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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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Instill Independence and Refine Body Control for Faster Times

Instill Independence and Refine Body Control for Faster Times

What does this quote mean to you?

“Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, too zealously, to make it easy for them.” – Goethe

I feel as though too many barrel racers (and riders in general) make life hard for their horses (and themselves) by unconsciously trying to make life easy for them, or by micromanaging (any control freaks out there?), or being too perfectionistic.

As with human children, if you do too much for your horse, it will make life harder later, for both you AND the horse. Most times, barrel racers don’t even realize they are micromanaging and doing FOR their horses, which they would really be better off doing for themselves.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m an advocate of correcting mistakes the instant they occur in barrel horses, especially on the pattern. If your horse gets out of position – DO NOT PASS GO – fix it then and there before you move on!

If you find you don’t have the foundational elements to fix the problem quickly and effectively, then forget about the pattern temporarily until you have the calm understanding and education you need to get your message through.

However, when I say be sure to correct mistakes the instant they happen – this DOES NOT mean PREVENTING your horse from making mistakes.

Mistakes are how horses and humans learn.

Whether it’s a young horse or human, we want to raise them to be educated and good decision makers, but if they slip up – there are consequences for those mistakes, which are great learning opportunities.

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Six Secrets for Relaxed, Quality Movement

Six Secrets for Relaxed, Quality Movement

Just like humans, horses are born with naturally occurring tendencies, characteristics and personality traits.

Some tend to be more high strung, some tend to be laid back, some are more naturally confident, some are more fearful.

What many riders don’t realize though, is that there is a TON we can do to help our horses achieve balance. When we do this, we’re likely to experience the benefits both in the barrel racing arena and in our horse’s over all physical and mental well-being.

Because I love horses so much, I feel a great personal responsibility to instill in them the education and emotional fitness necessary to successfully handle the challenges that come along with life as performance horses.

Quality movement helps reveal your horse's greatest potential!
Quality movement helps reveal your horse’s greatest potential!

Most barrel racers will deal with some tension or an over abundance of “go” in a horse at one point or another. It’s often a byproduct of the speed that’s required in our sport. Speed releases adrenaline, it creates anticipation, and unlike other slower paced equine sports, speed adds even more pressure to the competition environment.

Some horses who are confident and have been carefully developed, may genuinely experience excitement in anticipation of running, but often, what WE would like to perceive as “excitement” is actually worry, impulsiveness, anxiety, tension and fear.

Whatever labels we assign to their behavior, it’s important that our horses remain connected and responsive to us, and that we do our best to keep their association with the barrels as positive as possible.
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