What does a bag of flour, soccer field markers and a tape measure have in common?
Well, they are yet another Secret to Barrel Racing Success, of course!
When it comes to navigating the cloverleaf, some top barrel racers keep an even distance around the barrels. Although it’s not as common as it once was, some still make a swooping pocket coming into the turns. Many barrel racers come into the barrel a little wider than they leave it. Some trainers ask their horses to follow a slightly different pattern in slow work as they ask for in a run. Many of us designate a “point” a certain number of feet in front of a barrel as the location to rate and/or shape for the turn.
My preferred method is somewhat of a combination of these concepts, and I then customize that pattern slightly based on the horse I’m riding. Additional slight adjustments may be necessary in an actual run depending on the conditions.
These are circumstances when it becomes especially important for our horse to be truly connected and willing to follow our guidance. If you missed my last article on that very subject, to make sure you and your horse are on the same page (even when going mach 10), click here to Get Connected to Shave Time Off the Clock.
The truth is, the path we train our horse’s feet to follow (and how) on the barrels can make it physically easier OR harder to navigate the pattern quickly and efficiently. In fact, if we’re approaching the barrel at a tricky angle for our horse, it can contribute to problems like going by barrels and dropping in, which is sure to translate into slower times.
Let’s face it, barrel races are won and lost by fractions of a second. What if your horse could turn the first barrel better if you changed the path of the approach by one foot? When it comes to distance from the barrel in a turn, you’re probably familiar with how many feet some barrel racing clinicians and professionals recommend.
But we can’t improve what we don’t measure! So when was the last time YOU measured YOUR path?
Even if you’re a seasoned pro, it’s possible that you’ve never actually marked it out. But “To get something you never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.” So there’s no time like the present to make sure you’re not leaving money on the table (or in the entry office)!
When you decide on the path for you, then measure it out to make sure it’s correct, and then commit that exact pattern to your mental/physical memory, it’s just one more thing you can do to build your horse’s confidence, develop positive patterns for both of you, and get around the barrels with as little resistance and as much speed as possible.
In the video below, I share SIX SPECIFIC TIPS to keep in mind when it comes to our horse’s footfall on the pattern, as well as the eye-opening lessons I learned, and the adjustments I made, when I marked my path around the barrels.
Which of the three approaches to the first barrel pictured here would YOU choose?
For second barrel measurements, check out:
Study, Compare and Refine Second Barrel Footfall to Get on the Fast Track
For measurements of the entire pattern, see ‘Exercise 12 – Measured Improvement’ in
The Next 50 Barrel Racing Exercises for Precision on the Pattern
Let me know what you think of this post in the comments below, and whether you plan on marking your pattern.
As always, thanks for reading, watching and contributing!
P.S. click here to get a set of 20 soccer field markers on Amazon.com.