I’m having problems setting my horse up for the 1st barrel. He does really good on the other turns, but on the first he wants to go out wide. Should I get a more controlling bit? I use a Jim Warner hackamore or a short shanked twisted wire bit.
The problem you describe is common. Riders often report having problems with a first turn and report better turns on the 2nd and 3rd.
Common causes of “going out wide” leaving the barrel are: 1) Failure of the horse to rate prior to the turn, and 2) Rider pulling too hard on the inside rein and over-bending the head and neck causing the horse to bow out his outside shoulder and leave wide.
My suggestion is to work on your ability to adjust your horse’s speed on and off the barrel pattern. One way to do this is to include lots of transitions (changing from one gait to another) in your work. For example, lope for 10 strides and then trot for ten strides, then lope again. Frequent changes of gait or varying your speed within a gait is a great way to increase your horse’s ability to rate at the barrel.
In my book The A.R.T. of Barrel Racing, there are other exercises described to assist with problems in the rate. The exercises are also demonstrated in my training DVDs and videos.
This book also provides information regarding specific training and competitive equipment. The hackamore is considered to provide front to back control but very little lateral control. The length of shank and the type of nosepiece affects the degree of control.
I think if you are able to improve your horse’s ability to lengthen and shorten his stride easily, you will find his barrel turns improve. Thank you for your question and for visiting my website.