or coarse language: verbal abuse.

Certainly my mind begins to wonder about the amount of anger that a person must have to react in such a way about a simple opinion expressed – do they behave the same way with their horse when his opinion differs from theirs? And if they aren’t abusive in the practice of Barrel Racing they are in the least, and by the very definition of the word, abusive to other equestrians in their reactions.

by Erica Franz

I've been riding since I was 9, and in love with horses from the day I was born. Living in Washington with my husband Jason, 2 horses and our 4 dogs.


  1. Alexis says

    I have several friends who barrel race in high school rodeo and have tried it myself and any rider who gets good results does not use abuse to get them and trains regularly before competing to get the horse used to it. Often the horse is spooking at the crowds and the rider should be use their thighs to stay on not their calves which would result in givin mixed signals.

    • says

      I agree with your remark, “Often the horse is spooking at the crowds and the rider should be use their thighs to stay on not their calves which would result in givin mixed signals.” However, I have yet to see any real evidence of this in practice, in person or on video.

    • Beth Pettwy says

      I am of the belief that “Judge not and ye shall not be judged” – or don’t judge me till you have walked 100 miles in my boots !

  2. Tiany says

    It is ashame that your ignorance gives you a platform to stand on. To me, it looks more like the abuse is on the rider, not the horse. So if a NON barrel racer, were to loose their balance, do they too not instinctively balance on the only thing available? The reins? Your video of a horse slipping, due to WE HAVE NO IDEA, is far from abuse. Abuse is an intentional act. This video shows a very SOUR horse in the beginning (which I have seen WAY worse in the english hunter/jumpers) and then just regular riding gone wrong. ALL riding disciplines have this happen. So you pick videos of riders having mistakes?

    Unless you are a barrel racer, it is hard to understand the mechanics of the riders body. What we should do, and what we actually do are often not the same. Instinctive reflex overrides most all.

    While barrel racing, AS IN ALL GENRES, there is REAL abuse here and there. BUT to label barrel racing as abuse is so harmful, hurtful and wrong. We spend more time with our horses and money to make them as comfortable as they can be. Barrel racers are the nuttiest bunch out there and will go to all means to make their horses healthy and happy. Do I call this abuse? HECK NO. Maybe more horse owners take note and LIVE the discipline, not just partake in it.

    • Tiany says

      I would also like to add, Barrel Racing itself IS NOT ABUSE.
      It is also not a gun that kills nor the bullets in it. But the person holding the trigger.
      Just as a drug or medicine is not toxic, but the dose the consumer takes, is what sends them to the hospital for an overdose.

      And ignorance, the REAL definition of it, does not give you a leg to stand on, with the argument you presented.

    • says

      Hi Tiany,

      I understand you do barrel race, which means you likely find me attacking you personally (due to association). That is unfortunate as I am actually and honestly inviting readers (yourself included) to prove me wrong and show me proof that this is not the case. Please believe that I DO NOT ENJOY seeing horses being abused, and would much rather have a video in front of me demonstrating a horse and rider barrel racing in a manner that not harmful to the horse. My post is me describing the simple fact that in the 17+ years I have been (day in and day out) involved in horses I have never, once, seen anything come close.

      As to your claim of my ignorance..

      Ignorance (or witlessness) is a state of being uninformed. (lack of knowledge)

      Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something, which can include information, facts, descriptions, and/or skills acquired through experience or education. It can refer to the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. It can be implicit (as with practical skill or expertise) or explicit (as with the theoretical understanding of a subject); and it can be more or less formal or systematic.

      Essentially knowledge does not denote expertise, nor as you put it by living the discipline. Knowledge denotes some amount of information about a subject to be familiar with it. Therefore ignorance denotes a complete lack of information. That is not the case here.

      You are absolutely correct that Barrel Racing does not create abuse. Barrel Racers do, just as FEI Level Dressage riders are doing more and more of with Rollkur/hyperflexion. Do also keep in mind that a certain practice of behavior or treatment of animals can be harbored in a specific environment. Just as a bar does not encourage sobriety, neither does a high speed event whose sole purpose is to be the fastest in order to win money and notoriety (read ego-stroking) does not place humane treatment of the horse as the number one priority. That is just the nature of the beast.

      Certainly, if someone wants to barrel race for the sake of barrel racing and with no intention of being the fastest or competing or winning (i.e. without involving their ego) then they may be more apt to take the time to develop the horse and the question of placing the horse in a compromising situation is no longer an issue.

      Yes, there are issues in all disciplines in which people are competing. Does that mean that it is okay to injure the horse or put him at risk of abuse? Your argument tends to put it in that light though I doubt that is what you intended. The reason that a person will squeeze with their legs and pull on the reins when they lose their balance is a) because they allowed themselves to be put out of balance in the first place and b) they have not practiced enough how to be balanced in the saddle without the use of their legs or hands to assist them.

      I want to address point a) further. When I say that the rider has allowed themselves to be put out of balance I mean it in this way… the rider has chosen to get on the horse who may or may not be able to be ridden in a way that puts the rider’s balance at risk. The rider has chosen to enter their horse in this competition, which he may or may not be ready to handle. The rider has chosen to run a pattern at high speed, which may be at a speed greater than the horse is able to run without losing his footing. The rider has chosen to run a pattern at high speed, which they may not be capable of staying balanced at that speed.

      The rider has a choice in all of this, and that is why the responsibility falls on them. The horse is not loading himself in the trailer and entering himself in barrel racing competitions, running the barrels and dumping his rider without the input of his rider. Every single fall that occurs is, unfortunately for the ego, the fault of the rider in some way. Whether they pushed the horse too far, missed a signal the horse was trying to give him that things were going amiss or what have you. Do riders like to hear this? NO. The truth is not easy to swallow.

      I hold myself to these same principles with the horses I work and ride. When their safety is put as paramount, interestingly the safety of the rider tends to follow as well.

      In close, I still would enjoy seeing a video to prove to me that a barrel racer can run a competition without wailing on their horse, pulling on his mouth or grasping for dear life with leg and hand.


      • Michelle A says

        Horses fall all the time, whether they have a rider or not. Sometimes when horses are excited and playful they can buck and rear. if you are unfortunately sitting on them, when they decide to play, it can be accidental over correction to get them back on four feet, but that doesn’t just happen in barrel racing. It happens in ever single discipline and in every paddock. so please spare me your words on how you have spent 17 years in and out with horses, yet you know nothing of this playful excited mannerism whether under saddle or not? If you have never felt that emotion with a horse you are no rider! Please

        • barrelracing96 says

          I’m sorry but this is soooo biased!!!! Its also giving our sport a really frigin bad name!! These girl in the video are one specific grouo! Go have a look at the elete NFR girls and you’ll see it doesn’t happen there!! Excuse me language but this if eff bullshit!!! We spend years training our horses!!!!!! Go look at some decent videos and you’ll eat your words for sure! And on that statement I have videos of ,e barrel racing bareback and bridleless.. and what about when Marlene McRaes bridle fell off during a competition,, she wasn’t pullin on he’s mouth obviously!

        • says

          It is slightly disturbing that you think horses fall all the time? Or that a playful rear or buck with another horse in their pasture is the same as a rear or buck done out of fear or resistance. Children scream when they get excited playing together, and they also scream when they are in pain or scared – does that mean that those two screams are the same?

  3. sarah says

    I would just like to say that on average, us barrel racers take the BEST care of our horses. We are constantly looking for ways to improve ourselves and our horses. My horse gets a chiropractic adjustment every 6 months. He has his teeth floated yearly, and let me tell you…his feed and hay are #1 quality. Barrel racing is a high impact sport and to be honest with you its not really your place to crutilize if you know nothing about us. Do some research first and then we’ll talk. There’s always going to be the sloppy inexperienced rider…we were all there once. But, i can bet barrel racer will learn from those mistakes 10xs faster than the “average” rider.

    • says

      Re Chiropractic –

      Chiropractic : Does the Bad Outweigh the Good?
      Wikipedia Information

      I would not recommend you begin treating your horse with a therapy “just because” it is currently the popular health fad. There is a lot of damage that can be done with chiropractic adjustments, so I would recommend you do some reading up and weigh the value of chancing an injury to your horse by attempting to do good, for his sake. Massage can be a more rewarding choice as it can not only relax the muscles that are holding the bones out of place, it can result in self-chiropractic by relaxing those muscles. If you were to take a skeleton with no muscles attached the bones would simply collapse, all that holds them into place are muscles (via tendons) and ligaments (tendons with no muscle attached). You cannot massage a ligament into relaxing so it is the muscle tension that pulls bones out of alignment. If you do not address the muscles no matter how many times you call the chiro to fix your horse, you will always have to call him again. A vicious cycle.

      I would say that high quality feed, hay and regular teeth floating ought to be standard procedure in the care of a horse. I am not criticizing the care that is done in the barn or pasture, what I am addressing is the riding which to this point no one commenter who is poo pooing my post has chosen to counter with some video evidence to the contrary. I do still have that as an open invitation and will gladly add it to my post to argue the contrary. That had been my intention, unfortunately I was UNABLE to find a video highlighting anything but these same issues.

    • Devin says

      FYI to Erica, she’s not doing it just because…. Chiropractic work really helps barrel horses or any horses in general

      • Kathleen says

        If you excersise your horse correctly it can correct most issues better than a chirpractor’s methods.

        • Jolene says

          I don’t know about anyone else but I long trot my horses at least 10 laps each direction to help develop muscles. And I still need to have my horses chiro’d. My mare needs the chirp because of the way she turns, and there is no way I will be able to change it. She is a hard turning mare and I have built her up to where we can long trot at least two miles.

  4. Cory says

    The use of this video is for one thing only, to bash barrel racers and say how abusive they are. This is a video that is made up of nothing but accidents, gate sours horses, and falls. Where is the video clips of the horses who are well trained and riders who jockey quietly?!? Like any discipline there are the people out there who make good riders/trainers look bad. You have the trainers in the “racking” horse industry who sore the horses to MAKE them use dramatic gaits, western pleasure trainers who tie a horse’s head up to a beam for 3 days to destroy their neck muscles and MAKE them carry their heads low, and the jumping trainers who repeatedly throw poles up into a horse’s legs while jumping to MAKE them tuck their front legs close to their body. It happens in EVERY discipline! Just recently the Cutting Horse Association is requiring drug testing because so many young horses were being drugged to perform! Before that was brought to light, did you consider cutting horse riders to be abusive? If it wasn’t brought out in the open would you have known so many trainers were repeatedly abusing their horses with drugs? Giving them so many pain relievers to mask the pain JUST so they could compete? That’s abuse if you ask me. Yes I have seen some barrel racers abuse their horses at shows, it happens. Is it horrible? Yes! But not ALL barrel racers abuse their horses! Sometimes you don’t see what it really going on “behind the scenes” and sometimes what you see isn’t how it always is.

    The fact of the matter is you shouldn’t label people into one group or category when not every person fits into that category. Yes, I am a barrel racer. My horse gets better care than I do. I ride with quiet hands and a balanced seat. If she needs time off she gets it. I ALWAYS put her before myself. If we show up at a show and I think the ground is bad, we pack up and we head home because the chance of winning some money is NOT worth her getting hurt! After EVERY run, her legs are hosed down, rubbed with liniment, and wrapped. When we’re not running barrels, we are preparing at home for the moves she will have to make during a run. She work on our “flat work.” We do every gait in both directions and work on staying collected. We work on moving the shoulders, moving the rear end, moving the whole body. We work on counter arcs, roll backs, perfect circles, etc. We work on getting her soft and smooth. Before we work she gets properly warmed up and when we’re done she gets properly cooled down.

    I AM considerate of my horse when running barrels. I don’t kick the crap out of my horse when running, I cluck to her. Kicking shortens the stride. I make sure that when I’m asking for more speed I always have my hands up her neck to insure that I am not pulling on the reins and therefore NOT giving mixed signals. I do NOT pull my horse around the barrels, I use leg cues/aids and only guide with my hands. In all the pictures I have of me and my horse running barrels you will notice something, she always has one ear “cocked” back towards me because she is always listening for my ques. Many barrel racers are excellent riders who do ride with consideration to their horses. Before you judge barrel racers and lump them into a single group, and call us all “abusers,” take the time to watch videos of barrel racers who work as a team with their horse. THOSE horses, like my horse, LOVE their job! I trust my horse and I know she trusts me. If we take a fall at a show, my horse won’t get up until I get up so that she doesn’t step on me. My horse and I have a bond that has been built on love and trust. If it wasn’t, do you think she would resist her fight or flight instinct to simply keep from stepping on me?

    Many of the videos you find on youtube when you type in “barrel racing” are videos of bloopers or accidents. The horses in those videos that are refusing to enter the arena are clearly ones that no longer enjoy their job and when that happens it means the horse needs a break from that job OR a new job all together! Not all barrel racers are bad riders/trainers. Not all barrel racers abuse their horses. The problem is, like with any discipline, there are always the ones out there who give the good riders/trainers a bad name.

