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In 1995, Molly Powell decided to leave behind the cold weather, hard ground and few & far between barrel races in her home state of Montana and head south to Texas. She immersed herself, not only in studies at Vernon College but also in an environment that would be more conducive to her career as a professional barrel racer. As a 10-time NFR qualifier, you could say that the transition proved to be a good one.
Sometimes, however, things “go south” with our barrel horses and when they do, it’s NOT a good thing. When this happens, we distance ourselves from achieving barrel racing success at any level. Many barrel racers sense when something doesn’t feel quite right. Perhaps their horse is out of position, they may feel stiff, or lean to the inside. A horse might be extremely hot or nervous, or unresponsive to what the rider is asking. Riders may recognize these road blocks, an even have a clear idea of what they do want, but the challenge often comes in knowing exactly how to get it.
As humans, most of us are direct-line thinkers. We are wired to just keep trying until we reach our desired result. Barrel racers especially, are a determined crowd – we’re taught to practice perfect, to persist and persevere, to never give up! This way of operating creates a potential problem, however, when it comes to training barrel horses. If things are “going south,” and if we keeping doing more of the same, our horses – who are very sensitive to patterns and learn easily through repetition, become much more likely to repeat those undesirable ways of being.
At a recent clinic in Lander, Wyoming, Molly demonstrated that when we find ourselves in one of these ruts, we must find a way out – and quick! It doesn’t always matter if you don’t know exactly what to do, or where to go, as long as you do something – anything different, to break the cycle. You could refer to this policy as “rut prevention.”
During the clinic, one mare was too nervous and anxious to use her body properly and focus on the task at hand, which was performing Molly’s smaller circle exercise at a forward, even, but relaxed pace. Read more