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Critical Concepts for Creating COLLECTION in the Barrel Horse

Critical Concepts for Creating COLLECTION in the Barrel Horse

If there’s one thing that has both bewildered and fascinated me over the years, it’s collection.

Most of us realize that there is much more to it than our horse’s headset.

However, for a long time (like most barrel racers), I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Lethargic, short strided movement with
Lethargic, short strided movement with “headset” is NOT collection.

Unfortunately, even those competitors who are quite accomplished are leaving money at the entry office by neglecting to fully understand, focus on and create true quality movement.

I’m fortunate that I got a taste of the difference it can make on the barrel pattern early on.

This has motivated me to continue studying, learning, practicing and experimenting – ALL with a desire to create movement that was more balanced and powerful, and therefore FASTER.

Even though I’ve spent a considerable amount of time learning how to create authentic collection, I feel like I floundered around quite a bit before things started really coming together.

I know I’m not the only one, so below I’ve shared some theory to clarify this murky, and often misunderstood concept, as well as some tips for creating it for yourself, which I’m confident will benefit your runs – in more ways than one!
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It’s All About the Ribs – Flex and Elevate Them for Ultimate Athleticism & Power!

It’s All About the Ribs - Flex and Elevate Them for Ultimate Athleticism & Power!

Before I dive into an effective exercise for flexing and elevating our horse’s ribs, it’s critical to understand the reasons WHY achieving this roundness through a horse’s midsection – both latitudinally and longitudinally, is so important.

To start with, a horse that is dropped or concave down its topline will tend to be elevated and strung out at the front and back ends, meaning higher head positions and hind legs that trail out behind rather than reaching powerfully under the body.

Circling with flexion and minimal guidance.
Circling with flexion and minimal guidance.

A horse that drops their midsection laterally to the inside of a circle is not in an athletic position either. It’s not uncommon to see horses with this positioning habit tip barrels, prepare for the turn too soon, and even fall down. This unbalanced and off center “inside out” shape makes any athletic maneuver more difficult, awkward and therefore, SLOW.

When a horse truly lifts their back and rounds their body, space is created for the hind legs to more easily reach under, which more effectively supports a horse’s bodyweight for ultimate propulsion. At the same time, as the ribs both elevate upward and flex to the outside of a circle, a horse will tend to naturally bring their head set lower, tip their nose to the inside and really engage that inside hind leg. 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