    • says


      I did not make the video, merely posted it. I was completely unable to find a video demonstrating the opposite – it was my hope to post both sides of the coin but I wasn’t able to do so. Please see my other comment responses to see that I would LOVE to have someone point me to a video showing a competition run demonstrating kind and fair riding. The video I chose was merely to demonstrate multiple issues that show up instead of posting several separate videos.
      I do post about other disciplines, and in my draft’s folder there is one highlighting a certain trainer who is facing some controversy in Sweden at the moment over his reining debacle. I do not pick and choose disciplines specifically, as I said I generally skate over the thought of most of them in my day-to-day simply because it is such a myriad of abuses when competition is involved.
      Before the drugging scandal in the Cutting Horse Association? Actually before that I considered many trainers and riders in that discipline abusive not because they were drugging their horses but because they were abusive when riding and training them – based on my own observations and experience. Same as the racking horse industry – I see abuse in the form of soring, in the way they train with chains and rubber pulleys, and in the way that they ride.
      Your description of preparing, training and riding sound picture perfect. Would you care to share a video? I would love to highlight a barrel racer who is doing the right thing as a positive example.


      • Jen says

        If you would like to see a video of someone doing it ‘right’, go to YouTube and search for any video of Sherry Cervi. I apologize for not including a link, but I am writing from my iPad and am not entirely sure how to link it to your blog. If you find Sherry’s riding to be abusive or disrespectful, I do not know what else to reply with. She is a very accomplished horsewoman who competes in other disciplines as well and always has amazing horses that perform exceptionally.

        There are many other pros as well as countless non pros who can show you a clean, fast barrel run on happy, well adjusted horses. You should probably be asking someone for a personal copy of their run, rather than searching the internet. I’m sure you can agree that wrecks and stupidity sell far more than anything else. Why would it be any different with clips posted about barrel racing? I’m sure it is a lot easier to find bad examples than good.

        • says


          I searched for videos of Sherry Cervi. I watched two – one of her demonstrating practice and another of her competing. I could not immediately discern the purpose of her actions in practice. I would not necessarily expect a barrel racer to use such extreme aids as seen in competiton – because they are not moving at high speed the same as they are when the clock is running. I saw a horse who is extraordinarily quick to move forward, requires the combination of a strong bit and tie-down in order for her to control the horse’s movement forward. I also see a rider with slightly more tact than those in the video clips shown in my post.

          In the competition run of Sherry Cervi I still saw an extreme use of the legs (flying off the sides of the horse wildly to gain speed up to and coming out of the turns). Her balance in the saddle is improved over many of the accidents in the video clips above. She also pulls back with an extraordinary amount of force to stop her horse at the finish. I do understand that this is often thanks to the set up of the competition arena and the space allowed when exiting the arena – but perhaps if the horse were a priority there would be a push for a longer exit area to slow and stop the horse without having to pull them up hard and fast.

          I’ll respond in line with your first comment as well here. To the statement of barrel racers being willing to spend more $ on their horse (“comfort items, vet care, alternative care, shoeing and feed”), that is unfair to say. The cost of care is not equally comparable to the quality. There is an impression in society that more expensive always equals more quality, which is not the case. A persons willingness to invest money also does not mean that they emotionally care for their animal to any greater degree, but may in some cases mean that animal is expected to return that financial investment in the long run. In animals it is often through stud fees or competition winnings.

          That you did not see any abuse in the video above… the only thought that comes to my mind is that perhaps it is because you ride in such a fashion and unconscious of it. It is generally observed that people involved in a certain activity will not see any harm in that activity even if it is blatantly obvious. Take a look at cult members’ dialogue (i.e. Manson), the Nazi concentration camps (where people were regularly starved, tortured, experimented on, humiliated, killed and so on). Those are extreme examples, but they should give you the idea.

          Crops are not abusive. Neither are spurs, electric prods, ropes. The person attached to them however… though what you are arguing for exactly in your remark about crops is unclear.

          fyi, It was not stated that I have NEVER run barrels. What I did say is that I do not participate in that activity (stated in the present). Have I run barrels before? Yes. Have I done other gymkhana patterns, yes. When I was young (read teenager) and it was the thing to do per my instructor who threw me and all of her students into a myriad of activities. I believe that a horse displaying resistance by rearing, bucking, bolting, etc or being put in a position of such imbalance that they actually fall – no matter what sport it is – to be a gross misjudgement on the rider’s part of the horse’s ability, comfort level and the rider’s understanding/skill of communication. I feel this way about ALL equestrian sports no matter if they are english or western, open shows or international level. It is the horse attempting to communicate to the rider that which the rider has refused to listen to on reasonable terms.

          • Jolene says

            Actually the video that you use as a demonstration of a “quiet run” with minimal aid is of Sheri Cervi, In the sport of barrel racing the proper use of a tie- down is to help the horse balance in their turns. And there is no way that you have not been able to find barrel runs that don’t use extreme kicking. And the exercises that Sheri uses are designed to help our horses learn to gather themselves at a high rate of speed. A lot of the training that we do has a dressage/reining emphasis. You must be one of those bleeding hearts that thinks that anything besides a snaffle bit is harsh. And to address another point you made about horses falling, that is 9 times out of ten from bad ground and horses that have to much heart that don’t want to fail their rider, and will run hard anyways.

          • Emmalynn says

            I think after reading a few of your articles that you simply think that all disciplines are abusive. I would LOVE FOR YOU to start making a different type of article about all the good things that come with certain horse methods. It would be a wonderful change. Your an excellent writer but when writing an augmentative article you should include BOTH sides of the story. There is no way you “couldn’t” find a video demonstrating good barrel racing, or non abusive.
            I Will say that I do agree with you on the kicking, spurring, and whipping. I know there are better ways of gaining speed on a horse than that and I see where your getting at there. also mixed signals usually come from inexperienced riders. This can be a problem but not every single on of those barrel racers does those things.

            If I said “that all writers are depressed and alone” then im saying all writers are depressed and alone so that means that You are, I am , and every other writer including children’s writers, that make simple stories of happy bunnies.

            so I guess what I am concluding is that you should have made the title of the article. ‘Could some barrel racing be crossing the line into abuse?”

  5. Ashley says

    As I read your post and in realizing it is only one persons opinion, I then went and read more of your blog. What did I glean from your incessant griping about other riders methods??? Nothing at all. You must truly have a very high opinion of yourself! Who are you and what have you done? Yes, I am a barrel racer but I also spent years under the tutelage of some well regarded dressage, Reining, cutting, and jumper trainers. Oh but wait! You are probably one of those people who believe the beauty of the horse is in viewing it and that the animal should never be harnessed, saddled, or otherwise confined. Congratulations on your opinion of s my dear. They will be so respected but make you look like no more then a horses behind and on saying that I feel bad for the poor horse.

    • says

      Actually –

      18 years with horses, in that time :
      All of it hard labor (mucking stalls, grooming countless horses, cleaning everything from water buckets to manure from the fields, fixing and putting up fences, building buildings, so on and so forth)
      5 Years Manage/Operate successful breeding farm (managing, training, competing & marketing the stallion, mare care, breeding and foaling, sales, inspections/breed approvals, etc)
      Sport-horse Liaison for the International Curly Horse Organization in 2002.
      4 Years requested Ask A Horse trainer for (at the time) largest online Gaited Horse community (2000-2004)
      Competed successfully in open and national level breed shows from 2001-2005, stopped competing as I found no purpose to it any longer.
      Licensed in Therapeutic Massage (2005)
      Certified in NeuroMuscular Therapy (2007)
      Rehabbing lame horses (farriery) since 2002.
      Internship for French Classical Dressage from 2005-2006.
      Set up quarantine facility for export to Norway (2007 if I remember correctly, may have been the tail end of 2006).
      Wrote “Centered Self, Centered Horse” which was published in 2008 – you can find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, most international booksellers online and so forth.
      Released single issue of Haute To Trot Magazine, promoting horse art and therapeutic horse riding facilities. November 2009.
      I’ve also spent countless years doing breed demonstrations (when I was still more heavily involved in promoting/marketing), riding demos, etc etc.
      Currently I’m studying art and aiming for a BFA.
      May have forgotten something in there, my memory is fuzzy at this hour of the night after a full day of classes.

      I am not a fan of name dropping, personally I find it distasteful as if you are riding on the coattails of other peoples’ accomplishments because they have a well recognized name. I prefer that people do by example, which is why I encourage anyone who disagrees with my post to counter it with a video highlighting a positive barrel racing competition run.


      Oh, and I have nothing against saddling, harnessing or otherwise being involved with the horse. I just believe that there is a greater value in doing it in a manner that is respectful to the horse by not hanging onto their mouths, grabbing (and accidentally spurring) their sides with our legs, or by asking them to do things which directly put them at risk of injury or abuse.

      • Lori says

        Well not spurring them just about whipped out all diciplines in riding cuz every dicipline uses spurs..not just barrel racing.

  6. Dee says

    “I….rarely force myself to sit thru and watch them”. So you don’t want to take the time to find good videos…just pick a few bad examples then state your opinion. Typical of internet garbage! Abuse and ignorance can be found in all disciplines.

    • says

      Reread it without so much ire – I do not force myself to watch them through to COMPLETION. I do not enjoy watching horses being ridden in a way that is harsh. I searched for videos of good riding in barrel racing runs and after several hours I could not locate a single one.


      • Lori says

        I dont see how it was SO hard to find one when in 5 short minutes I was able to pull up hundreds of clips with no abuse involved haha thats strange.

      • Beth says

        So, your opinion strickly revolves around what u have seen on tv?? Why don’t u go to a Sheri or Charmayne clinic and maybe you will be better equipped to judge this sport?

    • Lori says

      SOOO true she deff just picked out a few vids entitled abuse or accidents and probablly watched a few seconds of it because as she said she had to force herself to do so. She is the one here with an unbalanced argument if she can only find the bad in barrel racing while I could give her hundreds of runs to prove her wrong.

      • McKenzie says

        Your right there was no abuse at all it was the fact of the horse rearing and buck no abuse at all if you look up on YouTube the exact video comes up barrel racing ACCIDENTS not barrel racing abuse its not barrel racing that’s abusive its the rider

  7. Anonymous says

    As in any sport where there are humans and animals involved you will always be able to find someone who takes it too far, we all wish it was not true but it is. Some of the videos you posted with the horses falling, they are falling because of bad ground you can see the ground break from underneath the horse’s feet, which is not something the rider has any control over, that is a management issue. Like the 3rd video the rider needs to ride…4th video the ground gives way and the horse goes down not because of anything else…The 5th video horse needs to be broke, it is clear that it is not…6th video rider needs to sit the saddle…7th video the horse needs to get a new job it is clear it is over this one…10th video again it is the ground…The last video again is the ground.

    • Anonymous says

      your ignorance is amazing – you have no clue about horses or their personalities…are all people the same, no! There are some that are hyper, some that are quiet, and everywhere in between. People that barrel race & have horses they depend on will go to the end of the earth to make sure they are properly cared for. Go do some reading about horses & how they are before you start accuse people of abuse in an area you know nothing about!

      • Shegundala says

        Do you actually expect anyone to read a post with a hook line of “Your ignorance is amazing?” And, if you support barrel racing, you may want to do some research into hoof biomechanics. You might just find out how “amazing” you yourself are.

  8. says

    Let me, a lady who has never barrel raced in my life, go out on a limb. I want to make a challenge to all. (And so as not to be a hypocrite or a fool, I will take this challenge and do what it says.) What if all barrel racers rode with their eyes closed. Put portable radios on the barrels so that the riders know where the barrels are. Then have your barrel race, riding blind folded with only the music coming from the barrels as a guide. That would be real horsemanship. It would be a very interesting barrel race that would have less speed, more skill and less drama but more deep emotion.
    Penny Johnson
    Bonners Ferry, Idaho

    • says

      Love this idea – and I will accept your challenge. I will be out of town over the weekend and possibly swamped in classes until mid-week but I can solidly predict a coming video by next weekend… :)

    • Lori says

      uuuh noo that doesnt prove horsemanship at all. and coming from an ignorant lady who has never barrel raced you wouldnt know that the horses actually trained correctly would be able to do the pattern at full speed with the riders eyes closed practically by themselves because they are trained that long and well. there are plently of videos showing how if the rider gets thrown…not due to abuse then the horse will still complete the pattern because it knows it thst well. even with the rider gone the horse knows what it has to do and still wants to do it and THAT is real horsemanship.

