Article and photos by Bridget Cook
Anticipating the turns is one of the biggest problems Add Waddell says he sees in older horses. In the extreme, anticipation can cause the horse to turn before the barrel.
A horse that is anticipating will transfer its weight from its hindquarters to the inside of its body. To counteract this, Waddell encourages the horse to listen to his hands and follow the rein. During a run, he expects the horse to follow the inside rein. If the rein is picked up, the horse should also pick its shoulder and ribcage up.
“To get them to give that space, have them break behind their jaw and at the poll,” Waddell said. “They should give the inside shoulder and ribcage. If I reach down with the inside line (rein), I want them to lift up and follow it.”
Anticipators, especially horses that turn before the barrel, should not be stopped before the barrel, but instead should be kept moving forward around the barrel.
“A lot of my workout is with trotting, making them reach and move,” Waddell said. “I keep the circle full and complete and stay the same distance all the way around the barrel. I long trot the pattern and never stop them. I make them long trot past the barrel and give them a 10 to 12 foot pocket all the way around.”
Waddell focuses on riding past the point the horse wants to stiffen up and anticipate the turn. Ride your horse’s body through the anticipation and then being your turn, keeping the pocket equal the entire way around the barrel. Waddell says slowing down might be necessary to do this correctly.
“I keep the pocket the same distance all the way around and do not let my horses stay out going into the barrel and move in on the back side,” Waddell said. “If I feel them getting a little too quick in their body, I’ll slow them down. I want to feel a lot of movement in their shoulders. I’ll let them go around like that, but I want it relaxed. I don’t want them getting in a hurry. Whether I’m long trotting them or loping, everything should be real relaxed and easy.”
If the horse is rushing around the barrel, being too tight in its turns or is generally antsy through thr run, Waddell says he maintains contact with the horse’s mouth.
“I make them listen to my hands, and I snug them back like you would a racehorse to bring them back into my hands,” Waddell said. “I don’t necessarily want them pushing through the bit, but I gather them back into my hands with equal pressure on both reins. If I have a horse that’s real antsy, I sit quietly and don’t move around in the saddle. The more you move around and bounce in the saddle, the more the horse will feel it, making the problem worse.”
An antsy horse will shorten its stride and tense up its body. The tenser the horse is, the shorter the stride will become, which can often visually be seen as high knee action because the horse is not reaching forward with its shoulders. Shorter, choppier strides result in a slower pattern.
Indicators of Anticipation
A horse may be anticipating the turn if it does one or more of the following:
—Body becomes stiff before and throughout the turn
—Runs through the bit
—Leans in toward the barrel
—Knocks the barrel with the horse’s or rider’s body
—Turns before the barrel
Bridget Cook is a freelance writer who resides in Poolville, Texas. E-mail comments on this article to [email protected].