I have been thinking and questioning “What makes a great barrel?” and this is probably a question that a lot of us have. The reason we finish a turn well is because we approach it well. BUT HOW?! These are the things that I’m going to tell you that I think are the key ingredients to make an amazing barrel.

So let’s get into it.

1: The one thing that I start off by telling everybody, is the approach.

I think if you approach a barrel correctly and properly, we’re setting ourselves and our horses up for success. And it starts with the approach if we don’t approach the barrel, right and something goes wrong, and it’s not smooth and easy, we’re not going to finish it right.

What I mean by that is if you go into tight, you’re gonna have to go wide. If you go in with your dropped shoulder and your horse’s hip is kicked out, your horse is gonna have to take an extra step or two and regain balance to actually come around the barrel as effectively and as quickly as possible. We all know, our mission here is to run a barrel pattern as fast as we possibly can.

It starts with us staying centred, approaching the barrel in a nice balanced, upright way, and giving the horse the best chance of success.

I feel like second might be the most common struggle barrel, because we do approach it on a straight line, there’s no angles, it’s very direct. Horses and humans tend to a anticipate the turn and cause a lot of issues with either slicing into it, or a we make a huge pocket, and then our horses hit it on leaving, and there’s just so many things that can happen a second. So we’re gonna use second as our example.

#2: Point of Focus

I make sure I look directly behind my barrel and that is my focal point. That is the ONLY spot I look at and where I want my horse’s head, front feet and back feet to travel to. How I think of approaching it is “shoulder up, drive forward. shoulder up drive ahead.” (this is on repeat in my head)  So if you were to draw a line behind, that’s kind of my focal point of where I really am pushing my horse to.  I do that all the time so my horses learn to run up to that point. Keep it consistent and don’t start the turn until the horse is clear of the barrel. Always have a focal point where YOU look. It will help with muscle/mind memory.

#3 Straight Lines

Straight lines are the second ingredient to a barrel race. They need to stay square and centered between my hands and my legs, when we’re doing straight lines is it’s not just about their head, we really want their body too. I really feel it with my knees and my thighs, I am staying centered, I’m staying straight and I’m driving my horse forward. I am sitting back pushing my horse along and encouraging him that forward motion like I said earlier, really important to get that forward motion.

Lines are really important to keep the shoulder traveling under everything and to keep it all one working unit. This is part of having your horse work in train tracks with its front and back feet. When we’re approaching and going around the barrel its just making sure that you feel that you have full body control between your hands and legs.

Final Words


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Our horses are listening to us they want to do what we want! Love your horse, treat them kindly, guide them, direct them to be the best horses that they can be. It starts with us right now by doing these things; listening to podcasts, watching videos, learning from everyone, what you like and what you don’t like, just keep growing.

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