      • denise says

        Ericsson k frei, I looked you up on youtube,you appear to be an average rider with an average horse,explains your critiques,look at your videos and take an honest look at yourself!!!!! You were kind of dogging sherry cervi,I d like to see sherry on your horse and you on hers,putting barrelracers down isn’t going to improve your riding ,try to work on yourself and not worry what everyone else is doing,did you do well while showing I noticed you said you only showed five years,you must have figured everything out in that breif period of time!!!!! Cheers

  9. Jen says

    I have a few issues with your comments. If you watch truly competitive barrel racers (the ones you say are only concerned with winning at any cost), you will see them taking horses slowly through patterns to train them. If a horse makes an error, they will generally slow them down mid pattern to correct the issue. Most barrel racers know that if you have pattern issues when you speed up, you slow them back down and correct the problem. Does that sound like abuse? No, that is training.

    I can also say that the barrel racers I know are willing to spend more time and money on comfort items, vet care, alternative care, shoeing and feed than most horse owners.

    As far as your video, I can honestly say that I did not see any abuse at all. You have found examples of horses that needed more training, horses and riders who are too excited before coming into the arena, and horses slipping either due to misstepping or bad ground. They horses who were rearing before running in or bucking once they came around the first barrel are too wound up. They have not necessarily been abused or forced to do a job they do not like.

    None of your clips have shown a single person even pull out a crop, which is a common tool and also not abusive. Yes, Im sure there are some instances of abuse (as there are whenever humans and animals are working together), but I would say those cases are more the exception than the rule.

    Just for information purposes, I do run barrels, but I have also ridden jumpers, roped, moved cows and done pretty much every imaginable horse sport there is. I have been on seasoned horses from many different disciplines, ranch broke horses, green colts and I have started and trained more than a few myself. I find your attack on one group of individuals to be a bit narrow-minded. If you are writing this article in the interest of the horses’ well being, why not highlight ALL equine abusers, rather than targeting one cross section of the horse industry? Your statements come across as an attack made based on a lack of knowledge about horse behaviors and the circumstances surrounding events that occur in a particular sport.

    My question to all of you who think barrel racers are abusive is this-do you think all horse sports are abusive? You can find horses refusing, rearing, bucking, falling and generally misbehaving in any horse discipline. What exactly are you trying to accomplish by attacking a whole group of people for the wrongs of a few? What is your goal?

  10. Pat says

    Hi Erica,

    I just discovered your blog. Thank you for bringing these insights on abuse to the attention of internet readers. You will get a lot of bashing at first but just keep putting the truth out there. i also have tons of pictures and video from a famous rodeo show barn in central oregon that is one of the most abusive places that I have ever seen.
    Riders get away with this because horse’s don’t yelp in pain like a dog. They suffer in silence.

    Thank you for your work,

    • Lori says

      Yes some people are abusive in their practices and I DO NOT approve of any of this happening to horses who clearly do not deserve it but you can not control everyones actions as you cannot speak on behalf of all barrel racers and equestrians in general saying their all abusive.

    • says

      Pat, my apologies in having overlooked your comment. Thank you for the supportive words – too few choose to speak up and say something when they know what they are watching is wrong, time to turn that around.


      • denise says

        You do insult all barrelracers with very good grammar,I gather from reading this blog you have know idea how insulting you are!!!!! You got such a strong reaction because you were insulting me and my fellow barreracers and it goes way over your head,why don’t you blog about yourself???? Not much going on??

        • says

          I believe strongly in the idea that a person cannot be insulted unless they have something to feel insulted about to begin with – also falls in line with taking responsibility for your own feelings and emotional reactions to a certain situation. For any situation in life we can either be a victim, i.e. someone else has done something to injure us be it an insult or what have you; or we can choose to not be a victim and instead take responsibility for why we may be feeling a certain way under such conditions.

          As an individual I cannot be responsible for the feelings and emotions of every person I encounter in my life – the only one I can be responsible for is myself and so I choose to expend all my energy in that direction rather than worrying I’ve stepped on a toe. The year is 2012 and I live in America – which for now still has the constitutional rule of free speech. If you are feeling offended by something I have written or said then perhaps it is because you already find some truth in what I’ve said? If it is not true then why should it be of any concern to you?


          • Lori says

            Okay 1st f all schwung, the fact that you think the only talent barrel racers have is to abuse their horse, and hang on is complete bull shit. I’d like to see you train a horse at that level that’s worth morethan your life will ever be. And you try staying on. You have to be incredibly balanced and taltented in multiple ways, they do what you can’t. Your just talking about what you have no knowledge about and you can’t even do it yourself so you have no room to talk. They do not abuse their horses. There are some girls who use harsh tack and whip their horse like crazy but those are the girls wh are more concerned about winning which is kinda the point. The whips arent even that bad. and honestly going that fast you barely even hit your horse with what half the time is a thin peice of rope. About the tie down, it is used so the horse does not go faster than needed when turning the barrels and desnt fly his head up. The alley issues you talked about are typical for abarrel horse. Their naturally hot horses, it’s only excitment their showing because they know their about to run the arrels. This whole topic is just unnecessary and wrong. There is abuse in everythin, maybey you should go pick at horse racing or animal abuse in general/ slaughter, child abuse, whatever else but not this, becauserunning your mouth about your ignorant opinion will not change the fact that barrel racing will never stop.

          • says

            Lori –

            I understand that you have an opposing opinion to the previous comment, and that you have felt it justifiable to attempt belittling me with remarks on par with that of a school yard bully – but I do take issue with you doing the same to other people commenting on my blog.

            If you feel you have a valid opinion there should be no need to make threats and comments such as “I’d like to see you train a horse at that level that’s worth more than your life will ever be.” It is total nonsense for you to behave this way. We are all adults, and I have left many of you free rein to comment as you please, which has resulted in your proving you lack any manners or common consideration for other people.

            People behave similarly with their horses as they do with one another, and if you are quick to be this abusive with your words towards people you do not know, I can only imagine the way you behave with your horses who you feel comfortable to treat any way you like.

            For that reason I’m putting you on moderated commenting status. Consider this blacklisting of your inability to behave like an adult.

            Erica K. Frei
            Blog Owner

  11. SV says

    Dear Erica ‘K.’ Frei

    Wow. It it is quite humourous, to see someone write that about barrel racing, yet be a dressage advocate.
    There is abuse, idiots, and corner-cutters in every discipline. They will force the animal, and might even win once or twice. It all catches up to them. Refusal to enter arenas, refusal to jump, running the rail, refusal to flex and bend,..all evasion tactics from poor/lack of traning.
    People who use good tactics are at the cream of the competitive crop, and stay there for a long time.
    Look up Martha Josey, Charmayne James, Sherry Cervi.
    Though you probably have no understanding of channeled impulse, outside of a double bridle.
    The other thing to note, is that Barrel Racing will attract ignorant abuse, …initially. People who think it is a easy sport.3 barrels and running, no biggie, right ? Wrong. Those people don’t tend to last beyond a season or two.

    Where as, dressage attracts overly serious competitors. The abuse becomes more evident, the longer someone is in the sport. The desire to win, gets confused with the desire to truly improve. Form to function gets forgotten and horses breakdown physically, at a very high rate.
    Please learn your sports psychology, before you create a generalized, sweeping condemnation of a sport. Especially, when you then sit back, and try to blink innocently. A picture is worth a thousand words, your title and chosen picture as a reference is very telling.

    It is not on us, to prove you wrong, it is on YOU to be a well-rounded horseperson and know better.

    I am adding a video clip so that other people reading this crap, don’t truly believe it.

    Here is a nice Sherry Cervi run. In it,..her hands stay relaxed and her body stays relaxed as she waits to enter the ring. The horses ears are perked forward, paying attention to whats ahead. The horse is excited, yet she stays relaxed. As she enters, her legs are not ‘pumping’ the sides of the horse. she is allowing the horse to focus.

    She neck reins the turn, and releases so her horse can extend the neck, and come off the barrel. Ditto barrel # 2.

    She runs for third, staying with her horse.

    Off the back side, she pumps from her calves, not her heels, to push the horse to grab more ground. She quirts her horse on the shoulder, NOT the hind end, so as not to lean back, and throw the animal off balance. It is as much of a cue, as any other riding aid. It is definitely not done hard, or with punishment.

    Any good barrel racer worth their salt, knows that to create pain, takes the horses attention off the job at hand, and creates slower times.

    • says

      Is there supposed to be some kind of tone to be read into your adding quotation marks around my middle initial? I’m not entirely certain your inference of my picture and “title”? From a poster who signs off as a show judge and multi-discipline competitor but not brave enough to leave a name.

      To the contrary, if you spend some time on my blog you will find immediately that I am not an advocate of Dressage – at least not in the competition arena. In general I am not a fan of competition period, I find that it pushes the motives of riders away from the best interests of the horse and towards winning and prizes. And some irony in your comparison of how “overly serious” dressage riders are, when this post towards barrel racing has raised more ire than any of my posts about the abusive habits of dressage riders.

      I watched the video, again looking forward (and in complete seriousness) to seeing an example of a rider who is not overusing their aids. Sherry Cervi’s hands were more quiet in the video than in others I have watched, kudos to her. During the pattern run she replaced high flying legs with heels that were dug into her horses’ sides the entire time, no doubt with spurs embedded. Once she rounded the third barrel those immovable legs switched to the side bangers usually seen. Her horse was in no way calm and instead quite restless waiting before the run. One could argue that it was in anticipation for the run, I would say more in anticipation of the heels that would be dug into his sides. When horses are ridden this way they come to expect to be ridden this way and it clearly shows.

      Yes, abuse abounds in all disciplines – is this your argument against me in defense of barrel racing? It is okay to ride the horse in this manner because everyone is doing it in some way? Not a very convincing argument.

      What exactly should I know better than to do? That I should be against treating horses as a vehicle to competitive success and nothing more makes me somehow an un-rounded person seems shortsighted. It also seems an argument that many make when they don’t have any other strong argument.


      • Devin says

        My horse jumps and dances around in the alleyway in anticpation of the run. I have never kicked him to first barrel when I’m halfway down the alleyway I loosen the reins and just let him fly. That’s what you’re not getting. Most Barrel horses are excited to run. Every horse at my jackpot does something in the alleyway cause they know the difference between practice and going in there and making it count. At first you were saying we harm then by kicking to much and pumping our legs. And then just now you were saying that when we don’t kick we’re harming our horses? I hope you know there’s a way to ride w/o your spurs constantly digging into our horses. Most people learn to ride like that w/o spurs and then when they get that down ride w/ spurs. I honestly think you just hate barrel racing. Everytime someone comments and gives you a good video of a horse not being yanked etc. you find SOMETHING wrong with it. So I don’t believe you when you say I tried to find a video to counter all the bad things blah blah blah. There’s plenty out there. If you’re in Texas I seriously suggest you come to Magnolia Community Horse Club and watch me and some of my friends ride. We don’t yank our horses around the barrel, we either don’t ride with spurs or we learned how to ride where their not digging into the barrels, ALL of me and my friends horses dance around in the alleyway, but none of us kick them down the alleyway. Then tell me to my face you don’t have a compelling arguement.

        • McKenzie says

          That is true my horse does the same thing he is so excited he can’t help his self and again its the rider’that’s abusive not barrel racing

  12. SS says

    I`d also like to mention, that barrel racing is as guilty of ‘fads’ as any other riding sport. I am definitely not shirking responsibility of improving the sport.

    Much like Rolkur, or Western Pleasure with the peanut-rolling frame problems, Reining with its sliding problems, 5 -gaited horses with their soring, and jumpers with its training issues, Barrel racing will experience its crappy fads.

    I merely object to someone who should know better, singling it out, and playing stupid.

    – show judge, and multi-discipline competitor.

  13. Kenzie says

    I would like to bring out the fact that a careful and knowledgeable barrel racer knows when too much it too much. Barrel horses love to run and sometimes we need a little more control to ensure they aren’t going to run off with us. If you watch a pro barrel racing event you will see the riders that like to use the spurs and the ones who don’t. If you want to call barrel racing abuse, you may as well call some english events abuse as well. My sister has started english and I was shocked at the girth-a leather girth!?!? How on earth is that comfortable for the horse? My western saddle, my bridle and all of my equipment and techniques are watched closely to ensure that me and my horse are safe. I was really angered at your thought that this is abuse…I think you need to look elsewhere for equine abuse.

    • says

      I agree, that a careful and knowledgeable rider of any discipline knows when too much is too much – but I am not sure how that then fuels an argument of yours that it must mean every barrel racer is careful and knowledgeable? Any horse being spurred and whipped, yanked in the mouth and pulled off balance will have a penchant for running – do not mistake that with enjoyment or love of running barrels. If the horse is running off with you then stepping back and finding out what it is that you are doing as a rider to cause the horse to behave like that is a responsible reaction – loading the horse down with more severe equipment is like putting a band-aid on a severed artery.

      I am not entirely certain why your shock over a leather girth? I’d be interested in hearing that one.

      And as I have said before, every discipline has abuse issues – take a look through my blog and you will see that barrel racing is not the only sport where I have commented about these issues.

    • Baylen Jaxs says

      Okay I read where you said, that “Chiros do more bad then good” Now how is that true?

