What It Takes to Win Consistently in Barrel Racing

What It Takes to Win Consistently in Barrel Racing

Champion barrel racer Kristie Peterson offers perspective on what it takes to win consistently.

palomino barrel racing horse blur (Credit: Journal)

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It is arguably harder than ever to stay consistently competitive in barrel racing, with the growth of the sport and new talent every day. 

Kristie Peterson is a four-time Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world champion barrel racer, and the owner of the famous barrel horse French Flash Hawk, aka “Bozo.” 

Kristie lends her expertise on what it takes to win consistently in barrel racing:


As people age, when they return to riding from time off or after suffering injuries, their balance is often the first thing they lose. 

  • “Relax and go with the stride, especially in the turn, or else it’s stressful on your back,” Kristie says. “Relax your rear end in the saddle; it’s much easier on your body and easier on your horse.”
  • Get “butt heavy” in the saddle and relax your whole body starting from the shoulders down. Working on relaxation starts at home but should carry over into competition. Visualize it and practice it for it to work.

Adding Speed

  • It’s all about confidence when adding speed between barrels, says Kristie, – confidence in yourself as a rider and confidence in your horse.
  • “Your confidence and your horse’s confidence improve, over time, and with that, the speed just comes. Your body gets more aggressive with that confidence.”

Relaxing Turns

It’s important to keep your preparation in place for the turn. Sitting and relaxing into the turn brings your horse’s hind end under him and allows him to leave the turn faster and harder. But you still have to set him for that turn.

  • “Start your turn, then you are going to sit and relax, which is what I do when I ask a horse to stop anyway,” she says. “The horse prepares to get under himself to make that turn. 
  • Ride two-handed to the barrel. Five feet from the barrel, drop a hand and sit, and that’s his cue to get in the ground and turn. Get this consistent, even at the high lope.”

Mental Competitiveness

“Confidence and being prepared for your runs is what gives you a mental edge,” Kristie says. Routine and confidence are the keys to having an edge over your competition.

  • “Get off your horse and walk the alley. Get a mental picture. Don’t be rushed, don’t have any excuses, and visualize yourself in the arena making your run.”
  • Know who ran before you and how they did. Did they turn out? If so, you need to know so that you don’t miss your turn or get rushed. 
  • “Be confident and don’t look for excuses,” Kristie says. “And don’t second guess yourself after you are done. When you are there, relax. Go in with a confident, clear mind.”
  • “Learn from mistakes and don’t be mad about them. That way, next time, you can visualize a different outcome.”

Bonus Tips

  • Make the owner show you how the horse works when you go buy a horse. Many times, when you ride him and he bucks you off, they say he’s never done that before.
  • Get respect everywhere. When you are handling your horse, you are always teaching him something. If a horse pushes you around in a halter, chances are he will push you around in the saddle. 

With the Barrel Racing Tips e-book, revolutionize your barrel racing game. The book is free to AQHA members!

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