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If there’s one thing that barrel racers find themselves battling, it’s the tendency for our barrel horses to become tense, bracey, stiff, inverted and heavy on the front end. Often their bodies become rigid, resistant and concave rather than softly round over the topline, with a gentle lateral arc that follows the shape of the barrel, circle, or direction of travel.
I’d venture to say however, that it’s not just our fast paced sport that contributes to this tendency, but that many riders and trainers tend to lack the understanding and skill necessary to truly develop and then maintain quality movement from the get go.
Of course there’s a mental/emotional connection here as well – a horse that is “stuck” mentally will also be physically, and vice versa. Rather than get into a discussion on “which came first,” this month I’ll be sharing some extremely effective exercises for reversing these tendencies to create posture and movement that is round, soft, snappy and sure to lead to smoother, faster and more correct movement through the cloverleaf pattern.
In the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to help a special rope horse (Dot Com) become familiar with a completely new degree of relaxation I’m certain he hadn’t experienced in many years, if ever. Although achieving relaxation has been a huge help in changing the way he moved, years of poor movement patterns had left very ingrained habits in how he carried himself.
By dissolving his mental and emotional barriers, I have developed a more solid foundation from which to create new habits that will serve Dot Com better in the performance arena. Like many of the well bred timed speed event horses out there, Dot Com was a high achieving athlete even when he did perform with extreme tension and poor movement patterns. However, thanks to exercises like the ones that follow, I’m confident there is plenty I can do to reveal a level of athletic potential unlike anything we have seen yet. Read more