      Horses are somewhat like people, every animal tends to pop bones out of place just like us. My mare and I went through a really BAD spell. She had thrown me 3 times and had many bucking fits. The last time she threw me I almost had to go to the hospital. Now your asking yourself why right? Well, I had the vet out I did everything I could changed the saddle pad the bit got her teeth done, anything I could think of. One of my friends recommend a Chiropractor for me, come to find out she had a kink in her neck the size of a golf ball that was causing her SEVER pain, as was a pinched nerve in her withers. That is why she threw me those three times. This was last year in about July, I had to have the chiro out 3 times to get her neck popped back into place naturally, she didn’t force it she massaged and played with it till it went back in. My mare has been better then ever before, no more bucking or aggressiveness. I didn’t cause that pinched nerve OR that kink in her neck. She got it out in the pasture playing around with her pal. ANY animal with bones can pop something out of place, is it always are fault? NO. I take WONDERFUL care of my mare, I would do anything for her. I have never hurt her, I have given her love an attention, she’s pretty much spoiled if you ask me.

      So am I supposed to stop riding because my mare could pop something out or? I can understand Chiros with mallets how it can do more harm then good. But how is my mare being out of pain BECAUSE of the chiro treatment more harm then good?

      • says

        I am glad to hear that you found one of the less common chiros who know not to forcefully realign bones – they are out there and indeed beneficial. The larger group, just as in human chiros, are not trained to influence the muscles that are actually holding those bones out of place to begin with. There are cases where bones come out of alignment without the use of a muscle, say in an impact or other injury, but what will continue to hold them there are the muscles.

        Interesting tidbit – I don’t remember the name of the video, it was shown in one of my AP (Anatomy & Physiology) classes – but it demonstrated that a cadaver with severe scoliosis (and I do mean severe) that had been diagnosed with the person was alive as being fused at the joints – meaning that no amount of chiro or muscle/body work would ever help this person’s back. Once the cadaver had been stripped of every muscle attached to the spine, and the ligaments remained (tendons attach muscles to bone, ligaments connect bone to bone), one of the people working on the cadaver picked it up at the topmost vertebrae and like magic the spine realigned itself completely straight with the help of only gravity. There were calcium deposits on the sections of vertebrae, but none of them were keeping the spine locked in that curvature.

        What I’m getting at is that often overlooked are the muscles which actually affect our posture and the position of the bones.


        (p.s. I’m glad your horse is feeling better! I would hold tightly onto that woman, I had a wonderful accupressurist who was trained as a chiro – used only massage and gentle pressure as you mentioned and was worth her weight in gold.)

  14. Devin says

    Okay. This is complete crap. Your video is called barrel racing bloopers on youtube. Out of 200+ riders at the jackpots that I ride in maybe 2 fall off and myb like half the horses have alley issues. Some horses dance around before they take off. You just got bloopers of saddles being too loose, horses having a bad day, and riders falling off, etc. Cause for your info you don’t know who has spurs and who doesn’t. I don’t use a whip, I don’t use spurs, and I don’t yank my horse around the barrel. I lift my hand and let him turn it the way he wants. And if you don’t do any of this and know nothing about how would you know what the posture for a barrel racer is? Just wondering. And your comment about barrel horses not being trained is complete SHIT! You don’t know what it takes to train a barrel horse. I have helped train like 3 and it is a lot of work. They ARE NOT built just for speed. Another thing if no matter what EQUESTRIAN SPORT you’re in if you’re about to fall off you’re gonna try and hold on, and at that moment you don’t care if you spurs on or not.

  15. ECruse says

    I don’t really want to argue, I’m always interested in how outsiders view my event. But I had a question for you as I was reading one of your responses about Sherry Cervi’s riding and her horse’s behavior before she began her run. You said that you thought that the horse’s behavior was probably due more to anticipating being spurred and abused in the run and I respect that that is your interpretation of that. However, as someone that has all my time around running horses (and I saw that your areas of expertise are centered around more of the slower, intricate sort of riding) I just wanted to tell you that majority of barrelhorses are racebred horses and as such are naturally hotter horses, more inclined to want to run. This contributes to the crazy behavior, these are people that have not attempted to reassure these horses, or didn’t know to. However, the antsy prancing behavior of Stingray (Sherry’s horse in the run) is the same behavior displayed by my barrelhorse running and playing in the pasture- she runs around, gets hot and sweaty, then prances around, neck arched and wide eyed at everything. This is a natural thing for these type of horses.

    I understand that for the most part you will continue to have this sort of opinion of barrelracing because you do not fully understand some of the things we do and why we do them and thus don’t approve, but I respect your opinion and your knowledge or horses in your areas of expertise, and will continue on with my life and barrelracing because I love it, and my horses love it and me and want to please me.

    Have a wonderful day!

  16. Devin says

    I would also like to add. Yes I agree that people try to go fast so they kick. THAT’S THE POINT! Barrel racing is a SPEED event. If everyone just let their horse lope and not run it wouldn’t be called barrel racing it would be called Western Pleasure with cans. You’re not gonna find a video where the person isn’t kicking. Yes you have to stop before you run out of alleyway too. Sherri Cervi’s horse, Stingray has a lot of speed and a lot of power. So it takes more to stop him. Another amazing barrel racer to check out is Lindsay Sears ( Lindsay even said in an interview once that’s she’s never had to pull Martha around a barrel. That’s just the way she turns. Another thing. Videos of lessons or practices aren’t going to be as fast that’s why their practice. The main thing that mad me mad is that you said our horses have very little training. Everytime we go around a barrel and it’s not a Race it’s conditioning – it’s training.

  17. Andrea Fleming says

    You are a complete Moron to barrel racing!
    You posted about barrel racers like we are animal abusers….FALSE! Our horses love us, and their jobs! You watched a few videos, and think you’re now an expert? Horses sometimes fall…that’s what happens. Do you honestly think a horse doesn’t slip and fall in a pasture or in the wild playing from time to time? That shows you’re ignorance!
    Yes, some people will force a horse in the arena cause they either don’t care, or don’t understand what can make a horse refuse the pattern….pain, soreness, someone that always makes the horse run the pattern and never slow working it, etc.. Sometimes it’s a pain issue that we don’t know about until the horse shows us somehow…sometimes that’s acting up and refusing the gate. Then, people like me don’t run. We take our horses straight to the vet, and spends hundreds, or Thousands, of dollars trying to find out what’s wrong, and fix it. Then the horse goes right back to running perfectly again.
    I’ve been a trainer for years, and a competitor since I was a small child. It’s people that don’t understand how to understand a horse, don’t care, and Morons like YOU that don’t know the facts, or understand the sport that gives barrel racers a bad name. 90% us take better care of our horses than we do ourselves. We spend more money on our horses, their feed, vet bills, farrier bills, supplements, etc. than we do ourselves, and will do without so our horses have everything they need to stay healthy and happy. We spend countless hours in our barns with them wrapping legs, providing general care, or taking care of a sick horse before we take care of ourselves. At my house my horses eat, get blankets in winter, and tucked into their stalls before I cook for myself. We don’t take days off for bad weather…Rain or shine, Cold or hot… our horses are taken care of, stalls cleaned, and horses made happy.
    As far as aids…yes we use them. When used correctly they are not abusive. You claim we are kicking our horses too hard? Please…We are nothing compared to how they kick themselves. A tie down isn’t abusive either. It simply keeps a horse’s head down when needed instead of in your face. Yes, we use our horn, and weight in the stirrups to stay balanced. It helps the horse stay balanced in the turns at such a high rate of speed. Just because a horse falls doesn’t mean it was our fault, or that we weren’t balanced. Sometimes horses fall! The grounds gives way, or they take a bad step. Do you mean you have never stepped wrong and fell, or slipped?
    A few bad apples in the event, and your uneducated self will run with it like we are all that way. Get A Clue before you accuse us all like you have! Our horses love us, and we love them. My horses see me in my yard, and run for the fence hollering for me to come see them, beg for me to get them out, and love their jobs. Most barrel horses, and mine included, are not happy to just sit in a pasture. My mare that’s retired completely pouts when I don’t load her with the others to go to a race. I will mend holes in my clothes instead of buying new ones just so I can afford my horse a new winter blanket. They come first! But, then a complete uneducated twit like you comes along, and makes people like me out to be a monster.
    Not everyone uses a harsh bit, or cranks on a horse’s face. Mine turn most of the time with the inside rein flapping loose with slack in it. They turn more off my feet ques than anything. Mine will run with very little, if any, pressure from a rein….at a very high rate of speed.
    I take you have never seen Charmayne James’ run at the NFR in the 80’s when she won the round, but did it with no reins or a headstall cause it broke in the beginning of her run in the alley?
    Yes, she was kicking him, but she wasn’t beating him to perform. He wanted to! She wasn’t “making” him compete. He loved to do it. She couldn’t stop him if she wanted to..she had no reins, and once he seen that alley he wanted to go. She wasn’t jerking him in the face…She had no headstall. That horse loved to compete! He won the NFR Rodeo 10 times in his career!
    When you get learn our sport, learn the people involved, and learn how much we DO CARE for our horses, and put them first over ourselves…you can have an opinion….Until then….Get a Clue, and find something productive to do with your time instead of being a Waste of Space & Air griping on the internet making us look bad.

    You can shove your “handy dandy anonymous information collector” where the sun don’t shine. I have no problem telling you who I am. You gripped above about people not giving a name…Then give your own Full name.

    • says

      Thank you for the good laugh Andrea. My full name is actually right at the bottom of the post – just like it is on the bottom of every post on my blog. I take no issue with presenting my full name.

      I will reiterate again that I find it of interest that you attempt to prove the complete lack of abuse in barrel racing by saying that you blanket, feed the best supplements, train constantly and then neglect your own needs for the sake of your horse’s – without addressing the overuse of spurs, yanking on the bit and excessive whipping. In horse racing jockeys can be fined and punished for overuse of their whip – interesting tid bit.

      The use of name calling I find to be nothing more than an attempt to distract away from the fact that you are not really arguing much in the way of the original opinion I posted. I guess it makes you feel better to try putting people down when you somehow feel a threat against a sport you are involved in – unfortunately I am not interested in bowing down to someone who bullies and throws tantrums to get their way.

      I find it odd that having your horse fall down is normal. Have I ever tripped or fallen? Yes – but I would hardly blame it on the ground “giving way” as you put it. If I’ve fallen down it is usually because I am off balance, luckily I don’t have to carry around a monkey on my back who pulls me off balance as well. Horses are not always so lucky. Do horses kick hard? Of course they do – but they are not kicked constantly in the same place. Even a mere nuissance but painless slap done repetitively in the same place can result in bruising and eventual pain. Along the flanks is also a place for ticklishness, which is another form of pain response – the reactions are the same in an attempt to get away from the stimulation.

      90% of you take better care of your horses than yourself? I’d love to see that data.

      Again, thank you for the humor!

  18. Anonymous says

    I do not own these videos; I just found them on youtube: (Jill Moody and Dolly) (Charmayne and Scamper) (Sherry and Stingray)

    These are three links to (in my opinion) great runs. I can already tell we are not going to agree on anything to do with barrel racing if you think Sherry Cervi is not riding appropriately. With any sport to do with any animals there are going to be people who are abusive. I don’t quite understand what you are looking for as an answer though. I think you are looking for great horsemanship during barrel racing. My opinion is any barrel racer at the NFR is showing you this. You have stated you don’t agree with that though. So I want to know what your idea of a perfect barrel run is. A rider sitting there holding the saddle horn with no movement of the legs and not even thinking of touching the reins? I am not trying to be rude; but a rider’s job is to guide and encourage during a run. So yes you may have to get their nose tipped for the turn, kick, and whip. I understand you have your opinion and I have mine; but if you are trying to say that the runs like the ones I have posted are abusive I get upset. Yes, I am a barrel racer. Do I ride like these videos? No! I screw up and become unbalanced and pull on my horse sometimes. I try to learn from my mistakes and go on. (I am sure you think I am abusive) I try my best and keep my horses as happy and healthy as I can; and in turn (in my opinion) they forgive me for my mistakes and do their best for me. I am blessed to have amazing horses that love and trust me. Owning any animal is a challenge and people view different ways of training and using animals in different ways.
    You also think a horse should not be excited before a run. From what I understand you think when a horses is jumpy, bobbing the head, prancing, etc that does not mean they want to run. In my opinion if you are running barrels you need an excited horse going down the alley. It is breed into them to want to run. Going into the arena if my horse is flat footed with their head down they don’t want to run that day. Some horses do go into the arena calm though and that is great; whatever the horse likes to do works. You can usually tell the difference between a horse who wants to run and one that is hurting or overworked. In my experience the ones who totally refuse the gate don’t need to run that day, something is wrong. It is the rider’s responsibility to listen to the horse and do what is best.
    Now I am sure you think we are forcing barrel horses against their will. Well in a sense ya I guess we are. Anytime I saddle a horse they are probably thinking I would rather be in the pasture right now; but I don’t think I can stop them from thinking that no matter how much I love them. :)
    I just wanted to post on here and put my opinion out there. I love my animals and try to keep all of them happy and healthy. Yes I do compete on them; but to me it is fun for my animals and myself. It is a time to get away from the house and try to do our best at what we have trained for. I in no way shape or form abuse my animals and I don’t like people to assume I do just because I barrel race. I have never watched any competition to do with horses where all the riders ride perfectly. Do I just assume since they are not good riders they are abusive, NO. Not everyone can become a “good” rider. If they try their best and love their horse that is enough for me.
    Yes I am posting anonymously; I do not like putting my name on the internet if I don’t have to. Also I probably have made grammar mistakes. I admit I am not an English major. (I did take offense to you thinking barrel racers don’t use proper grammar. Which I take as saying we are dumb. All people are different on their education levels.)

