Start and Finish Your Turns Tight & Right
Having an overly-analytical mind can be both a blessing and a curse. Just ask my husband – an overwhelming desire to constantly improve things (everything), can be exhausting!
It means I’m always on the lookout for how things can be made better. It also means I have a keen eye for what’s wrong, which sometimes overshadows what’s right, and CAN act as a barrier to seeing the glass as half full.
So although I have to be aware and train myself to be content and enjoy the present moment, and to feel more and think less, my tendency to improve everything I see and experience translates into a desire to help other barrel racers do the same.
Speaking of that – are your turns as fast as they could be?
In the video below I’ve described what actually happens to cause a horse to fade or pop out of a turn, AND what to do about it!
In fact, you might be surprised to learn most barrel racer’s initial reaction for resolving this issue is actually contradictory to what I recommend.
After all, fading out of the turn is a not really a problem, but a symptom of something else going on – which may require a completely different mindset, as well as specific problem solving techniques that you might not expect.
Leave it to me to challenge what’s accepted as “normal,” in trade for deep understandings that lead to action that gets real, lasting results!
Speaking of real, lasting results, click here to learn more about Power Hour video coaching!
Enjoy the video below and if you’re new here at BarrelRacingTips.com, click here if you’re ready to get started with taking your barrel racing to a whole new level with “The Secrets!”
While we’re on this subject, tell more about your experiences with horses that fade out of the turn in the comments below!
The links below are offered as further support for the areas discussed and demonstrated in this week’s video.
- Which horses do you think have better turns – ones who have merely inches to spare in their approach or those who allowed more room? Are you certain you know exactly where you want your horse’s feet to fall, and that they’re honoring that track? If not, you might need to be sure you Follow the Barrel Racing Path of Least Resistance.
- Is your horse taking full responsibility for honoring how he’s been trained to place his feet and use his body? If you’re not sure, it’s time to put your horse to the test with How to Instill Independence and Refine Body Control for Faster Times.
- If your problem seems to be more between the barrels than around them, you’ll likely gain some insight from these Two (Contradictory) Tips to be Straight and Fast Between Barrels.
I had this question and it was answered on barrel racing news by Ryann Pedone. She wanted me to try a different bit but I also looked into physical issues and found that he was suffering from an ulcer. do you have any good advice for an ulcer?
As for ulcers, most Vet. clinics don’t have the ability to scope your horse to know for sure whether he has ulcers and their severity (and it’s also expensive), so most people end up investing in treating them based on signs such as being hard to keep weight on, behavior problems, etc. The treatment that has been most proven to be effective is Omeprazole, sold as Ulcergard or Gastrogard. There are generic versions of omeprazole on the market, and other more natural products like clay (Google “Miracle Clay”) and also supplements made from papaya. I have also heard good reports from a product called Ulcer Stop. From my experience you can usually count on any effective ulcer meds to be expensive, but due to the negative impact they have on a horse’s health you’ll definitely want to make it high priority to get them healed.
Next, you’ll want to look at any possible lifestyle changes you can make for your horse to help prevent them. You’ll want to be sure your horse has access to grass hay or pasture 24/7 so that the saliva your horse produces from chewing buffers his stomach acid, which is produced at all times in horses. Think of ways in which you can make your horse’s life as stress free as possible, and you might also help support good gut function by feeding probiotics regularly.
Hope that helps! 🙂
if you do not have access to good grass hay or 24/7 pasture that will not founder your horse, look into Porta-Grazer slow feeders….they are on facebook and their website is porta-grazer.com….they are great and you can soak hay to drain off sugars which was great for an I/M horse i had…when i feed at 7am my horses are still slow eating at 1-2pm and i have grass/alfalfa mix hay and put in 2 forkfulls of oat or barley straw for roughage and to keep the hind gut moving..they are soo great for traveling too. just sayin’ (there are also slowfeeder hay nets that are cost effective from many manufacturers.
