Don’t Get Strung Out! Three Exercises for Hind End Engagement

Don’t Get Strung Out!  Three Exercises for Hind End Engagement

I very strongly believe that the problems that show up in a run are often problems that are showing up everywhere else, but they are just more subtle – so they go unnoticed.

Typically a horse that loses engagement in the hind end, will be a horse that doesn’t exactly have a habit of traveling with great quality in general.

Remember that speed and the pressure of competition emphasizes everything! A problem that is barely noticeable will becoming glaringly obvious in a run. This is why it’s so critical for barrel racers to understand what quality movement really is, and how to develop it.

Doing so would solve so many issues on the pattern, which is why I dedicated an entire chapter to the subject of Quality Movement in “Secrets to Barrel Racing Success.”

Let’s say, however, that you have very skillfully developed the quality of your horse’s movement and were absolutely positive they were using themselves correctly on a regular basis with impulsion, collection, flexion and all the other aspects that make up quality movement – and your horse STILL was not engaging his hindquarters on the barrel pattern.

Find out what three exercises I recommend to close the gap between awesome dry work and lackluster barrels in the video below…

For help with overcoming any bad rider habits that only seem to occur in a run, check out “Kiss Bad Barrel Racing Habits Goodbye!”

If you enjoyed this video, please use the links below to share with your barrel buddies!

Then, in the comments tell me – have you ever had a horse that seemed to revert back to the same old habits at speed, no matter what you did in slow or dry work? What did you do to help resolve the issue?

16 replies
  1. Val
    Val says:

    Love this video!!! I’m having issues like you explained. In practice runs my horse does really good but in competition runs she’s not moving with the fluidity and she ends up turning off her front end causing her to come out of the first barrel way too wide, drifting back to the starting line. 2nd and 3rd barrel are usually really nice.
    I’m going to use your tips in the arena this week, thank you!!

  2. Brooke
    Brooke says:

    This is great techniques to use! I did run into the problem of my horse stepping on his tail though! So now he has learned how to put his butt in the ground but seems to always get his tail. So I either have to braid it everytime I run or going to have to cut it. This exercise really worked for a futurity colt I have. He was getting very strung out going around the first but stayed okay through the other two. Now he stays more collected and turns very smoothly.

  3. Kaleena
    Kaleena says:

    Loved the video! I found it very helpful! I also have a horse that takes the pattern perfectly when we r doing slow work but the moment we add speed he falls apart! I have been loping him to the first barrel bc if I run right out the gate he blows past first! Then sometimes I can get him to take first fine and I’ll add speed into second and he takes the back side of second really wide and fights me when I try to bring him back. I luckily have not had a problem with third he takes it the same every time. But I’m not sure how to correct the rest.

    • BarrelRacingTips
      BarrelRacingTips says:

      Thanks Kaleena, glad you enjoyed the video! My idea of a truly “well broke” horse is one that will soften and yield and go where you ask at any time, under any circumstances. When they resist and have opposition it’s either because we haven’t quite educated them well enough, OR an emotional issue is preventing them from doing what they know to do… in either case it’s our responsibility to go back and fill those areas in. Here’s a link to a past Q&A post on wide turns – “How to Fix a Wide Turn on the Barrels” You might also see the “Speed Kills” article, I think both will be helpful! 😉

  4. Haley
    Haley says:

    My horse is planting his front feet going into the barrel and sliding his hindquarters around, which is putting the barrel right in front of him. Everyone keeps telling me he needs to have more forward motion in his hindquarters to drop down and push himself around the barrel. I have tried pushing him all the way around the barrel but at the same time I don’t want to mess up how he rates going into the barrel. What should I do?

    • Heather Smith
      Heather Smith says:

      Hi Haley, to me this sounds like a balance issue – like the horse is putting too much weight on the front end and basically closing a door in front of him. You’ll want to work on shoulder elevation and roundness over the topline to create the opportunity for this him to use his hind quarters correctly for a smooth, fast turn. 🙂

  5. Terri
    Terri says:

    The roll back connection was a great tip. Thanks. Also a chiropractor needs to check your horse out. Not all performance vets are chiropractors. I overcame this problem with conditioning on hills to strengthen the inside rear leg muscles and the coordination. Lope correct cirles getting smaller and on steeper hill as strength improves. As circles are correct, do a takeoff uphill. Then the level takeoff in the arena seems easy. This is great off season work or ground work. I did alot of it following surgery when I couldn’t ride, also when time is short.

  6. Ann
    Ann says:

    My horse at speed goes to the 1st barrel, starts the turn, but does not finish turn, wants to run up the wall, back to start, seems to occur only on outdoor large pattens. Really gets on the muscle. Any suggestions. Help.

    • Heather Smith
      Heather Smith says:

      Hi Ann, the key in instances like this is to focus on resolving the CAUSE of the problem vs. the only the symptom. For example, even if you could wrestle your horse into staying on the pattern, it might not change that your horse feels the need to avoid and run off to begin with. When a horse runs through pressure, that is a foundational problem with their education… but there are often BIG physical and emotional components too. This post will help -> Solutions for Running Up the Wall.

  7. Kim
    Kim says:

    LOVED those 3 simple “rollback” exercises for hind end work. Both Nick and Kitty could benefit(Kitty is front endy, Nick needs for better hindquarter strength and impulsion), especially since he’s been hurt and we’re now in the process of getting stronger and more physically fit. I also like the way helping and enhancing the quality movement transfers to the brain. I think that’s Nicks biggest thing to overcome, he needs to know it won’t “hurt”. The more strength and muscle he develops, the better he’ll feel.


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