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Knocking Over Barrels

Champion barrel racer Marlene McRae advises how to control barrel turns.

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Q. I always have trouble knocking over barrels. What am I doing wrong?

A. Most of the time this is a result of not using your inside leg (the leg closest to the barrel) to control your horse. Many riders will rubber band their feet in and then lift their leg at the barrel. All this does is allow the horse to drop his shoulder and hit barrels.

The proper approach is to have control of your horse’s head, neck and shoulder prior to the turn. This is accomplished by applying inside rein pressure while actively using your inside leg (spur) to lift your horses shoulder while rounding his body.

Another reason for hitting barrels is that your pocket may be too large. I like to use three to five feet on my approach into the turn (distance between my horse’s shoulder and body from the barrel). This distance is determined by the size of your horse. Larger horses need more room going in.

Before the turn, I gather my horse with both hands on the reins. If you use one hand, you are more likely to encourage your horse to throw his hip out, drop his shoulder and hit a barrel. Slowing down too early for the turn will also result in hitting barrels because it takes your horse’s momentum away. I like to gather the reins and prepare for the turn 5 to 10 feet before the turn, depending on the size of my horse. The larger your horse, the more time you need to prepare for the turn.

Make sure you have schooled your horse about yielding from leg pressure as to flex from the rib cage when going around a barrel. You need to be able to control every part of your horse before you can expect him to run a barrel pattern with ease.

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Reader Comments

ivy    International

8/16/2016 8:02:10 PM

need more

shayla    maxwell, NE

12/27/2011 10:50:15 AM

ill have to try this some time

kilee    sioux city, IA

6/24/2011 10:50:13 AM

Hi,horse channel this is kilee i trot my horse to turn. i use my inside leg to kick the horse my horse around the barrel it is wonderful!I don`t have a real barrel i just use a rider in the middle and go around the horse like the horse is a barrle. it`s so much fun i`ll improve over this SUMMER.thanks

Lan    OXR, AL

11/13/2010 9:33:53 PM

If you are having trouble knocking over barrels, post a video of you NATURALLY knocking over the barrels. In other words, don't purposely knock over them, just ask someone to video you until you hit one. After you post the video come to my sight or go to my barrel runs and say that it is posted. I'll watch it and see if I can help through video if you like.

My name is Lan and my horses that I have on barrel videos are Black Mare and Breezy.

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