By #TeamDiO Member Windy Griffith
After doing many clinics throughout the years, one of the biggest problems in barrel racing that I have noticed is that most will practice taking their horse around a barrel one way at a slow pace and completely change their riding when adding speed.
Having good horsemanship is knowing how to practice correctly and then bringing it together during a run. Hand and feet placement play a huge factor. Many riders are not even aware they are doing two totally different things; good horsemanship in slow work compared to improper hand/feet placement during a run.
"Hand and feet placement play a huge factor."
I've seen many girls execute proper hand placement at a trot and even a lope through the pattern, but turn right around and run their horse with different handle placement causing a completely different outcome. The rider, by not maintaining the “training” placements of hand and feet gave the horse different cues they have not had before. Then the horse reacts in an unwilling manner leading the rider to wonder why? "Why can I work perfect relaxed barrels at a slow pace and when adding any speed, we are a train wreck on the pattern?" This leads them to believe their horse is too hot for running, or they need a different bit, and the list of excuses goes on.
"The horse reacts in an unwilling manner leading the rider to wonder why?"
I believe that over half of the issues with riders is the lack of knowing that they are practicing one way and running another. That’s where taking a step back and working on themselves is key.
"There is an easy fix, but now the rider has to improve their horsemanship to improve their run"
For example, in slow work some will press their horse with an inside leg at the start of the turn or in the pocket. They may even subconsciously be thinking if I place my inside foot on the horse it will keep them from hitting the barrel. Now, that slight leg pressure is actually telling the horse when to turn. Therefore, when they run, the rider will relax their legs and no longer apply that slight little squeeze, resulting in their horse not turning on cue. This slight leg pressure has been trained and practiced during slow work, but not executed during a run. There is an easy fix, but now the rider has to improve their horsemanship to improve their run!
Be aware of your body language at all times. The smallest of cue or maneuver(s) can make a huge impact on your horse. So next time you are struggling, become very aware of what you are doing in your slow work and what you are not doing in your run!