    • says

      It is a shame you posted anonymously – to be honest your response was quite wonderful. The videos you posted I will commend and say that they were enjoyable to see. The last one of Sherry aboard Stingray showed a hotter bred horse behaving before the run as I would expect – hyper aware of his surroundings, looking around a bit and seeing whats there but at the same time you can recognize that he is in tune and trusting his rider’s directions. Thank you very much for those.

      An aside – my remark about the grammar in the original post was referring more to the statement also being made in caps and exclamation marks – not about the intelligence of barrel racers.


  19. Toni Leader says

    I believe that in all things there is abuse. I am a barrel racer and I see abuse in barrel racing…either through ignorance or desire to win. I personally have gone to events where over 1000 horses have run with no injuries or any abuse has occured. Sadly I also see abuse and ignorance on the internet. The internet is a wonderful thing where great learning opportunities abound. It is also a place where the ignorant and uninformed can voice their opinions. Toni Leader NBHA director MN06 [email protected]

  20. Corrie says

    I do barrel race, and what you are suggesting in the whole article is a load of crap to be real honest.
    Your video first shows a horse that is very alley sour…but not every horse is like this! my mare has been running for three years and she has never thrown a fit going into the arena. In fact, the complete opposite. She loves going in to run. Her ears perk up, she gets prancy, she knows when its her turn to go and she loves it. My mare not only loves to run, but she also loves to turn! ill take her and breeze her in a bean field by my house, and she would rather stick to the edge of the field where she can follow the curves of the tree line and go around the turns. She loves her job. She weighss 1,000 pounds and i weigh 110 at most. If she really didnt want to do something, i would not be able to make her.
    My mare has NEVER refused to run a pattern, she gives me her all 150% of the time, because she LOVES what shes doing.

    The other horses in the video all fell. have you ever seen the hundreds of thousands of videos out there of eventing horses crashing into fences and flipping head over butt over them? I suppose they all abuse their horses too…not just some factor did not allow the horse to take off corectly for the jump, be it the rider, the ground, that the horse wasnt paying attention, that the horse was not listening to the riders cues….

    Also, i would just like to point out, my mare has gel boots that she wears whenever shes in the trailer, in a stall, or has to stand on hard ground (soft rides…look them up).
    She also is getting a magnetic blanket to keep her from getting sore (which costs 435 dollars) and magnetic hock and tendon wraps.
    She gets a 143 dollars joint supplement every month to PREVENT her from having joint problems.
    She gets sore no more clay put on her legs after every run and gets sprayed down with the liniment. She gets hand walked for at least 30 minutes after every run she makes at a race to ensure that she is cooled down well.
    She gets at least 5 big bags of shavings in her stall when we go to races, more if the stalls dont have rubber matting, and she still has her soft rides on.
    She gets chiropractored (if youve never had a horse have chiro work done you can not say it doesnt work, they slip and fall, not just while were riding them, but also out playing in the pasture, and can throw something out, chiro does wonders).
    Im 16 and i have three jobs so that i am able to afford all of this for her…i pay for it all on my own…i take the best care of my girls as possible. Barrel racers love thier horses, we understand that they are more than just a horse to run, they are our partners. Its up to us to keep them in as happy and healthy as we possibly can.

    I run most weekends from march to october, and i can count on one hand the number of accidents i have seen from horses falling, and i have honestly the worst injury i have ever seen to a horse was a thrown shoe. And i go to big three day 350+ people races where you would think, if we all abused our horses you would see quite a lot serious accidents.

    Because of that i find it interesting that you pitch such a fit about barrel racing, yet, i dont think you would write articles saying that sports, like football, are abusive. In almost every football game a player gets injured somehow. Players are always sitting out because of an injury, yet no one goes around saying that the coaches are abusing the players by making them play the game…?

    Those of us that are succesful at what we do know how to listen to our horses, even though they dont talk to us like a football player would if they were hurt. A slight hesitation going into the arena, taking a step past the barrel, dropping their shoulder, we know these as signs that something may not be quite right, and for most of us, that means getting on the phone and having the vet out the next day, and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars making sure that they are taken care and get them back to running happily.

    • says

      You are young, and I commend you on having such strong commitment to your sport, something that comes with maturity however is also wisdom and world experience. Your arguments about the care of your horse – what do they have to do with any of the remarks in the post about riding a pattern without yanking on the reins, spurring the horse’s sides and whipping them, pulling them off balance, etc? Nothing. Because you are buying your horse an expensive magnetic blanket somehow proves your ability as a rider to not yank on the reins and so forth?

      There are problems in eventing – serious problems. Just as there are in jumping, dressage, western pleasure, reining, big lick, racing, big lick, etc. Combine competition, money prizes and horses and you will see compromises being made.

      Comparing any non-equestrian sport to those involving horses is not a balanced argument either – each and every footballer has a choice whether they are on the field injury or not. Horses are our slaves in that manner and we ultimately make the choice whether or not they are competing that day based on our interpretation of their preparedness, soundness and ability. If our judgement is off the horse will suffer.

      • Lori says

        If a 1100 lb horse did not want to run barrels I think it would have let the rider know by you honestly thin it didn’t have control over a small human being..of course it does but thats how bonds are formed btw the horse and rider. Once the horse respects you enough to do what you ask of it you know it loves you and is willing to do what it is told. Just like raising a child, everything is alike somehow and once your chils had respect for you they will do what you ask, even though at times there will be defiancy with both the horse and child they still have that respect and care for you. It goes hand in hand and is as simple as that.

    • Lori says

      THANK YOUUUU!!!!!! I just typed pretty much the same thing before I read this, it’s like your reading my mind!!!! Between all you said and what I said combined there is no way she could win this argument. If we were in court, she doesn’t even Barrel Race so she has no room to talk or say half the crap she does. Its all bull.

  21. Lori says

    Seriously if you don’t compete in speed events you have no right to be attacking Barrel Racing. I”m a barrel racer and while I am going to defend it as best I can in this argument in no means am I saying that it is perfect and there is no abuse involved..there are 2 sides to every story but if you had to force yourself to watch this then you obviously haven’t been shown a race where there is no abuse I mean your not gonna sit there and watch more than a few videos that were probablly titled under something like Barrel Racing accidents right? You most like looked up those rather than watching training methods which done by people who know what their doing are effective and not cruel in any way. I could show you an endless amount of races where there is no abuse so I don’t see why it is so hard for you to find one when if your going to tear this sport down by attacking it saying it’s should have both sides of it, you can’t just claim it to be abusive by the pathetic amount of videos you’ve watched of it.

    Professionals such as Charmayne James, Sherry Cervi, Martha Josey, Brittany Pozzi, etc. all have their own ways of training which work and cause practically no harm to the horse..go watch their runs in the NFR, if you find one abusive quirk in there I’d be suprised but you also have to take into consideration your on a horse going at least 30 mph with about 15 seconds..not even to think about what you have to do. These videos your putting out there are of riders who need to first just learn how to ride, control and train their horses better. It is very sad when you see people just wanting to do this simply for the heck of it and these are the kind of people you will see reacting or racing in an abusive manner because all they care about is having a fast horse to win when the best take time to train vigorously and add speed last..therefore they will have better control. I’m not saying this does not put strain on the horse, it does, but any physical activity anyone does whether it be a person or animal will put stress on their bones and muscles and such. However there are certain peices of equipment to help aid and support their tendons such as skid boots made for the fast turns where the horse has to use a lot of force from it’s hind legs, splint boots, bell boots and for when your done riding, there are therapeutic boots like an ice bath after a hard day. As for pulling on the I said with proper consistent training the horse will soon know what to do and how to move..rarely will you ever even have to pul on the reins. It looks like the rider is yanking forcefully on their mouth but really their not, they just need to lift their shoulder and bring their head up to make the turn and it looks like their doing this because their going so fast. Some do use harsh bits but the most common you will see are snaffles, shanks and even hackamores which have no bit.

    The people who actually know what their doing and train right do not push their horse to this level everyday. Training at 1st takes months and years to perfect and get to the level of speed, but control that you need. Most do not even start loping the pattern until their horse has got it down. The horses absolutely love their job and all barrel racers will tell you no is amazing how big the horses heart is in this sport and it really shines through. You can’t control everyone who rides like an insane person and treats their horse bad but not all riders do, if done correctly there is no harm done to the horse.
    You’ll notice the control she has and is gaining more control in teaching her horse these techniques.
    If you find any abuse in this @ time NFR World Champions run I would really like to know. Also notice the leg protection for the horse.
    These horses are trated like GOLD.

    If you need anymore videos on how it is NOT abusive, let me know.

  22. Lori says

    If your excuse is that you couldnt find a video that showed no abuse its pathetic and you would suck and lose in the courtroom because I can pull up endless amounts of videos where no abuse is involved.

  23. ECruse says

    I wanted you to watch some videos of my favorite professional Kassie Mowry. She is a futurity trainer and rider and has a background in dressage and 3 day eventing. She has quiet hands, direct and clear cues and barely ever uses kicking to push a horse and when she does she does small, soft kicks (can’t hardly see her do it). Let me know what you think, I aspire to ride like this and I’m well on my way! If you want more just search her on youtube, there’s lots!

    • says

      Thank you for the links, I’ll take a look through them when I get the chance – am working away on a large website project at the moment.

      One quick note, I do find it slightly disconcerting when I see dressage riders switch to speed events. If she has done 3 day eventing it is no surprise however – the dressage portion has a tendency of taking a backseat to the jumping and cross country for many 3 day riders (not all, but a large portion) and that is evidenced when you watch them show in dressage – there are holes. Makes me think of Anky van Grunsven as well who has turned around and taken to reining, another sport well known for abusive practices and the use of hyperflexion; I wrote a post regarding reining with videos not too long ago.

      Being a dressage rider is not an automatic pass as being a GOOD rider, or a fair one or one who is not motivated merely by sport and competition. I think that might be a large misconception about dressage in general as much as I may have the general view of barrel racing as being about speed and winning and lastly about the horse’s welfare. If a rider is competing in any sport I raise an eyebrow over those who are thumping away in their backyard and diligently trying to master whatever it is they are working at. Why? Because in your backyard the only motivation is the ride. In the show ring you get to contend with your ego wanting to be the best, trying to win the prize, you have money invested and want to see something come from it, etc etc.

      Without a doubt, there is a multitude of riders who do not compete and also do not ride their horse well or fairly. That goes without saying – but is it a greater evil to ride poorly in your backyard because you do not know better than it is to ride poorly in view of a crowd who cheers you on to continue riding poorly? Not sure there is an answer to that one, but an interesting thought to mull over.


      • Lori says

        That is true backyard riders who buy a cheap horse and have no clue how to ride but think they do are draining the horse of the potential it could have as they are training it wrong. But doesn’t everyone want to be the best at what they pursue..not just in speed events such as but in anything they do. And there of course is going to be abuse in everything, there is good and bad to every situation but these horses are treated fairly by the people who know what they are doing, you can’t control all of the locos who go crazy with their ignorance of the sport of riding in general. Fallon Taylor is a perfect example of how people who know what their doing and care treat their beloved horses. I’ll post a link to a video of a horse she could have easily lost but didn’t because she knew he could survive and make it. I think everyone just needs to stop picking at every detail of everything because that would take way to much time and will do nothing to stop all the bad that goes on in the world. I don’t think it is the sport of barrel racing you have an issue with it is just the fact that you would like to see less abuse coming from those who don’t know what their doing or just want the title of being the best which they will never get because of the way they handle their horses, however there is not much you can do about that although it is sad. But picking at every little detail the professionals do is wrong because they are in the spot they are for a reason and know what their doing and treat their horses with an endless amount of respect because they know they wouldn’t be where thay are without their horse.

