Don’t Go Bye-Bye! Crank the First Barrel Consistently

Don't Go Bye-Bye!  Crank the First Barrel Consistently

In barrel racing circles “rate” can be described as the transfer of weight to the hindquarters, which puts a horse in a more athletic position to round a barrel. With just the right amount of rate, combined with proper body shape on behalf of the horse and rider, as well as timing – a quick, efficient turn is almost inevitable!

Establishing rate may seem as simple as teaching the horse to utilize his hindquarters, or at least utilize them better in order to transfer weight from the forward reaching gallop to a more collected position – both in general AND especially in that specific spot where it’s required on the pattern.

A great stop doesn't necessarily create great rate!
A great stop doesn’t necessarily create great rate!

But what if your horse buries his keister like a pro in dry work, and at every other opportunity, EXCEPT in an actual run?

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering why your horse seems to rate and use himself so well otherwise, yet STILL struggles with going by barrels in competition, the video below just might illuminate a path to resolving this issue for good.

The truth is, there are MANY factors that contribute to our horses ability to prepare for the turn in an instant. Rate IS necessary, and the horse must have this ability to transition well developed, however it’s quite possible there something getting in the way of that rate being reflected where it’s needed most.

This new video below will help you go beyond the more obvious reasons why you’re flying past barrels (which you’ve probably already addressed), and looks at this common problem from several critical, yet lesser known angles.

So put YOUR detective hat on and look closely – if you already have “rate” and are STILL going by barrels, it’s time to find out WHY your horse is not demonstrating it in run.

When you watch the video below, then take action on it’s contents, you’ll be turnin’ and burnin’ in no time!

While you’re here, feel free to share or ask for feedback on this subject in the comments below – let me know about YOUR experiences with going by barrels – wins AND challenges!

*Utilize the links below to go even more in depth in these areas:

Get FIVE More First Barrel Exercises Now – for FREE!

10 replies
  1. Evelyn
    Evelyn says:

    Hi Heather! Great article as usual! 🙂 I’ve been struggling with the first barrel lately. My problem is mostly with trust. At the rodeo, I tend to get more excited and my horse feels like she is running a lot faster at the barrel. I freak out and think she doesn’t see it. I swear it feels like we are going to run right past it so I check her way too soon. It can really mess up my entry into the turn and her nose will be over the barrel causing her hind end to swing out. I think I just need to practice in a bigger outside pen when I have nothing to lose. Then I will realize I can trust her! 🙂

  2. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I’ve been having some major trouble with my first barrel. It’s not so much that he runs by it but rather hits the turn coming in and just won’t turn. He throws his head in the air and won’t engage his back end so his back is hollowed out and we’re bowing our from the barrel and almost hitting the timer on small pens. I’ve had him to the vet several times, the dentist has looked at him several times- he even gets massages weekly and the massage therapist is telling me that in no way he is so sore that he should be doing that. I’ve finally reached the conclusion that he’s just being a jerk. I’ve put a head setter on him and that seems to help the bowing out but he still fights it. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m holding him up so much going to the first because of the first that I’m just setting the tone for a slow run. We’re running in the 4D lately even though I know I’m sitting on a horse that has all the gas in the world. I’m just not sure where to improve my riding to give him confidence in that turn and how to build my confidence back up in him.

  3. Wallis
    Wallis says:

    I think couple other things that can improve a first barrel turn are flexion and room. I see a lot of horses coming into the first very stiff and some slow work with just one barrel not the whole pattern can help. Just try to practice approaching the barrel and asking your horse to get soft and arc their body. I see other horses coming into the first and they seem to panic that they don’t have enough room so they get past it where they have enough room before they start the turn. Once again slow work with just one barrel seems to help me and my horses the most. Thanks for the tips and advice!

  4. Emily
    Emily says:

    I really appreciate the video and you made some good points! I’m having the same issue with my barrel horse, except he started off going wide around the first now he runs up the fence! Its very frustrating and I have completely stopped competing him for the last year because of this problem. He only does it at high speeds and will do it at the barn or at competition, indoor or outdoor. I have rated him a lot, changed bits a lot, had him examined by the vet, had a chiropractor align him, and have had many other competitors in my area come out and ride him and they are stumped as to why he does it! I’m almost about to give up! He is a solid 4D horse if you don’t push him in, but its time for him to start running like a real horse. He has been on barrels for 2 years now and this is a problem for the last year and a half. Also, he is a 9 year old QH gelding that i have owned for over 8 years, so i am very familiar with how this horse works! I have plenty of videos of his bad and decent rruns, I really need help! Please and thank you!

    • BarrelRacingTips
      BarrelRacingTips says:

      Hi Emily, sounds like a frustrating problem no doubt. I would explore even further with the physical issues, and see about getting a second opinion, even if it involves quite an investment to get a thorough exam with the very best equine performance Vet. Also consider that it could be an emotional issue. Is this horse pretty sensitive and known to experience some anxiety? If that’s the case, just do a search in the upper right corner for “Dot Com” (my husband’s horse who came to us with a lot of emotional baggage) and you should come up with lots of great resources.
      I’ll also point you to another post that might also be helpful – Solutions for Running Up the Wall

  5. Jordan Ernst
    Jordan Ernst says:

    Hi heather, I have read just about all your articles but none of them have really answered one of my questions.. I’ve had my horse for about 3 years now. We took a fall on our first barrel I took him to the vet and they all said he was fine. But ever sense when we come around our first barrel to the back side he jumps away rares and try’s to take off to our second. If I take him at a much slower pace he his perfectly fine. Lately going to my first barrel we have to go very slow and take off to our second and third very fast. Would you have any ideas what it could be? And drills exercises anything???

    • Heather Smith
      Heather Smith says:

      Hi Jordan, when problem solving a person can usually get things figured out by looking at educational (mental), physical and emotional foundations – the SOURCE. Any exercises are just secondary depending on what the real cause of the issue is, and sometimes there can be problems in all three areas. Often times there’s not enough education, then a physical injury occurs, then some emotional stuff comes up, etc. and any behavior caused by it becomes even more of an ingrained habit as it occurs over time, which again requires us to reeducate them, etc.

      Horses either do what they think they are supposed to do or what they feel they have to do. So a horse that doesn’t stay on track around the pattern has either learned (whether it was intentional or not) to go off path, OR there is some reason they don’t WANT to stay on path. We have to make it the easy, desirable thing for them to want to stick to the pattern. So you want to nip any behavior in the bud as it happens and deliver some discomfort when he jumps away… but be careful because if there is rearing you don’t want get in an argument with a horse that is lacking the emotional and educational elements to control their bodies and emotions without risking getting hurt… those things may need to be better established first. If the horse does something dangerous and you have to back off to keep yourself safe, then they’ve just been rewarded for the behavior. So a permanent solution may require some ground work, lots of softening and tuning and building general responsiveness, making sure they’re totally content and relaxed, etc. before you make a correction on the pattern.


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