Six Uses For Pop Up Barrels In Your Riding and Groundwork!

In a previous post entitled “Ten Ideas For Staying in The Saddle If You Struggle With Riding Alone”, I wrote about my tendency to use cones and obstacles to aid me during my rides.

Today I thought I’d give a shout out to one of my favorite products: the pop-up barrel set by Seventeenflat.

Seventeenflat is not the only company that sells pop-up barrels, but my understanding is that they were the first to offer them. The pop-barrel set was originally designed for barrel racers, of course, but I love the contribution these barrels have made to my obstacle collection. I bought my pop-up barrel set almost ten years ago, and they are still in great condition. A little dirt encrusted maybe, but they sport no rips or cuts. Most importantly, they still retain their shape. The set includes three pop-up barrels and a carrying case. The barrels are lightweight making them easy to move, stand up and collapse.

Former foster-horse, Copper, and me threading the needle.

So how do I use them in my horse work? Let me count the ways:

  1. Just like cones, I use the barrels as markers in making patterns. Because they are larger than cones and quite colorful, they add visual interest and variety to any pattern. I can weave the barrels, circle around them or decide to make transitions between gaits when I pass by the barrels.
  2. Another idea is to set two of them up side by side at varying distances. I then ask my horse to pass between the barrels at any gait. Don’t forget that backing between the barrels is a great exercise in encouraging straightness. For an added challenge, try backing a figure-eight pattern around them!
  3. Use the barrels to hold long, skinny items like lightweight broom handles and flags. I practice lining my horse up next to the barrel so I can then accustom them to my picking up and putting down the broom handles and flags.
  4. It is also fun to accustom my horse to accept my picking the barrels up and relocating them from the saddle. This comes in handy at clean-up time.
  5. Try “layering” the barrels with other objects! For example, I might open up a tarp and place two barrels on top. Then I ask my horse to walk over the tarp while passing between the barrels.
  6. Don’t forget that even if you don’t ride, you can incorporate the barrels into your groundwork with horses. I practice leading my horses between the barrels, sending my horses between the barrels and backing them up between the barrels. Horses can also learn tricks with the barrels like using their noses to roll them as well as pushing them with their knees or giving the barrels a tap with their hooves. It is fun to watch a nervous horse develop confidence as he or she learns to safely manipulate and control the barrels.

In working with the barrels in any variation, I expose my horses to the sound and feeling of the barrel fabric as well as the spring-action movement of the barrels. On that note, I wouldn’t recommend unfurling the barrels right in front of your horse until he or she is very comfortable with them as the sound and movement of the pop-up can be startling. Also, I will point out that I do not recommend their use in high wind. The barrels are somewhat weighted on the bottom, but they can and do get blown over. Use caution during the windy season. I like to expose my horses to all sorts of things in an effort to help them become good equine citizens, but I don’t really want to be surprised by barrels blowing over in a sudden wind gust while I am riding by them.

Since I bought my barrel set awhile ago, I thought I’d visit the seventeen flat website and see what they have been up to. I notice that they still sell the full set (three barrels and carrying case), but that now they also offer the option to buy a single barrel or just the carrying case. The full set is listed at $159.99, a single barrel at $55 and the bag by itself at $20. Not inexpensive, I know. But I have gotten about ten years use out of them and continue to use them to this day. This makes the per-year price come to $15.99. Considering the amount of mileage I have gotten and continue to get out of them, I consider them worth the cost. If you enjoy incorporating cones and obstacles into your work with horses like I do, these barrels might turn out to be a favorite product for you, too. Check them out at

Shiloh and I getting ready to start a pattern where we will weave the barrels.