      • ECruse says

        She was involved in dressage and eventing because she grew up in LA and then her family moved to Utah when she was in high school. Since western riding is more prominent in that area, she started barrelracing because that’s what her friends were doing. It wasn’t a conscious switch, she was just doing what teenagers do- change their minds! You shouldn’t automatically over think people’s actions- they may have circumstances that you have no idea about. Don’t jump to conclusions before you ever even see what’s being discussed, wait until after you have gained more knowledge to give an opinion- that way you don’t have to retract statements. When you watch the videos you can see how she incorporates the positive aspects of her dressage and english riding training into her technique in training and jockeying barrel horses.

        • says

          I made statements outlining some of the thoughts that came to my mind when you informed me that this particular rider had a background in dressage and switched to barrel racing – but no where did I make a concrete assumption about her.

          I get the impression however from your reaction that you are in some way closely connected with this girl – perhaps you work with her or board at the same facility? Again, I am posing questions to get a larger frame of reference by which to make informed judgements and conclusions. Your remarks about her doing what teenagers do (i.e. change their mind) does however give me no greater reassurance of her motive to switch from dressage to barrel racing. It has been an observation of mine that many riders who have a solid base in any english discipline who transition into western riding (and the accompanying western saddle) show a great deal of balance and tact in the saddle considering their body has become accustomed to balancing in a saddle that is considerably narrower in the seat, offers less leveraging support to the legs via the stirrups, and obviously lacks a horn. I am not surprised that she should be confident in riding in western tack.

          Everyone has circumstances in life that shapes the decisions they make – some use them as excuses and others disregard them in hope of humbly working towards their goal without the crux of excuses to fall on. What does it really matter why she switched to barrel racing? The simple truth is that she is a barrel racer, and the difference between her and other barrel racers is a background in dressage. Outside of a centered seat in the saddle does that qualify her as being any more qualified at riding a horse in fairness to the horse? I would recommend you search “Anky van Grunsven” and “Rollkur”, then observe how Anky has begun riding reining horses. She is a rider at the top of the sport of dressage who has instituted public abuse as the norm within the sport and now transitioned into western sports. Yes, she has a balanced seat but that does not make her personal motivations in riding any more fair to the horse.

          Before you get angry with me, I have not accused the young rider you reference as being in the same line as Anky. What I am saying however is that sometimes we get too caught up in the backstory and we become too emotionally enthralled with a rider to see past the fact that we like them as a PERSON. And that is an important distinction. There are a great many riders who I like very much as people and love spending time with away from riding horses, and at the same time liking someone as a person does not mean that I also agree with or condone the way they ride or treat their horses. In fact some of the most entertaining and fun equestrians I’ve met have also been the most abusive to their horses.

          And to close, I’m not sure what you are referencing when you say, “Don’t jump to conclusions before you ever even see what’s being discussed, wait until after you have gained more knowledge to give an opinion- that way you don’t have to retract statements.” Please clarify.


          • ECruse says

            Actually, I have never met the woman in my life. I’ve watched her at large super shows and that’s it. The only reason I knew her back story was because I read it in one of her training articles in a magazine.

            I find it silly how belligerent you are about this topic. You have been given ample proof that barrel racing isn’t abusive and you still keep harping on it. And then have the nerve to be condescending and snide to those of us standing up for our event. Who are you? So what you’ve written a book. Who cares about your classical dressage riding- you’ve said yourself that it really makes no difference towards your treatment of a horse. I’ve watched your videos on youtube, and I give you mad kudos for being able to longe a horse, lope it in a circle and make it rear up. WOW! You’re really not as qualified to make these judgements as you think you are.

            When I say don’t jump to conclusions etc., I am meaning the way you are demeaning someone’s expertise and experience before you have ever even seen her work. It’s just bad debate- you need to practice more!

            And a background in english riding, particularly dressage (NOT competitive mind you) IS extremely beneficial to barrelracing. You obviously have no idea of the types of cues, training, and finese that goes into training and competeing at the top of the sport. But then, you dislike competition (which personally I feel is just because you have never been good enough to actually compete well- someone who is truely great can conduct themselves and their horses well and win it all).

            It sounds like Anky must have stolen your boyfriend or something because you are awful hung up on her. What does Rollkur and this woman’s horse career have anything to do with barrel racing? Yes I mentioned dressage, but nothing of competitive dressage or the practice of hyperflexion- you just made that connection yourself I guess.

            I have nothing left to say to you, other than barrel racing is an amazing sport that allows people who have a need for speed to make a connection with a horse, learn horsemanship, better themselves, and win some money in the process. I pity you the you don’t have enough desire, passion, or drive to do anything more constructive with a horse than teach it bad habits (rearing). If you want I can give you some riding lessons some time, at a price (yes I know more than barrelracing- you’d be shocked to know how skilled many of us are at so much more than can chasing).


          • says

            What proof has been given that the sport of barrel racing as a whole is non-abusive? You have provided a few videos which show riders who are less over-the-top with their cues to the horse, but they do not discount the multitude of other visual proof showing riders who have limited communication skills with their horse. And what other proof or words of debate have been provided from your side in all of the comments on this topic? Nothing more than insults and attempts to bully; and the inclusion of statements such as “I buy only the best trappings for my horse, therefore I do not abuse him.” It is a little like, “I buy my child only the best gifts, clothes and vacations, therefore I do not neglect him.”

            I get that you feel the only proof you can provide to show that barrel racers are non-abusive is to attack me personally; that is, to attempt changing the subject and focus altogether. Your strong reaction is unexpected given that it was you who wanted my opinion of the rider you posted – as if you were somehow genuinely interested in an opinion from me, and perhaps that is why you are so defensive if you were expecting me to be overwhelmingly impressed by her. However, I never demeaned the young rider you mentioned, I posed questions regarding her motivation to move from dressage to barrel racing. I also never said that english riding was not a good precursor to western disciplines – perhaps if you read my comment it would be apparent I stated riders who have a background in english riding often display a sound seat in the saddle when they switch to western sports due in part to the differences in their comfort of riding in a less secure saddle design.

            Yes, I do take issue with Anky, though in no way on a personal level. I take the same issue with anyone who out and out abuses their horse, makes excuses for it and then proceeds to teach others how to do the same with their horses on a large scale. She is a recognizable name which is why I referenced her whereas if I were to mention “John Doe” down the block it would be more confusing. And for the record considering that the majority of dressage ridden/trained/taught is based on the influences of what is being rewarded in competition there is a direct correlation between the implementation of hyperflexion in the sport today.

            It is apparent you would prefer to argue any issue that is the opposite of any statement I could make, rather than have any sort of logical conversation or measure of debate. It does surprise me that you teach other people, primarily because of your resistance to do much other than to make personal attacks on a someone you disagree with in place of having a discussion which may result in learning for either person involved. I posted about the topic of barrel racing with an open mind to having my opinion changed but the strong negative reaction that followed while lacking a great deal of evidence to the contrary has only continued to support my initial impression.

            Riding based on tradition cannot replace the use of critical thinking, logic and the continual search for more knowledge. “Good enough” is not part of my vocabulary where it concerns the well-being of the horse. I am interested in the art of horsemanship and in so, take this consideration :

            Art n. – the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.


            How to be an Equestrian Artist (author unknown)

            1. Do not concern yourself with the work of other instructors, riders, or trainers.
            2. Stay focused.
            3. Everything you do generates experience; some good some not so good but both are needed to grow.
            4. Expand your knowledge base. Learn everything.
            5. Expertise is something you pretend to have to protect yourself from insecurity… do not believe you own bull.
            6. Mone…y is useful and necessary but your attitude toward it can destroy your art.
            7. Do not let the horse world dictate anything to you
            8. Do not limit you work to competitive standards.
            9. Do only what the horse dictates; listen to the horse.
            10. The art is the goal in itself. Set direction but never at the cost of your art.


  24. schwung says

    In looking at the video where the rider had a flawless ride and used only minimal leg pumping to bring the horse “home,” that is so different from what I have seen in our area at the “playdays,” 4H events, etc.

    First of all, that girl’s horse seemed like a very willing partner. In our area I have seen many, many horses that refuse to go into the arena unless they’re hit with the bat, have another rider on his/her horse lead the other one in, be pushed in, etc. That tells me the horse is frightened and doesn’t enjoy its job.

    I hate watching the timed events, including barrel racing, as the riders’ only talent sees to be to hang on for dear life, and beat the living daylights out of their mounts. They think they’re all that, but they’re not. Their legs and arms are flapping like crazy and there is daylight between their butts and the saddle—they look like a big-assed bird about to take flight. Yeah, not a pretty picture.

    And don’t even talk about the contraptions they put on their horses’ faces. I have seen tie-downs used in conjunction with a nose-breaking hackamore and a long-shanked bit. WTH is up with all that? Maybe they should tone down the artillery and learn to ride like the girl with the winning barrel racing run. Her horse looked vastly different than what I see at gaming shows around my neck of the woods.

    Good post! Keep up the good work!!!!

  25. Elisabeth says

    I just had to comment on this blog, even though it’s a bit old. First off, I love how all you barrelracers get so defensive. It’s quite entertaining reading comments that personally attacks the author, instead of defending your sport. I have to agree with Erica though, no matter what kind of competition it is – it will be a lot of abuse. Simply because the will to win overshadows the needs of the horse. I compete in dressage myself, but I’ll admit it. I hope (and think) that I’m not one of those who force my horse to do anything, but I understand that people criticize the dressagesport. Because there’s just so much awful things around, and it is indeed common.

    And some of the comments here just confuses me. A horse may loose balance out in a paddock/field (? I’m not very good in english..), but to say it happens all the time is just wrong. Even saying that it happens sometimes is wrong. I’ve been riding for ever 10 years, and I’ve never seen it. So rarely is more like it.

    And there’s a lot og competitions that require speed. Eventing for example. They rarely kick the horse with spurs, I suppose it’s because the horse needs to keep medium-high energy for a long period, and not just a minute. From what I understand, the general perception of the people commenting, is that it’s okay to kick the horse – with spurs or not, because this sport needs speed. I don’t get that. Why should you have to kick the horse, if the horse love it sooo much, as you say? Wouldn’t they run as fast as they coul already? Kicking the horse also causes pain and discomfort, but it has turned into something ‘normal’. Which I think is just wrong. And that the horse is warmblood or whatever some person said, and that they are made for running, is not an excuse for such extreme behavior. Eventing horses are also made for running, and jumping, and rarely behaves like that.

    It’s not that I don’t like people who barrelrace. I’m sure it can be fun, the horse can love it, and you can ride with gentle aids. But for me, it sounds like a recipe for disaster. You can use legs, spurs and whips all you want, pull the horses mouth, without people caring (look at the comments on the video, mostly positive). It’s judged by time, over a short period, which mean you can push the horse to it’s breakingpoint, without having to save energy for later (as you may have to in showjumping and eventing). And, you challenge the horse and riders balance when passing barrels.

    Of course it’s possible to do this in a fun, balanced and humane way. But compared to many other sports, nothing matters except making the horse run as fast as it can, and turn as fast as it can without falling, which probably brings out the worst in many people. I personally think that spurs and whips should be banned from competitions judged by speed (or all together), and then let the horse that truly loves it win.

    • pat says

      Hi Elizabeth, your post was wonderful. Thank you for being so honest. You are a breath of fresh air. Check out my friends blog… He has been trying to get the abuse message out there for some time. He does it in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. A lot of the abuse comes from folks more interested in their own emotional needs than the horses needs. Its a “look at me” thing.

  26. says

    Of course Barrel Racing crosses the line into the arena of abuse. Really folks? How can you be so blind as to not see it? Denial is a wonderful thing when competing. The amount of abuse in Modern Riding today that masquerades as training and competing is staggering.
    I am an ex Grand Prix Jumper rider and Hunter rider. I do not hesitate to call out abuse in that competitive arena. I have no allegiance to a certain discipline. My commitment that is my foundation to training and riding is to have the welfare of the horse at all times. It is why I no longer compete or have any desire to compete. I will not support a system that allows abuse of any kind. This from someone that was Olympic bound.
    Simple bio-mechanics shows us what these particular sports do to horses. People who rehab horses (like myself), vets, body specialists will all tell you the damage that is inflicted. It is staggering and appalling. I would have more respect for someone who says ” I know this is not good for my horses but I am going to do it anyway because I want to.” Than someone who sticks their head in the sand and gets huffy and offended at the very people that are trying to alter the state of riding today so it supports the welfare of the horse. There is no disguising the mess that Modern Riding is in now. I am ashamed of what I see and read. Those angry with Erica disappoint and sadden me.

  27. California says

    Hello. I know you’ve received hundreds of comments about how “barrel racing is not abuse”, so I’m going to keep this short and sweet- it really isn’t. If you met my barrel horse, you’d know he’s the happiest little bugger on the planet. The horses you’ve depicted in your article are the sour, rotten ones that the people pay the most attention to. People won’t video and share a video of a horse who is calm and happy, because that is just not aesthetically pleasing for America in general; our views of amusement is wildly perverted. The honest truth is this- if you spent some more time really researching the horses and their lifestyle, you’d realize that 99% of these horses are happier than your “high-class, grade-A” dressage horse is. Anyway, i just thought i’d express my feelings. This blog really made me think- other aspects of the horse world will always hate each other. I just don’t get it, I don’t understand why we can’t unite and just be happy because we all share a love of animals.
    Sorry for bothering you with another post, one that basically reiterates everything stated in the prior posts.

