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Quality is No Accident! How to Reveal Your Horse’s Greatest Athleticism

Since achieving my goals with Dot Com at liberty last fall, he’s been enjoying a well-deserved vacation.

Lately, I’ve been back on the little grey powerhouse in preparation for him to be featured in my new book, Barrel Racing Exercises to Develop a Champion.

It’s been a great time to start applying many of the techniques I’d learned last summer, that I hadn’t had the opportunity to put into action yet. In only a handful of rides, his progress has been amazing!

If you’ve been following BarrelRacingTips.com, you’re already familiar with Dot Com – an extremely talented horse who came to us in need of a more solid emotional foundation.

Like many timed event horses, over the years he’d developed a habit of hollowing out his back, raising his head, inverting his neck and carrying tension throughout his body. Despite being built like a bulldog, Dot Com is actually quite flexible. However, his sensitive nature combined with his previous experiences, had resulted in mental blocks that got in the way of his flexibility and contributed to stiffness. Read more

Create Soft, Round Movement for Sharp Turns and Fast Runs

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Listen to this article in audio form! It’s #56 on the Barrel Racing Tips podcast.
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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.

Heather & Dot Com
Dot Com – Content, relaxed and ready for action.

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

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. Read more