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Q:      What qualifies me to write a column for a world-class barrel racer, equestrian personality, horse-person, teacher, and all around wonderful person? (Hey, flattery might help!)

A:      ABSOLUTELY NOTHING… except for my intimate knowledge of what happens when you fail to keep the First Commandment of Riding… ALWAYS keep the horse between you and the ground!

At the age of 47 my wife and I rode our first horses. Arriving in brand new cowboy boots, hats, jeans, and shirts, it took all the willpower available for the stable hands to control their laughter. For us, it was a rude introduction to the concept of ‘saddle-sore’ and a magical moment.

In the six years since, we have been acquired by five horses ranging from a feisty Mustang mare to a gentle, albeit mischievous, Percheron. We ride trail, run gymkhana, and maintain a healthy respect for gravity. Horses have become the central focus in our lives and avoiding any more ‘rude awakenings’ in the Emergency Room has become a major goal.

For three years I rode almost every day, took lessons from several trainers, and ran gymkhana. So how come at the end of our first Sharon Camarillo clinic, one of our friends loudly proclaimed, “This is the first time we’ve seen Gerald run barrels without terrifying us all!”

Because at Sharon’s clinic, I finally started to learn how to keep the horse between me and the ground! Yes, I learned about The A.R.T. of Barrel Racing and that Sharon and I are both devout Parrotheads… but what I really learned was how little I knew about how to ride a horse.

Position, Position and Position
Position, Position and Position

So what did I learn?

The three most important factors in barrel racing are Position, Position and Position. The three most important factors in riding a horse are Position, Position and Position. Position, Position and Position get you around the pattern most efficiently and stop that darn clock!

Position, Position and Position keep gravity at bay and the horse between you and the ground.

After my first “let’s see what you got” barrel run (48 seconds), I noticed that the entire rest of the clinic was conducted at the walk, jog, and finally the lope. It was painful to realize that I could trot the pattern faster than I could ‘run’ it. If you can’t walk the pattern properly, you won’t be able to trot it, much less run it worth a darn!

And here’s where position comes into play… how you position your body on your horse and how you position the horse on the pattern.

In practice I watch riders work only on speed and not on position or balance. Speed kills, so I concentrated on position and spent more time walking and trotting. I became more confident, more consistent, my times got better and the horse stayed between me and the ground.

Oh, by the way… by the end of my first Sharon Camarillo clinic, my barrel time dropped from a pathetic 48 seconds to a reasonable 28 seconds.

So remember, Position, Position and Position… and ALWAYS keep the horse between you and the ground!


Illustration by ProSportsPix.