    • says

      Thank you for the post, actually I found it to be quite well worded compared to many of the comments people have posted about why barrel racing is not abusive.
      The term itself, abuse or abusive, tends to get peoples hackles up particularly when it is addressing something they are involved in. The examples in the post are very extreme, they show the worst because many times people are tuned out to that which is not glaringly obvious. We are made accustomed to using force in relationships and with animals so it tends to deaden down just how forceful “normal” is.
      If you read through the blog at all you will notice I am not a supporter of the Competitive Dressage environment. As you point out the “high-class, grade-A” dressage horses are not happy either and I am in total agreement, though I will say that the reasons behind the unhappiness for a dressage horse vs. a barrel horse are very different. Most barrel horses are not confined to a stall for 20+ hours of the day, turned out only in small paddocks alone with fully wrapped legs for fear they might scratch themselves. They are also allowed to run with speed whereas the average dressage horse is pulled and pushed into a frame and asked to perform without a hair out of place. That is not to say however that unhappiness does not exist in barrel horses, and to simply state that 99% of something supports your opinion because you favor it does not help the argument or the horses.

      You make a great point about equestrian disciplines hating one another. That is not my intent, actually, though you may disagree with that. I rather hate the idea of being placed in a box of riding a particular discipline in part because of this; the idea that if I am an English rider then I disagree with Western riders or vice versa. The truth is when I see a good rider, no matter the discipline, I make sure to go out of my way to tell them just how wonderful it was to see them ride, etc. I own english and western saddles. I’ve competed in both as well and trophied in both. I’ve even, can you believe it, run barrels and poles and (shocking..) won in those as well. I will say however that I have not compromised my horses in order to do any of those things. I have also competed and lost because my horse was not the best in the class at the time, and while I could have pushed them in order to perhaps place a little higher it would have only earned me a better colored ribbon and perhaps damaged some part of the relationship I had with the horse.

      I would love to see all of us unite, for the common purpose of doing what is best for the horse. Right now my perspective is that competition has a tendency to alter that aim, I do think it is possible for some to continue putting the horse first and foremost, but also see it help bring out the “win or die” mentality as well.

  28. says

    Im just thinking to myself as read these post….
    I’m sure these owners LOVE their horses but just a great STILL SHOOT PHOTO Of a well trained barrel horse and Well trained RIDDER that you can not see the Friction, the pressure all combined with the speed that IT IS CLEARLY AND BAD COMPROMISING POSITION THAT A HORSES LEGS WERE NOT DESIGNED FOR!!!
    Meaning… over time… if daily practices, competitions and such this will cause PAIN AND AGONY FOR THIS ANIMAL.
    I have witnessed the mess this CAN CAUSE with their legs. It’s swelling & pain, Loss if balance. Irritable. No longer useful to run barrels. No longer to use for anything!!!

  29. Tk says

    I own an ex-barrel horse. She’s fast, she has the smoothest lope I’ve ever ridden, but she’s been conditioned to run barrels and that’s it. The barrel racer that owned her before me ruined her. She rode her with an expensive, trecherous bit (I can’t even figure out how to get it ON the bridle, if that proves how wicked it is!). She bounced around in the saddle like a sack of potatoes, causing this mare to get the “crazy eyes” every time you want to canter her around. There are only 2 speeds for her- standing, and running like hell. I wish I had never bought her, honestly. But I thought that I could calm her down, ride her out, and make a nice pleasure mare out of her. But years of experience and good balance just aren’t cutting it. I’m trying to sell her to, you guessed it, a barrel racer. Because that’s all she’s good for. And I doubt anyone else is going to take the time to try and work with her like I have, so it’s either a barrel racer or the slaughterhouse for this mare.

    To the author of this piece- don’t worry about the nay-sayers. People are always going to get defensive. When it comes down to it, every discipline has their share of crappy riders. It’s funny, but athletes wouldn’t abuse their own body that way, but they’ll willingly do it to a horse. But the problem isn’t just in barrel racing, it’s all over. I’ve seen dressage riders with flash nosebands so tight that their horse can hardly breathe, western horses having their mouths pulled so hard they get bloody… But the most common thing is that the owners say, “But I love them! I take care of them!” Yes, that’s true in human standards. But do you really think that a horse wants to be mollycoddled? Do you really think, if they could, that they would CHOOSE to wear a blanket to keep sun fade at bay in midsummer, or be stuck in a stall due to “poor weather” (aka, their humans are too lazy to deal with them)? I know a woman at my stable that put a sign up saying that her horse could go out on a certain day, but no running was allowed. Ha! Let’s just distance ourselves from reality a little more! I’ll be sure to tell the horse that, as she’s galloping around the pasture!

    My point is: Every discipline has shitty riders. If anyone here tries to deny that barrel racing has its share as well, then they’re ignorant.

  30. Jess says

    I really enjoyed this post. I like that you use a good example with the bad. Some of the bad were very bad though. I work with reining horses, and occasionally we get barrel racers come through. I hate to say it, but all so far have been terrible with the reins, but this could be simply a conicidence.
    You have struck a nerve with this lot though, and its just as interesting reading the comments as it was the post. The bad video was abuse, nothing but abuse. Why all this protect the barrel racers.. do you not cringe for these horses?

  31. Emma says

    I think there is a very huge gap where people draw the line for abuse. Erica has a much lower tolerance for anything physical such as whipping or kicking than most of the posters. Her idea of what constitutes abuse is just different than what these barrel racers have decided constitutes abuse. The line draw for forcing an animal to do something is also different between the two groups. Some believe no animal should ever do anything they don’t want to do, others believe animals should do whatever said person wants without question. For the one group the horse stand and eats in the pasture all day doing nothing. The other group could cause tremendous harm at present and in future. There is no compromise to the situation if each group believes themselves to be infallible.

    The author asks a question, “Do Barrel Racers Cross the Line into Abuse?” It is a question to open up an argument, a discussion and one that is needed. We need people to think about how they are treating animals and if it’s in the best interest of the animal at present and in the long run.

    I believe horses are meant to do something other than walk around a pasture. I think they are here for our benefit, but I think we have the responsiblity to make sure we aren’t doing things just for our own material gain with them. Injections, when they could just need a few weeks off or drugs, when they’re sore or tired. And it’s not that I don’t believe in drugs or injections, but sometimes I think people need to do for the good of the horse and not themselves.

    • says


      Thank you for this insightful comment. I know I am not always the clearest I wish to be in explaining why I criticize things the way I do, but you managed to nail it down perfectly for me, thank you.


      • Cruzin says

        Naw barrel racers don’t abuse………….and the sun isn’t hot either!

        I have PERSONALLY witnessed it!
        Injections before a race, one girl used a cattle prod before she hit the alleyway.
        Report it yes, did they care, nope.

        I have seen bloody mouths from being yanked on, over use of riding crop, spurs etc.

        I have run barrels and yes sometimes your seat can get lost but you have to learn to gather yourself again. Falls, yes I have seen some especially horses running in MUD!
        I refused to run in mud and have cancelled my runs because of it.
        A misstep yes has happened.

        How do you girls explain the horses rearing up and going over on a rider ? I have seen it first hand. Rider error

        Took my mare out of the arena when she got way too dancy before a race, returned for a couple of years and then retired her out in her senior years.

        Does abuse happen you bet it does, and don’t think because they are a big name they don’t do it some have.

        Anything to win types are the main ones who do it.

        My horse has a tons of wins but she taught me I didn’t need to be no champion not at the expense of my good horse, no trophy was worth that. I run for fun now days and if my horse wants to lope they lope it isn’t about winning now but having fun with my horse.

        Maybe you all don’t remember the video that came out where the little girl blacked out from being rocked violently back and forth on a barrel racer, thank goodness she was on a great horse who slowed up and stopped. She was over horsed, not big enough to be riding a full on barrel horse. Again the princess syndrome, where mommie wants her to exceed in barrels she can’t wait for that little girl to grow up first. Put that child on a horse to fit HER size! It is so cute until a child dies from it right.

        As to some of these girls who feel attacked, well here is how you stop this. Fix the darn issues in the sport be part of the solution not adding to the problem by just protecting the sport on a blog. Open your eyes and realize there are problems that need addressed.

        There will always be those who cheat and abuse until you stand up and take notice the problem will continue and there will always be people calling you out on it.

  32. hanna says

    I completely agree with you. I barrel raced for two years and greatly regret it. Every horse was out of control and the rider had to use big bits yet they used whips and spurs and wonder why they have a hot horse. But they don’t care, most barrel racers aren’t the best riders from what I’ve seen. At shows a rider would come out of the arena still trotting and stay on their horse the whole day of the show. I of course took my horse back to the trailer. I see pictures of barrel racers up in the air out of the saddle whipping and kicking and they will comment ” no I don’t sit there” well if you could get a good seat your horse would appreciate you not bouncing on its back. It is abuse, anyone who says that their horse likes to run barrels or that he needs a big twisted wire combo bitdoesnt deserve to ride a horse. It’s my opinion but the barrel world is full of Yahoo’s that can’t ride so they buy barrel horses and either cripple them or turn them into hot horses. Even the pros at NFR, if you see them coming down the chute they are hot and sometimes rear up. Why? Because a lunatics on their back whipping, jerking, and spurring. Yes other events use spurs but the way barrel racers kick they shouldnt wear them. Plus they also have whips. And since their scared horses wont stop they have huge bits. Barrels is possibly the worst discipline out there. And to all the racers who disagree, is it not true that you use whips spurs and twisted or Martha joseys awful bits? And do you think that is fair for your horse? I agree with your post.

  33. Krystin says

    Are u serious.. Directing abuse on barrel racing, whipping the horse is not abuse, many horses get hot headed going out there they freeze up what are u gonna do it happens, u can not direct abuse on barrel racing. If u look at horse racing on the track many more things happen there. Many of u guys sit there and say oh I’ve been barrel racing for many if years and all there is is beating no, go to different places and try everything meet new people we barrel racers do not beat our horses at all get facts straight before u accuse people of doing something

  34. Chantell says

    The thing is that the goal of a true barrel racer is to have a horse that loves to go run and you don’t have to keep “aiding” them because I know that my mare hates life unless she knows we are heading to a rodeo or some kind of practice and any “punishment” she gets is taking her away from the barrels/rodeo.

  35. Chantell says

    And another comment because sherry cervi is a great barrel racer, horses were built tough. Competitive horses actually care to run and have the desire to run when stingray fell she was wanting to get back up and run and technically anyone could make anything turned into the definition of “abuse” we overuse air by breathing it so much.. We over use water by drinking it too much. So when you go to attack a sport by using a harsh term of “abuse” how about you bring in real things and not just look for the bad, you can pick everything apart and humans “abuse” everything, we are imperfect creatures and do lose our balance, guess what so do the horses.. And people get hurt too, do you think veterinarians like getting abused trying to help an animal? No, but they do it anyways. And I’m sure if the poor barrel horses were free and wild they wouldn’t need vets right? They can just get hurt and have the other horses literally beat them to death if they don’t fit into the herd, so you’re saying that its soo evil and abusive. Maybe think about the whole thing not just what you want to see.

  36. Amanda says

    I know that this is way past the mark but I would like to 1. apologize for the way my fellow barrel racers disagreed with your article here ( I do as well but that will come later). Name calling does not solve anything. and 2. Put in my 2 cents. First off thank you for bringing this to our attention. I realize how our discipline looks to outsiders. While I will agree that there are some harsh people in this sport that need to sell their horses and move on to a less high pressure situation, there are those people in every discipline. Yes there are people who abuse their horses. But Barrel racing is not the only case. I have seen reiners, dressage riders, western pleasure, and even trail riders put the same type of “training” tactics to use on their horses. Others have gotten angry and said some rude and unnecessary comments. I have read your accomplishment and while I commend you on your work, it is clear that you are not well versed. I saw that the only riding you have done is dressage? and writing a book is a very huge deal especially being published, but lets face it, people can do a lot research and write a book. It doesn’t mean you can apply those tactics successfully. I would like to see you write an article much like this one pointed to the harsh tactics of dressage. Barrel horses love their jobs, have you ever ridden a high speed pattern? The legs coming way off the saddle isn’t people they are trying to kick the horse a hard as they can, that is 1200lbs of pure muscle bounding at break neck speed. That is a lot of force. Just picking your leg up to apply pressure at that speed causes the movements you are seeing. I have seen racers put more force than necessary and I have never agreed with it. There is no reason for horses to bleed to be fearful of their occupations. However I have attached some videos of dressage horses and other disciplines who appear to be the same way. (this one in particular, Notice her spurs?) ( abuse is in all disciplines)

    I understand that you are partial. As am I. But we both agree that there is abuse in all areas. I think you should have made this article about the lengths that ALL riders will go to for a win. Not just the barrel horses. Lets not judge an entire group of people based on the few that do this. Agree?