Thanks for sharing Kathleen, I LOVE slow feeders! 😉
About this time last year, I was riding/schooling a young horse that was really coming along nicely on the pattern. As I started to ask for more speed, she started bowing off or floating away most noticeably on 2nd barrel, and sometimes leaving 3rd. I went to my coach who evaluated my runs and the fix was SO simple. I was getting up out of my saddle too soon and throwing my young horse off balance. My coach encouraged me to help my mare stay in position by sitting down in my saddle until my horse finished her turn. What a difference!!! 🙂
Thanks for sharing Dana,
Rider position can make a huge difference as you have found out. If we rush the turn or get too “up and forward” in our own body, it makes sense that it will encourage them to do the same. Horses ARE our mirrors!
It was definitely a big light bulb moment for me when I started to realize that horses will tend to do in their bodies what we do in ours – it really requires us to be more responsible and accountable for how we contribute to issues rather than only point the finger at the horse.
I’m glad you had a good trainer to help you resolve the issue.
keep up the great work and thanks again for sharing!
You learned a very good lesson. I see so many people riding off balance and this slows the horse down especialy in the turns cause he has to get up under you in order to keep his balance and not fall down. A lot of young riders who lean in the turns run into big problems when they keep leaning after they are grown.
Ride hard; Ride Smart
This article has been so helpful for me! My barrel gelding drops his shoulder going into the barrel and on the backside “pops” out and his hips swing out as well. He is very much on the forehand and I do several exercises and dressage work to try and get him working off his hindquarters, but as soon as I take him back to the pattern he reverts to the forehand again.
At a barrel clinic I went to last year with a different horse the lady had me circling the barrels in a counter-arc like you demonstrated in the video, but my current horse does not like counterarc-ing. I also do leg yields/bending like you demonstrated but my gelding gets high-headed and tense and shuffles instead of relaxing and moving away from my leg.
I feel like this horse has a never ending supply of problems that I did not notice before I bought him, and I’m reading/watching/learning as much as I can to try and help him. I’m only 16, but I feel that if someone else buys him they will eventually see these problems as well and either bully him to try and “fix” it or he’ll be passed around.
Congrats to you for really diving in, recognizing your horse’s problems and committing yourself to fixing them! Your awareness and then willingness, are the first two critical steps to resolving the issue.
Before a horse can be responsive, they have to be calm and connected. Some horses will tend to lose some of the calmness once we get or work on the responsiveness. It’s a fine balance to achieve.
What’s most important is that you break down the counter arcing into baby steps, so that your horse can confidently learn without getting emotional and tense. It all starts with lateral neck flexion. Work on that at a stand still first. Next, work on responding to leg cues, start with a simple sidepass from steady pressure on the ground – apply it in the area where your leg would be. Move onto a sidepass on his back, then moving your leg a little forward to yield the shoulders, and back to yield the hindquarters. Don’t put a timeline on this, take the time it takes for him to learn the ingredients before putting them all together. Isolate, separate and recombine.
Remember if he’s tense and worried, he won’t be in a learning frame of mind.
I know how frustrating it can be sometimes, but you are on the right track – keep up the good work and keep me posted!
Try a massage therapist. You can not rest out or medicate out a muscle spasam. It has to be worked out. Muscles are like spaghetti. Sometimes the strands stick together. The muscle does the same and if you do not work it out more sticks together until you have a knot. If you are anywhere around the Claxton, Ga area I can help you out. I am a certified Equine Sports Massage Therapist.
Fisrt off, thank you again for taking time out of your week to give us all inspiration and for helping us all keep ourselves focused on not only our barrel racing goals but our horsemanship as a whole! I thought I would share an experience I recently had….
When I first purchased my gelding he was lacking the basics. Once we got that somewhat sorted out I started hauling him to time onlys. Our first big money race (in Sept, 2012) was only a few months after I had purchased him, I went with the simple goal to just have fun, regardless of the outcome. His turns had been improving up until a week before the race. We spent that week before doing slow work and praying we made a decent run. However I could sense something wasn’t right when I lead him out of the trailer and again when we started warming up. Regardless, I was determined to give it my all, we came flying in and made the best first barrel we ever had, headed straight to the second, soon as he started the turn he came leaping out of it as if he had been bit by a snake or something. We almost ran over the photographer(oops! can you say embarrassing?!?) I am a firm believer that most of the time when horses misbehave it is because of pain, rider error, or stress, and even though we finished our pattern our time was close to 20 seconds. Soon as I stepped of off him outside the gate I notice he had a slight limp. A few fellow competitors said I should have whooped him, but I knew something was wrong. I gave him time off, but as time went by we were scared he might be going nevicular, THATs how bad it got. We had the farrier check him out and it was inconclusive as to what exactly was the issue. The day I scheduled the vet to come take X-rays a huge abscess blew out at the tip of his frog, We had the farrier out again, he ended up having to cut away a circular hole in each hoof that was about 2-3 inches in diameter to allow it to drain. After 3 months of changing the pads and poultice daily,(talk about WORK) He was finally feeling well enough to lope around in the pasture. In a way I am greatful, since I have begun riding him again I decided to go back to a snaffle and macartes and work on the basics. To say the least we found a few holes, because of this fresh start we are WAY ahead of where we were last year! And his turns are back to being clean and tight, no hesitation or tenseness! He is mentally stronger now, just as long as he stays sound!! Thanks again for giving us your time!
