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Barrel racing problems can have a domino effect—problems in the turn are usually caused by a bad approach, which is usually caused by a bad exit from the previous turn. Ensuring you finish the turns correctly will set you up for success as you enter the next barrel. Photo by Kailey Sullins

Futurity trainer and RFD-TV’s The American qualifier Kelsey Lutjen Treharne explains a few common barrel racing problems and how to fix them.

By Kelsey Lutjen Treharne with Kailey Sullins

The Horse Isn’t Broke Enough

I see a lot of horses that are not broke enough. I’m big on making sure my horses are broke and have a good foundation. If you go down the road and your horse just quits working or something goes haywire, I want a foundation to back to, otherwise it will be much more difficult to fix the problem.

When barrel racing problems crop up, that horse needs to be broke enough to go back to the pattern and work on that foundation again. When these barrel horses start running, they lose some of their foundation work in the chaos and speed of the event. However, if the horse has foundation training, then he’ll remember it when you go back to slow work to fix a problem or do a tune-up. I think it’s super important to have a really good foundation to go back to. It’s just like building a house—if you don’t have a good foundation or something isn’t done right, you’re going to have a big problem down the road.

Shouldering the Barrel

Shouldering usually happens the most frequently at the second barrel. I don’t believe it’s a second barrel problem, but rather a problem with the way the first barrel is finished. I make sure when I leave my first barrel that I over-finish it. When a horse tries to shoulder at the second barrel, it’s because they haven’t finished their first barrel so they are pushing on you and usually not in the correct lead.

When I leave the first barrel, I want to over-finish it and catch the correct lead as soon as possible going across to the second barrel. If your horse is in the wrong lead, for instance if he’s on the right lead loping up to a left-lead turn at the second barrel, the first thing your horse is going to do when it gets to that barrel is dump on its front end, switch its lead and drop its shoulder. That’s why I’m big on over-finishing the first barrel, catching the correct lead and lining up with my second barrel point on the pattern as soon as I leave the first barrel so that when I approach the second barrel, I have my horse collected and positioned correctly for the turn.

However, it is important not to over-finish the second barrel going to the third barrel, because that will put you out of position for the third barrel turn. If you aren’t in position for the third, then your horse will start shouldering at the third the same as the second.

An Unbalanced Rider

I try to really ride my horses square. I  sit back and try to ride the hip and push their hip up through them. That’s how I keep one square in the turn and not leaning on me. A lot of people are unbalanced riders, and I believe horses do things to try to stay under you. If you are unbalanced, your horse will be unbalanced. I think it’s important that you stay back and balanced, and riding the hip on a horse will keep them more consistent in the pattern.

This all goes back to making sure your horse is super broke and has the correct foundation to begin its career.

You can watch a video demonstration of how Kelsey Lutjen Treharne finishes her first barrel here and find the latest training videos here.

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