First of all, I want to say “A basic foundation must be in place with both the rider and the horse.” And, it all starts with your cues and your consistency. The better your hands are the better you horse will be. The better your seat is, the better your horse will be.
Bad hands cause frustration for your horse and bad barrel runs. Leaning forward in the saddle and asking him to slow down can also be confusing. As can be leaning back, like to whip, and asking the horse to run faster. Forward is the go position, and sitting deep is the gather up your legs position.
Remember, and I preach this often, in between each of those three barrels are straight lines. And the quickest way to get there is straight from point A to point B. Keep your hands and your seat even and you will have a better chance of traveling in those straight lines. You will hear me say “It is all straight lines, the only turn is once you get the barrel behind your leg, at the area where a horse turns from.” A horse does not turn on his shoulder or his head. We teach a young horse to follow his nose and then when he is becoming a barrel horse, we want him to run straight with his nose to the inside. This makes no sense to me. If that was fast, race horses would run with their noses to the side and not straight. Duh!!
When we are entered up adrenalin can take over and cause us problems. It can make us stiffen up. So relax. Keep your hands square and parallel with even pressure on each rein. Keep a couple of inches between your hands. Don’t be stiff in your body either. You have to go with the horse and be there to help him, not hinder.
For the most part, where you sit, forward, is controlled by your hands and reins. Your seat controls the rear end of the horse. A horse will still go the way his shoulders go and that is what makes your hands so important.
Most novice riders do too much with their hands and not enough with their seat and body position.We need to ride the whole horse and think about what is going on behind us.
Pressure and release are big here. Horses learn by repetition and consistency. So remember that when a horse does give to the pressure of the reins, you need to release the pressure. If you only do this sometimes it can confuse and frustrate your horse. Pretty basic concept. When you kick, he goes, so you stop kicking. Got it? You stopped the pressure of your legs. So try hard to be very consistent with your hands and body cues.
You need to also be quick to reward.You want to release the pressure as soon as the horse responds to what you are asking. The better you are at this the better and more responsive your horse will become.
Working on your consistency of hands and body are things that can be worked on every time you ride. You do not need to do this always or only on the barrel pattern.
You can work on your body position without the barrels also. Getting up and forward in your saddle means go. Sitting deep on your pockets means throttle back to me.
I will lope big circles like a reiner. With my legs and my body, I will encourage my horse to pick up some speed by being forward in my saddle and smooching to him and/or using my legs.After he is slightly tired, I will sit deep and soften my body, sitting on my pockets, and ask my horse to slow down. Another way to say this is, I will ask him with my hands and seat to come back to me and collect his stride. I may also have to tighten both reins evenly to achieve this.
Stopping is another very important item in a barrel horse. A horse that does not stop well, I do not want to ride. I believe a good barrel horse has to have good brakes.When I ask my horse to stop, I will first sit deep on my pockets, say whoa, and then tighten my reins the necessary amount to achieve the stop.As soon as the horse stops, release the rein pressure.That is his reward.
Remember, consistency is the key in all things with a horse. So until next month, happy trails and God Bless!