The success of any athletic maneuver, no matter the sport, comes down to preparation. Even the most lightening fast moves (especially the most lightening fast moves), can be traced back to proper preparation, sometimes as subtle as a shift in weight that occurs in a fraction of second.
Multiple time NFR barrel racer, Lisa Lockhart explains that anyone who has driven a truck pulling a horse trailer knows that turning safely and efficiently requires more preparation than what is required behind the wheel of a sports car. Horses are similar to a truck and trailer rig in that their back end must follow their front end, and that they need to be properly prepared in order to turn efficiently. As “drivers,” it’s important for barrel racers to have an understanding of what proper preparation consists of, and how work as a team with a horse to bring together all the elements in a way that results in the fastest time possible.
There is a high level of communication and processing that must take place in order for messages to be relayed back and forth between horse and rider to prepare for the turns. The ability to get ready quickly comes easier to some horses (and riders) than to others, but the horse’s ability to do so is very much connected to how correct and responsive we’ve trained them to be.
If you imagine driving a truck with bad breaks, a sticky accelerator or no power steering, you can better understand how any stiffness, resistance or lack of responsiveness in a horse is sure to create a delay in a run. It’s crucial for our horses to respond to us like well oiled machines when we ask them to be supple and willing to bend through the rib cage and in response to bit pressure applied through the contact we make with the reins. Read more