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Keep ‘em Standing

Keep ‘em Standing – Four Tips for Reforming a Barrel Crasher

“It’s like he’s magnetized to the barrels!” 

“He just plows right over them ON PURPOSE!”

“OOOUUUUCH, my *&^$%R%  kneeeeeee!!!!”

*Sniff, sniff* “We were, *sniff* SOOO close!”


If you’ve ever shed a tear over a tipped barrel, you’re not alone.  Maybe you’ve missed out on winning a huge check, or a trophy saddle.  Maybe you’ve traveled the long ride home with nothing but paint from a barrel on your jeans, and a badly bruised shin and/or ego. 

The bottom line – tipping barrels is PAINFUL, in more ways than one!

Whether your horse is a chronic barrel crasher or you just want to prevent tipped barrels, this week’s Q&A is for every barrel racer. 

Tipped barrels can occur from time to time, even to the best barrel racers.  For horse and rider teams who are otherwise consistent, it’s sometimes a fluke thing and nothing much to worry about.  In these instances, it’s important to take note of what caused the tipped barrel, replay a perfect run in your mind, and move on.  If your horse tips the same barrel twice in a row, however, it’s time to focus up. 

The video below describes four detailed tips for reforming a “barrel crasher.” At the same time, the points will also prove extremely valuable for preventing tipped barrels from ever becoming a problem. 

Have a close look at the photo at left.  What would you do if this dog was in your living room?  Would you urge him on, inviting him to pee even more, or again in another spot?   Would you just ignore him and pretend like it’s not happening?  Heck, NO! 

The truth is, many barrel racers let this same kind of thing happen when working their horse on the barrels.  Their horse makes obvious mistakes and they just keep on going to the next barrel, OR they lack awareness to notice more subtle positioning problems, and they go uncorrected.   If your horse gets off track or out of position on the pattern, the best way to fix it, is to make a correction the instant the mistake happens.  This requires developing confidence in your ability to feel what body positioning is correct vs. incorrect, and the skills and timing to address positioning issues in the moment. (I’ll note that when tipping a barrel in a competitive run, it’s typically considered good arena etiquette to keep going and finish your run in order to be respectful of everyone’s time and to preserve the ground for the remaining barrel racers.)

Each time an undesirable behavior goes uncorrected, it becomes more deeply ingrained AND more difficult to fix.  You wouldn’t let a dog pee on your floor without correcting him, so don’t let your horse make mistakes on the barrel pattern without correcting him either.

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