I’m sure you have all been told at some point that barrel racing is just a game. In some ways it is. Have you ever played solitaire and reached a point where there is no way to win so you start the game over? Well, when you barrel race and you don’t “win”, sometimes it’s just best to reset the deck, that was stacked against us, and re-deal.
Take two steps back and look at your run. Honestly, I see way more pilot errors than actual horse errors. That being said, I also see horses that don’t really understand the game. It’s time to shuffle and go back to square one. We all like to think our horses are talented and well versed on the whole barrel racing thing. But have you done your home work? Do you have all your cards in order? Or did you skip a step and need to go back to that step and fix it?
One of my biggest pet peeve is to watch a rider cross their inside rein over the neck. Why are you doing this? Are you thinking you are moving your horse away from the barrel? Take a step back. Do that at home without a barrel in front of you and see how your horse reacts. For me, when coming in too tight, I counter arch away from the barrel. I actually put my inside leg in my horse to move his rib cage and then tip the nose toward said barrel effectively counter arching away from the barrel. This way, I don’t force my horse to drop his shoulder and loose his shape in the turn. Heck, that is how I work them slow. Why would I do it different in a run? So throw that card out!
Another one of my pet peeves is looking down at the barrel. It’s not that you are looking at the barrel, it’s what happens when you do it. Your body literally leans into the barrel. Your shoulder drops. Your body weight gets moved to the inside of the turn vs the outside. This will result in one of two things. Either your horse will go wide in an effort to get you back in the middle and counter balance his turn OR you horse will be more rigid in his turn and clip it leaving in an attempt to once again, keep you in the middle. How do you practice? Do you lean in? No. You step out, placing your weight to the outside stirrup and counter the horse’s force in the turn. If you simply look up and at your next “spot”, your body will naturally shift out. Your shoulder will come up. Your horse doesn’t have to work as hard to keep you centered. Think about it. If he can feel a fly on his shoulder and twitch that single muscle, don’t you think he can feel your butt in that saddle? Again, shuffle the deck and go back to the house and focus on your slow work.
Your feet. What are you doing with them in a run? Do you have to rubber band them into your stirrups? We all occasionally loose one in a run. But why do you want to band them in? Is it because you loose your balance with out them? Well….. that means you are not keeping you heels down in your run. Heels down is so hard for western…. go grab a cheap English saddle and you will figure that out really quickly. We balance on the balls of our feet and the seat bones in our buttocks. If you are constantly loosing that stirrup, go back to horsemanship 101. Heels down! I encourage you to ride without stirrups and figure out where your center of balance really is. I promise you will be shocked. Throw that English saddle up on the horse and figure out where your feet need to be to balance without the luxury of a saddle horn, swells and the cantle holding you in. Shuffle the deck and figure it out.
Did you hit a barrel? Guys, it happens! Why are you beating your horse up over it? Was it you or the horse? Can you honestly say that you rode your horse 100% correctly and he still hit the barrel? 9/10 times, the rider caused the barrel to be hit. The other 1/10 is either your horse took a miss step or doesn’t properly know how to maneuver himself in the turn. Shuffle the deck. Take it home and figure it out.
Is your horse just not running? Have you ever just let your horse run wide open without barrels? This is another. If step that you can’t miss. If your horse cannot run wide open without barrels, then he can’t figure out how to rate and run in a race. This is more of a trust issue that I see a lot with riders. Go to an arena if you wish. Don’t set up the cans. Warm up then breeze that horse. Teach him that you are not going to snatch his face when he runs. A lot of time, we feel that they are flying and we choke them down to “rate”. Y’all, you have to let him know it’s ok to run, you trust him. If you have done your homework on the pattern and on your proper body position, allowing them to breeze will only increase your speed. It’s not going to take away from your turns. Y’all think I’m insane by letting Lynx fly into the arena. It’s 100% trust. He trusts me not to jerk his face off and I trust him to hunt the barrel and be ready to turn. The harder we run coming in, the faster our entire run will be. Ok, I might be crazy but still, it’s fact.my reins are long. My hack is light. I could not pull him up if I wanted too! But I trust him because we breeze and I know he will stop when I need him too. Oh and breezing will also help you find your seat! Shuffle the deck and start over. Go back through what happened but don’t dwell on it! Mo e forward with the fresh deck.
All in all, I want each and every rider to be positive when making a run. Slamming on your horse will do nothing but create issues such as alley way issues, ducking off, running off, blowing out barrels etc. You have to earn their trust as much as they have to earn your trust. Whatever you do, don’t throw your sucker in the dirt. Praise that horse for not killing you in the arena. Then go back and see what you did to cause the horse to react the way he did in the arena. But praise him no matter what. #blessedtobarrelrace #resbarrelracing