The competitive barrel race showcases the speed and agility of the Western stock horse. In the barrel race, horse and rider must race against the clock while executing a cloverleaf pattern of tight turns around three 55-gallon barrels. If the horse turns too tightly, he risks tipping a barrel and incurring an expensive time penalty. If he turns too wide, the turn costs valuable seconds. To train a horse to find that perfect “rate point” to get the best time, without risking a dropped barrel, takes patience, practice and a few basic principles.
Winning form requires practice and teamwork.
• Step 1
Balance yourself in the saddle with your heels down and your legs directly under your body. Hold the reins in both hands in “plow rein” or “English” style, with the rein coming from the horse’s mouth, under the little finger of the hand and out between the thumb and forefinger. From behind the starting line, focus on the first barrel, either left or right. Pick a spot approximately eight feet to the inside of the pattern from the first barrel. At a brisk walk, ride that line. Keep the horse balanced and straight between your legs and hands.
• Step 2
As the horse’s shoulder reaches a point eight feet off the inside of the barrel, stop. The purpose of the stop is to teach him to gather himself for the turn at the rate point. Let the horse settle for a moment. Resume walking. Guide him around the barrel by putting pressure on the inside rein until his nose drops to the inside in the direction of the turn. Support his turn by placing pressure with
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