THANK YOU for sharing Alyssa! Kudos to you for taking responsibility and not assuming it was all “the horse’s problem.” It’s great that during your horse’s recovery time you were also able to back and strengthen some fundamentals. You handled the whole situation like a “HORSEMAN” and that says a lot, I don’t use that term lightly but it’s what I encourage every barrel races to aspire to – not just win barrel races but become a horseman in the process. Keep up the great work, you inspire ME! 🙂
I ride a big stout paint mare. She has been running barrels since August of ’12. She’s a nice mare runs hard each time, very consistent. I ride her in a ported bit with a cricket and a tie down. It has been working for her very well. But just recently a friend of my suggested to tighten the curb cain and use a german martingale. ( I have trouble stopping her on a dime.) When I did so we made a run and she flipped out on her first barrel. I had never seen her do such a thing. I changed back to what I had before. And we made a run but this time on the firfirst barrel she stopped just dead stopped. Why is this? Any suggestions? Thanks!
My guess is that the martingale had a totally different feel to her and probably “bit” her due to how they work, vs. the tie down she was used to was just solid pressure. I’m sure she was a little scared of that happening again the second time so just automatically backed off. I’m sure the more you make runs, the more confident she will get that nothing will bite her again!
In reponse to your video on reasons why horses may pop out of the turn, my horse will sometimes not snap back right coming out of first barrel. I believe this is due to me not giving her a big enough pocket going in. What do you think?
That could very possibly be the reason why Julie! A horse that doesn’t have enough room coming in, certainly will tend to come out wide!
I have a 7 year old 16 hand gelding, I can lope circles all day, even figure 8’s but he will not change leads in the middle of the 8 or at the second… First let me say I’m only doing slow work… I’m almost 56 and haven’t raced for many years (I’m a bit chicken). If he would switch I probably wouldn’t be so chicken…. He can run in the pasture and do flying lead changes automatically so why won’t he do it with me on his back? I cue him for it, if I break to a trot in the middle of 1st & 2nd it’s not a problem, he just won’t do it loping. I’ve had him chiro’d ~ even to vet and they injected his hocks (soundness tested they felt he had hock issues) I love riding this big guy but I’m at a loss with switching leads.. He’s a lefty so 2 rights… Any advise will be appreciated… I’m game to try anything. Someone suggested I practice poles with him (don’t have poles) but I’m sure I can make some…
Many barrel racers don’t worry too much about FLYING lead changes because once you get some speed going they’ll just change on their own out of self-preservation. Flying lead changes are a very advanced task to master and while I do recommend that all barrel racers have their simple changes down, performing flying changes at a slow lope is optional, and not completely necessary.
I’m actually working on perfecting Pistol’s lead changes right now, just to advance my horsemanship – he is NOT a natural lead changer and part of this is because he is BIG and LONG, AND had some minor hock issues, etc. Anyway, stay tuned for a whole article on flying changes in the coming months, until then, consider yourself in good shape if you break down and do a simply change if you are just slow loping, when you turn up the speed, I’m confident your horse will learn to change for himself.
