Linda Vick explains why what you can’t see matters when evaluating a barrel racing prospect for purchase.
Question: Summer is fast approaching and it seems like there are a lot of people looking for horses. Considering that you have had several quite successful horses at the professional level, what do you look for in a prospect? -- Kaycee Starkey of Westminster, Colorado
Answer: Kaycee, I think the most important thing to look for in a prospective barrel horse is something that you can’t see! What matters most to me is what is “between their ears.” Nothing can replace a horse with a big heart and a brain that matches.
Photo by Reed Settle
I used to have strict requirements for the horses I rode, but many of those have been relaxed because I’ve realized that barrel horses come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments. The bottom line is that barrel horses have to love their job and I believe they also have to love you.
I’ve been really fortunate in having horses that love their job and I think that’s because I let them do it their way and I do not pick on them; they love me in return. The horse I’m riding right now (AR Will He Tell), and doing so well on is one that just wants to please you regardless of what you are asking of him. That’s key in our sport.
Beyond their mind and heart, I look at conformation. I want a horse that has low hocks. This might be the one item of conformation point that I won’t compromise on. Low hocks allow a horse to get up under themselves, and that’s what I prefer. I also want them to have straight legs, but again, it takes all kinds to make barrel horses and the one I’m riding now doesn’t have perfect legs. I also don’t like a horse to be excessively big or small. This is really just personal preference, but I do prefer a very athletic horse.
Evaluating the eye is important to me because I believe the eye can tell you a lot about the horse. I want there to be a wide space between the eyes and I want the horse to have what I call a “kind” eye. When it comes to looking at a horse’s future, I want to see a short back and long underline since this conformation quality usually relates to speed.
Breeding is also something I consider when evaluating a prospect. Pedigree preferences can vary, and I’m not saying that I look for just one “name brand.” The truth is that I want some cow breeding along with race lines. In this day and age, there is one thing you can be sure of, and that is that barrel horses have to have a lot of run. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how good they work, if they can’t run — they won’t win.
One thing I believe is that people spend too much time with particular horses. Once you purchase a prospect, it shouldn’t take a long time to decide whether they like the event or not. Knowing when to cut your losses and move on is critical to being successful with horses. Not all horses want to be barrel horses, just like not all of us are meant to be basketball players.
About Linda Vick
National Finals Qualifier, Linda Vick is well known in the barrel racing industry for training exceptional horses. At 65, Vick is ranked solidly among the top 20 in the World Standings for the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association and has numerous California Circuit Finals championships to her credit on multiple horses.