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Hey, Bob.

Enjoy reading your website.

I have a question. I've trained barrel horses for about 40 years, have run "pro," but still don't know a "thimble full." Any advice you can give me would be great. I have a mare that can make mistakes and run about 3 - 4 10ths out of first. I do a lot of basic circles, rear-end to the inside, shoulder up, nose in, inside/outside leg pressure, outside rein-inside rein support, and get suppleness at a lope. I watched her on video from my last run where I am pressuring her a little harder. She has a long stride and when we got to the 2nd barrel pocket, she did not give me her head anywhere in the turn. She wants to broadslide into the turn, staying stiff in the neck and through her back.

She can't complete the turn strung out like this and not flexing, plus it takes all the pocket out of the approach, causing her not to use her inside rear leg and bowing out when leaving the barrel. I've used the roundpen a lot to get her inside rear leg under her, tying her around, riding with a cue of "whoa" and sitting down for the rate, but I could see from the video, when asking for the speed it takes to "get it done," she is not collecting up or flexing for the turn.

She has been to a chiropractor to rule out a physical problem in that area, and she is no novice, and should be ready to mentally take on a challenge. Evidentially, I'm not doing something in working her to help her "use herself" with top speed. Do you have a suggestion, exercise, etc., to help her be more physically adept at flexing and collection at higher rates of speed? I'm all out of ideas.

- C. L.


Wow! with 40 years as a trainer and rider, you probably know a lot more about the subject than I ever will!

I assume you've gone through my Q & A #5 on barrel racing turns. The single biggest mistake I see barrel racers make is trying to use the reins to move the horse around the barrels, rather than working with the horse and simply using their legs and body position to bend the horse and help its balance in the turn. It's so bad that I can often watch an entire professional rodeo without ever seeing a single barrel racer who rides correctly!

Some simple flexing exercises should help to supple the horse. Leg yields would be one example of a flexing exercise. As you walk around the ring, turn your horse's head toward the rail at the same time that you push back and in with the leg that's next to the rail. This will swing your mount's rear end away from the rail while still keeping her moving forward down the rail. She should be able to walk down the fence diagonally, sidestepping slightly while she flexes her body toward the rail.

Another good conditioning exercise is to turn small circles (approx 10 - 12 foot diameter) in the corners of the arena, using only your legs and balance to cue her. These small circles will force her to bend her body in conformity to your leg signals. The bottom line is to supple her body so it bends around the turn rather than having the rear end swing out and pushing the forelegs into the turn.

I hope you find something useful in these ramblings!

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