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Problem-specific Corrections

Pua from Hawaii, writes:

Dear Sharon,

My daughter and her horse always over-shoot the 1st barrel. Their 2nd and 3rd barrels are flawless. We have tried many different ways to overcome this problem; loping then trotting, stopping and backing up, loping slowly then picking up speed around the barrel. Nothing has helped; they continue to overshoot the 1st barrel. My daughter thinks it's because she is starting the turn too late. Do you have any other suggestions?

Dear Pua,

Initially I have to say, remind your daughter to “ask her horse to rate straight before the turn.” This sounds like a clear case of expecting the horse to know what the rider wants, even if the rider does not ask. Break down the pattern into three basic elements for each barrel; 1st Approach; 2nd Rate, 3rd Turn.

I find it very common that riders over-estimate their horse’s ability to read their rider's mind and balance themselves for the turn. Most horses without the cue from the rider do not understand to shorten their stride and prepare for the high rate of speed change of direction. Therefore, the rider approaches and pulls on the inside rein without taking the time to set the horse up for the turn. If the horse does not read the rider, he automatically has to run by the barrel because he is not balanced or prepared. This problem is common to the first barrel, and sometimes the third. A fence normally backs the second barrel; therefore the fence becomes a visual aid for the shortening of stride and preparation for the turn.

The rate is applied, first by sitting, second by picking up and making contact with both reins at the same time. This cue will help the horse shorten his stride and rate straight.

Remind your daughter to use her hands, seat and legs as tools to communicate requests to her horse. Making your runs mechanical will help with the thinking process and will also aid in the understanding of the timing necessary to cue for perfect turns.

Remember to think each run through. Visualization can help the process.

Sharon