The Washington Post
Try Barrel Racing
Sunday, July 25, 2004; Page M03
Craving a backcountry break from the bright lights, big city? For veteran horseback riders, the rising popularity of rodeo sports offers an option: barrel racing, a beat-the-clock event in which you spur your steed around a cloverleaf arrangement of three barrels, trying to score the best time without knocking any down. Barrel racing began as a women's game -- in national-level rodeos, it still is -- so its focus is on the agility of both horse and rider rather than on brute strength. If you can saddle up, you can participate. And for the rodeo-curious novice, this is one of the tamest introductions: no bulls, no calves -- just you and your horse.
What to Expect: Champions are always working on speed. Course size varies, but winning times are typically under 19 seconds. You, though, should focus on building flexibility and endurance -- and easing in your horse. Any healthy steed can barrel-race, but many veteran riders prefer the quarter horse. "Quarter horses were actually bred for shorter runs at a faster pace," says Buttons Stetler, co-owner of Kris-Tan Farm in Waldorf and a 27-year rodeo competitor. In barrel derbies, thoroughbreds or cross-thoroughbreds are often used. Keep in mind that if your horse is used for English riding, it'll take awhile to adapt to this Western style.
One warning: Don't mistake this for an easy ride. Barrel racing's quick turns and hurried pace are pretty demanding. Stretching before and after is essential, and you should expect some sore muscles.
What to Bring: For your horse, you'll need a Western saddle. Silver belt buckles and pearl-button shirts are by no means required. Protection is key -- you'll want sturdy cowboy boots (say no to sneakers -- your feet could slip out of the stirrups), a long-sleeved shirt and thick jeans. For competition, a cowboy hat is required.
Cost: Lessons run $25 to $35 per hour; practice sessions range from $10 to $30 per rider.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Maggie Magazine Volume ll Issue 2
"We have had several opportunities to observe Bill Dunigan at work first hand and to talk with several of his students. His ability to soothe the most fractious horse and calm the most nervous rider is uncanny. Bill gets inside the mind of the horse and teaches you how to really communicate with your mount." Bill really inspires confidence, really makes you feel you can do this. "We have worked with many instructors over the years and are really impressed with Bill Dunigan, not only for the results he achieves, but for his commitment to safety for the horses and riders".
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