Great video! When I was younger I my parents bought me a talented fut horse with the deal the friend who set it up (Aldo’s trainer and circuit finalist) ride with me weekly to help. I had stepped up my riding and was really getting aggressive but started stepping out of barrels at races. I didn’t have any videos so she had me make a run in practice and quickly saw my problem. It was one already stated…I was riding to aggressive and on the back side where the horse needed to make that final pivot to the next barrel I had already started getting out of my body position to hustle not allowing the horse to properly finish the turn. Me trying to hustle and be quick was actually slowing me down and causing issues. My next competition run I sat deep until my horse was facing the next barrel then I got up to hustle and my stepping out problems were over. Something so simple was starting to cost me so much. I was lucky it was such an easy fix.
I see this problem so much at races and happens to all ages and experience of horses. Sometimes I see it appears to be rider error like in my situation with just trying to be to aggressive and not allowing the horse to do their job. Other times I see it is a trsining issue. The horse has not been taught to use their body correctly and not taught to collect up, etc. What’s hard to see is when the rider starts “tuning” on the horse for something that isn’t the horse’s fault.
Anyways, thanks again for your tips.
Thanks for sharing Amy, sounds like you can relate – it’s so interesting how TRYING to be fast can slow us down!
I have a couple of nice horses. On 6 year old mare that ended up Reserve State Champion NBHA. Lately her runs have been hit and miss. She will smoke a run or not finish the third barrel. I think she doesn’t rate enough going into the turn sometimes. I’m trying to check her before the turn and it has worked but not every run. She used to be ratey so I didn’t need to. She just seems to be running faster and harder.
You might go back and really start reiterating RATE Lynn, I’m sure you’re right that now she’s more confident and running hard, and perhaps thinking a little less and is not really engaged mentally/physically to swallow up the turns. You might also check out Six Tips for a Tight Third Barrel.
Heather I did a horse show this last Sunday which was May 3 and i noticed my horse didn’t turn the barrels very well. I have trained him and practiced with him so I didn’t know if i was doing something wrong or if i can try anything to help him turn those barrels tight
There’s a lot of possibilities here Justine but to start you’ll want to make sure your horse is RESPONSIBLE for staying on track without being micromanaged. Then if they do need a little subtle guidance, they have to respond to it in a split second, which goes back to how solid their educational foundation is.
I need my horse to do tight fast turns how should I do it?
This video post will offer some additional insights, Rainy! -> How to Fix a Wide Turn on the Barrels
I am posting the video to my horses run last night….. He won, but as you can see his first barrel is awful and has been all summer 🙁 I am thinking that I need to give him a larger pocket, which I intended to do but he took the pocket away from me as we got to the first barrel. He has been vetted over and over, he is not sore anywhere….. any advice?? Thanks!
Hi Sarah, I can see there is some tension and resistance there coming into and on the back side of first and he’s not staying on track and “owning the pattern” as he leaves to the second… not really soft and responsive to your guidance. We have to make sure our horse completely understands and is responsible for their part, and willing to receive direction from us in a split second if necessary. These two elements seem to be missing in this case. Keep my video coaching in mind if you’d like to go more in-depth!
Last night I had a barrel race and my horse was trying to completely
Avoid the barrels , she made SUPER wide turns , the only thing I think she did right was her running in . She looked fine before I went out . All tack was fine , and she looked great . She’s never done that before . I don’t know if it was just not her day or what . Please help .
Hi Madison, here’s a post on correcting wide turns, I think it will help -> How to Fix a Wide Turn on the Barrels
Hi I own a 10 year old barrel horse that I’m having an awful time getting him to pick up his right lead going to the first barrel. If I lope a circle first to pick it up were good but if I just shoot down the alleyway he always goes into his left lead. He switches as soon as I rate but then his back end swings out and he stalls. Any tips on what I can do to get a handle on this? I’ve tried exercising him at the races more to the left to tire his left side but that hasn’t worked a bit! I’ve tried strengthening his right side just a bit more than the left and that hasn’t worked. Please help!
Hi Estelita, I’ve had a lot of success with leads and lope departures once I have excellent hip control. This Pro members video post will help -> Start Strong to Finish FAST – Catch the Correct Lead for a Stress-Free Alley Set Up Every Time.
Great video! It’s always helpful to have a different perspective on how to improve barrel racing turns. One thing that can also be helpful in getting a horse to stay tight in turns is an equine calmer. Equine calmers can help to reduce stress and anxiety in horses which can make them more focused and responsive to training. An equine calmer can be a great addition to a barrel racer’s training routine.