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Competition

Amanda from Mississippi, writes:

Dear Sharon,

My six year-old gelding is the biggest pet and is the first barrel horse I trained. He is actually very good except that when he goes to a show, he blows up at the 1st barrel. He tries to run out and throws his head down. If he is outside or no one is in the arena, 99% of the time he does what he should. I have had his teeth checked, had him checked by a chiropractor, put him in the pasture for six months, trail rode him, and even went back to the basics. Please help!

Dear Amanda,

I am pleased that you thought about your horse’s health status as a possible contributing factor to his behavior in the arena and had him evaluated. If your veterinarian is not the one that saw him for his teeth, I suggest you speak to him to rule out other potential physical causes for his resistance at turning. Sore backs and sore hocks are possible reasons why horses don’t like to turn barrels.

The other possible cause is your horse is herd bound and wants to return to his friends. It would be helpful if you could have someone from your area that you value in terms of their knowledge and skill, to watch and report to you what they see. Perhaps some of his behavior could be modified by adjustments in your riding position and use of your legs, seat and hand aids to prevent or re-direct his movement.

Sometimes when young horses are raised as you describe as a “big pet,” they miss some steps in their foundation. I suggest that you work on some of the skill drills outlined in my book, The A.R.T. of Barrel Racing, such as the Serpentine and All Right and All Left exercise. Work these at a trot first and then a lope. The goal is to remain at the speed that you can retain communication with your horse. Be precise and train your eye to look where you want your horse to go. When you return to a competitive setting, consider a time only and complete the course in the gait that you can maintain connection and control with your horse in order to complete the pattern.

If it's possible for you to come and audit or ride in one of my Clinics, I would enjoy the opportunity to work with you.

Ride safe,

Sharon