Six Tips for a Tight Third Barrel

In today’s Q&A video, we’ve described six reasons why horses blow off the third barrel (the reasons also apply to ANY other barrel), AND what to do (which may surprise you), once you’ve pinpoited the problem. When troubleshooting, keep in mind that it’s likely there are a combination of things occurring, so a resolution may require addressing the problem from several different angles.

Tea and Crumpets... on the Barrel Pattern!?
Tea and Crumpets… on the Barrel Pattern!?

I certainly feel the frustration anyone has with this issue, because I used to struggle with my horse coming wide off the first barrel. Maybe you’ve felt your horse leave a barrel wide and then make a time consuming swoop instead of a laser-like straight line, and in that moment didn’t feel like whatever you did to correct the error was very effective! The solution to MY first barrel issue was featured in a past Q&A that you might also find helpful, titled Two Contradictory Tips to be Straight and Fast Between Barrels.

If you watch the video below and feel as though your horse could use a refresher to become more responsive, then check out How to Fix a Wide Turn on the Barrels. It’s another past Q&A that goes into greater depth to demonstrate the kind of responsiveness we need from our barrel horses, AND how to get it!

With any issue on the pattern, it’s key to remember is that EVERYTHING IS FIGURE-OUTABLE! There is never a moment in which we have to throw our hands up in the air. When you’re frustrated simply go back to the drawing board to regroup, research a possible solution and give it another go.

There are reasons behind every positive thing our horse does, and everything they do that we perceive as negative. Success leaves clues – study them! Commit to amping up your awareness, knowledge and feel, and you can put an end to covering excess real estate on the pattern and start turning in the fast times (we both know) you and your horses are capable of!

If you’ve ever had a horse with a habit of leaving the third barrel wide, and have any additional advice for resolving this common source of frustration, please share your experience in the comments below!

(Special thanks to “Dotcom” the rope horse for assisting in the demonstration for this video!)

6 replies
  1. Zia
    Zia says:

    When going into any barrel esp a 3rd (because the rider and horse both anticipate the turn and hustle) Make sure you PICK up your horses shoulder using your rein and leg. By moving him over and collecting at the same time you are going to be collected around the barrel from start to finish, finishing with a tight turn with the power to run home. I see a lot of people pull the outside rein just as they get to the third barrel. This does nothing but create a balance/slicing issue which results in a unfinished barrel and no power.

    I like re enforce this move by walking the pattern and giving inside rein and leg, allowing my horse to move at least 3 steps away from my leg while in a forward motion. What you do in your slow work will show when you are trying to stop the clock!

  2. Breanna
    Breanna says:

    You are very good at what you do, you have a lot of knowledge about barrel racing. Thank you for all the videos & articles.

    Gotta Gallop,
    Breanna & Toolarah

  3. Crystal
    Crystal says:

    Perfect! Exactly what my eleven year old daughter needed to hear. That’s exactly what her and her horse are doing, blowing off the backside of the barrel – I’ve told her to wait and finish her turn – look up and go straight forward towards the alley, she’s loosing valuable time here, and she needed to hear someone else besides “mom” to tell her. Thank You!

    • Heather Smith
      Heather Smith says:

      Happy to help Crystal, for some reason those kiddos tend to have a hard time with the third… perhaps because they ride a little more passive than most adults, but they can sure learn to be more intentional there… AND we can always jump in for a little schooling to make sure the horse is being honest too. I’m sure you’ll get the third barrel issue sorted out!

  4. Patricia
    Patricia says:

    I love the ‘eating a sandwich’! I have to try this because this is exactly the issue I am having with my gelding. His 3rd was his best barrel but lately, he is blowing it. Thanks!


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