Teaching Your Horse to Rate

Teaching Your Horse to Rate

Teaching your horse it rate is one of the most important part of teaching your horse to barrel race. The word “rate” is barrel racing terminology for the essential slow down and body collection that must occur before the horse makes his turn. Horses that don’t learn to rate themselves make wide sloppy turns which cost them precious seconds.

First, Teach that "Whoa" means stop & back up

The first step in teaching a horse to rate is teaching him to respond to the voice command “whoa.” When you say whoa you want your horse to really plant his hindquarters in the ground and stop. I have found that the most effective way to teach a horse to do this is to say whoa, make the horse stop and then back him up a few steps. This method conditions his mind to associate stopping with backing up. This association causes the horse to develop a deeper stop where he plants his hindquarters rather than his front end. In order for a horse to properly rate himself he must be stopping on his hindquarters. Horses to who stop on their front ends are off balance in their turns and cannot make the quick snappy turns required in barrel racing.

Next, Apply it to the Pattern at a Trot

Once you have taught your horse to respond to the voice command of “whoa” and to stop on his hindquarters it is time to apply this to the barrel pattern. I like to begin this stage of training at the trot. Trot the horse up to the first barrel, say “whoa” and back up him up. Then ask him to walk around the barrel. After he has made the turn ask him to trot to the second barrel, again, say “whoa” stop him and back him. When the horse has completed his turn around the second barrel, have him trot to the third, say “whoa” stop him, back him up and have him walk around it.

Body positions of both the horse and rider are very important at this stage. When the horse stops make sure that his hindquarters are parallel to the barrel. He should not be swinging them outward or inward. If your horse has a tendency to swing his hindquarters outward make sure you always correct this by moving them over with leg pressure. A horse that tends to swing his hind quarters outward will always be off balance and can never learn to rate properly. The rider’s position is equally important. It is ver impoyrtant that you are balance in the saddle and that you do not learn to the inside. Leaning to the inside will cause the horse to be thrown off balance and swing his rear outward losing momentum and precious seconds.

Apply Rating at a Lope

When you feel that your horse has mastered rating at the trot, this process can be applied at the lope as well. You will know that your horse is rating himself at the trot when he slows down to the walk when you say “whoa”, without you having to pull on the reins. To repeat the process at the canter, canter up to the first barrel say “whoa” stop and then trot around the barrel. Lope to the second, say “whoa”, stop, back up and trot around the barrel. Repeat the same process for the third barrel. As mentioned above, continue to pay attention to your body position and the body position of your horse.


What you are teaching the horse here is to rate himself when he hears the voice command “whoa”. When your training is complete and you are ready to compete, all you will have to do is say “whoa” when you are ready for the turn and your horse will rate himself and make the turn. These exercise also work well as a tune up for seasoned horses that are going by barrels.

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