    • says

      Dressage is not the only riding I’ve done, actually only a very small portion. For criticisms of abuse in Dressage though just look to Rollkur & LDR where I write regularly about a major abuse problem in Dressage (and also how it branches out into other disciplines like jumping and reining).

  37. Karissa says

    The only problem I had with any of this was the fact that its not mentioned that while yes, abuse/accidents happen in all sports, most barrel horses love what they do. Almost any horse loves what they do for that matter though. We don’t usually have to force our horses to run the barrels and the people that do obviously aren’t listening to their horses. My gelding will go from completely calm in an empty arena to a spaz when someone puts the barrels up. He starts heading for them on his own and if we get too close to one he’ll whip around it and head for the next one without me asking. Other than that I just took the article as your opinion and nothing more.. I have barrel raced for years but I’ve never had to use a crop. I have noticed, when running the pattern on my horses, as Amanda stated, that my legs bounce a bit. I could just barely go to kick but at that speed the wind your horse creates kinda helps to bring your legs farther out also. I didn’t get offended by your article. I just found it to be an informative opinion.

  38. Ali says

    Barrel racing frequently abuses the horses, not least becaise almost never are they properly warmed up before they begin. Most wind up with stifle injuries which may not manifest immediately but become an issue as they age. Ask anybody who has taken on a ex barrel racer.

  39. Ali says

    Barrel racing frequently abuses the horses, not least becaise almost never are they properly warmed up before they begin. Most wind up with stifle injuries which may not manifest immediately but become an issue as they age. Ask anybody who has taken on a ex barrel racer.

  40. maggie says

    As far as I have seen it has little to do with the style of riding and more to do with the rider. I have shown mostly western pleasure at breed shows and I have literally seen things that have made me cry… I personally use ball point spurs and a broken tom thumb bit when I compete…The same goes for dressage, jumping, racing, etc. The abuse comes from riders who want to look “like a pro” the quick and easy way. That usually means pushing your horse to far too quick, using harsh equipment, and not learning how to correctly position your body while riding. While I have never met a professional level barrel racer, I can say that the local barrel racers I know are in general some of the least knowledgeable and are the closest to being abusive. The just want to go fast like the professionals and don’t realize it takes time and training to get there. They use spurs, whips, and bits to replicate what professionals take months perfecting. While I fell like I need to reiterate that I realize this “get good fast” mentality is present in all competitive riding, I personally have experienced that barrel racers are the worst for it. I also realize there are probably people with different experiences.

  41. maggie says

    As far as I have seen it has little to do with the style of riding and more to do with the rider. I have shown mostly western pleasure at breed shows and I have literally seen things that have made me cry… I personally use ball point spurs and a broken tom thumb bit when I compete…The same goes for dressage, jumping, racing, etc. The abuse comes from riders who want to look “like a pro” the quick and easy way. That usually means pushing your horse to far too quick, using harsh equipment, and not learning how to correctly position your body while riding. While I have never met a professional level barrel racer, I can say that the local barrel racers I know are in general some of the least knowledgeable and are the closest to being abusive. The just want to go fast like the professionals and don’t realize it takes time and training to get there. They use spurs, whips, and bits to replicate what professionals take months perfecting. While I fell like I need to reiterate that I realize this “get good fast” mentality is present in all competitive riding, I personally have experienced that barrel racers are the worst for it. I also realize there are probably people with different experiences.

  42. Kathy says

    Ignorance is bliss, which you clearly you have an abundance of. Sad for your rush to judgement. Look at any competitive event whether it’s horses, dogs, mules, or just people etc etc and you will find good and bad. Anyone who has any life experience and common sense could assertain this fact. The barrel racers I know and associate with love their horses as do I. With any competitive sport discipline plays a role. Sadly there are Some that do cross this line but many do not and have wonderful relationships with their horses. You have passed judgement on a entire sport as a whole because of your vast “experiences” at a “playday” for yahoos. Whats even more sad is you have represented yourself as knowledgable and attempted to sway the public to believe what you beleive by telling half truths and stating opions you think are facts. Keep in mind the video you showed is at the National Finals Rodeo. Sherry Cervi no doubt is a great horse woman and is top ranked in the country. Im pretty sure the yahoo with the chaps in the picture you selected is just that a yahoo at a payday. There are others at the NFR running with her who use whips and spurs. Are they being “abusive”? We mock what we don’t understand and you definitely are not a true horse woman or you would already know this to be true and would not have wasted your time writing such a strongly opinionated, not fact based “story” as you did.

  43. Jenna says

    Hello. I completely respect your opinion, but I, myself am a barrel racer. I agree with some of the things that you said though. Many barrel horses are hot due to bad riders, but some horses are hot simply because they love to run and cannot wait to get into the arena. I do wear spurs, but i only “bump” when I am going into the second barrel because my horse is very leany on that side, and she could slip and fall if I let her continue leaning on that side. On my way home, I give one or two light bumps, but more with my calves than my spurs. I do not use a whip on my horse. Also, we win! I also do not stay on my horse all day either. I walk my horse out of the arena and walk her around for a bit to cool her down, then bring her back to the trailer or stall. I am just trying to make the point that when trained and treated properly, you do not have to use whips and spur the heck out of your horse to do good. I also do not use harsh bits, only a snaffle. I think any sport can be abusive, and yes, a lot of barrel racers are very rude to their horses. But we are not all like that.

    • micki says

      Completely agree with your statements. My horse loved it and like you I used a very mild bit, did not pull my horse around, he did it himself bending himself around my leg. Did not have to yank and spur. 6 years before we competed, just working on fundamentals of proper riding. He took me to the State level and we won our division. The last time we went into the ring, he refused so I knew something was wrong. that was the last I asked him to go. He was willing and happy doing his job. He listened to me and I listened to him. As with all disciplines you got the good and the bad and the ugly. Education is the bottom line. If your willing to open you minds and learn, the more you will understand horses. It’s a life long process which learning never ends.

  44. Megan says

    I agree that everyone has a right to there own opinion, and i am very open to hearing your opinion, but i don’t agree with you in everything that you said. i have been riding horses for 13 years and been barrel racing for 10 years. i have had 4 horses and only one of them i did not train. the only one that would rear and paw at the ground and turn and bite me was the one i personally did not train. If you train the horse properly they will not get insanely out of countably hot, but its next to impossible to have your horse if they truly love what they do to not have them get even a little hot.
    In my opinion when the horse rears bucks paws or bites before they run is not a refusal at all. I as a runner have to hold my horses back before we run our pattern. these horses have a job to do that they love. When they know they are about to run they get excited, they are not acting like this because they do not want to run because if you watch the rider they are all trying to calm the horse down and hold them back from running and doing this pattern. also every knowledgeable equestrian knows a horse will feed off of our energy, and i can speak for every barrel racer, we all get excited and nervous before we run, so the horses is acting off of our energy.
    I do not think barrel racing is in any way abuse. yes some riders can take pushing there horse to far but, its not like there starving the horse, the horses have amazing lives and love what they do!

  45. Robynne Catheron says

    I’ve watched so many barrel races and known so many riders over my 60+ years that I’ve lost count. Not all, but most are in complete denial of doing any emotional or physical harm to their horses. No one tells them because they would deny it. They truly believe their horses love it, but they’re too busy to listen to their horses’ body language, and they obviously can’t see or don’t care about their horses’ gaping mouths as they pull them around the barrels. They don’t care that their horse is already giving their all, they’ve just got to kick the dickens out of them and use that quirt or over-under whip.
    Sherry Cervi is probably the best barrel racer I’ve ever seen, and I love watching her ride with a loose rein, but she had to learn the sport just like everyone else. The difference is humility. Good barrel racers are humble, and are willing to accept fault and make changes, especially if it concerns the welfare of their horses. Most are just the opposite, and care about one thing only: their time.

  46. Jeany Heague says

    I believe that Barrel Racing in respect to the original question, poses no more of a threat to the horse than any other discipline. I believe horses can be trained for any discipline without all the spuring and jurking depicted in this compilation from a bloopers video. People need to be further educated in the non mechanical ways of horsemanship in all high speed competitions and most pleasure activities too. That said; people are being educated, people are getting it more and more all the time and things are improving for the majority of horses in all disciplines.

  47. thisisstupid says

    I realize that this is an old article, but it is pretty ridiculous. You’re comparing amateurs in an accident video to a professional at the NFR. You’re also generalizing a lot. I barrel race. My horse runs in a loose ring snaffle, and I only use bumper spurs on her to help shape her body around turns. I rarely need a crop. Why? Because my horse is trained right, she loves her job, and I’m a good rider, because I also successfully show in equitation classes with the same horse I win money barrel racing with. Not all barrel racers are like the terrible ones shown in an accident video, especially seeing as you’re only going to see the bad ones in an accident video. I certainly don’t mean to sound braggy or conceited. What about dessage? A lot use leverage bits, rollkur, and constantly have spurs driven in to their horses’ sides. Every event has abusive and bad riders.

  48. Fawn says

    i think sometimes its abuse when theres stupid people on the horse that dont care about the horse but theres also alot of good riders out there who i know who do treat the horse right when barrel racing

  49. Robynne Catheron says

    I am late to the party here, but I wanted to say GOD BLESS YOU, Erica Franz. I’m behind you 100%. It’s a shame that people get so defensive, instead of admitting there is a problem that needs fixing. Few people are brave enough to speak up as you have, and even fewer do so at the events. Folks need to learn humility and grace. After all, we’re talking about the welfare of horses here.
    One thing I’d like to point out, the riders can’t really see their horses’ gaping mouths because they’re not looking for it. They’re watching where they’re headed. I understand that completely, but even if someone were to tell them they were pulling too hard on the bit and causing their horse’s mouth to gape open from pain, how many riders would humble themselves and look at their riding skills? Also, how many riders would reconsider the amount of metal in the mouth/type of bit they’re forcing their horse to carry?
    Barrel racers and every other competitive rider should try to open their minds and consider the possibility that they might be causing their horses pain or discomfort. It’s not all about the rider or the winnings. It should be more about the horse.

  50. Dori says

    I love reading your blog and a lot of the comments really tick me off. It is true, there is abuse in every discipline, even my own. I try my best to be all natural. My horses love their jobs and it shows. My horses have never had to worry about abuse and I plan on keeping it that way. Spurs and whip happy people are not allowed on my horses and yes, you can get your horse to preform beautifully without it.

  51. says

    Erica- I will gladly make you eat your words. Though someone like me is few and far between in the barrel racing world. I have always had horses that could walk into and out of the arena. Horses that are willing, and horses that can run in snaffle bits. I’ll urge you to go through my videos. I am constantly trying to evolve to be better for my horses. I want them comfortable and happy.

  52. says


    I looked through your videos – not sure I’m eating my words yet though. Your riding is quieter than some, but I still see flailing legs, harshness on the reins and horses who are struggling against the rider, speed, momentum and gravity.

    The equipment is not the cause of pain much of the time – so riding in a snaffle does not automatically make you less abusive than someone in a curb. I have seen all examples of fairness in harsh tack and abuse in mild tack over the years. I commend you for wanting to become a better rider.


  53. Tracey says

    I will be transitioning my reining horse to try out to run the clover leaf pattern in barrel racing. I have particularly not liked to watch the barrel racers run because it’s hard to watch how hard the riders can be on their horses, (spurring,whipping,jerking their mouths) I only can say that when I enter the arena, i will not need to be wearing spurs, using a bat, or pulling on my horses mouth. She will run for me and give me her all because she wants too please me, and I highly respect my horse because of that she trusts me….just saying….

  54. Jen says

    No matter what anyone says, you will never admit you could be wrong. Everyone needs to quit trying to make you admit the possibility of an error. I do not believe your uneducated and single-minded responses deserve more attention.

  55. says

    No. I found opinions stated but nothing which you offended me with. I know well enough by putting any public opinion out there that I am subject to criticism and differences of opinion.

  56. Robynne Catheron says

    I’ve watched so many barrel races and known so many riders over my 60+ years that I’ve lost count. Not all, but most are in complete denial of doing any emotional or physical harm to their horses. No one tells them because they would deny it. They truly believe their horses love it, but they’re too busy to listen to their horses’ body language, and they obviously can’t see or don’t care about their horses’ gaping mouths as they pull them around the barrels.
    Sherry Cervi is probably the best barrel racer I’ve ever seen, but she had to learn the sport just like everyone else. The difference is humility. Good barrel racers are humble, and are willing to accept fault and make changes, especially if it concerns the welfare of their horses. Most are just the opposite, and care about one thing only: their time.

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