Question: I have a small Quarter Horse fast as lightening when my sister rides her, but when I ride her our times could be better. When I run her, she runs to the barrel and trots around it no matter how hard I kick. She just does this with me, and I know I’m not as aggressive as I should be, but I really want to improve. Any tips?Darcy Marvin

Answer: Well Darcy, this is a tough question. The first thing I would do is really analyze how your sister rides the horse and try to replicate what she does. It could be really simple things we don’t often think about. From personal experience I can tell you sometimes I over-kick a horse, and it causes them to slow down. If you are trying too hard to make your horse run, you could actually slow them down.

Jordon Briggs and Frenchmans Jester at the 2009 NFR. CREDIT Kenneth Springer

Jordon Briggs and Frenchmans Jester at the 2009 NFR.
Photo by Kenneth Springer.

To the other extreme, you said maybe you aren’t as aggressive as you should be. So, if you are just sitting there and not really asking your horse to run, she may be taking advantage of the situation. If this is the case, you may not be riding your horse far enough into the turn before you let her rate and turn. On a horse with quite a bit of rate, which it sounds like yours has, the horse will end up cutting the backside of the barrel off and will not have enough room to keep forward momentum. You should also consider how much room you are giving the horse coming into the turn. Make sure you are allowing adequate space for a pocket to allow forward motion to continue. If you are coming in really close, the horse may be slowing down just to get around the barrel.

I’m sure you have already thought of some of these things, but another thing to consider is if you should use different equipment on this horse than what your sister uses. Just because a particular bit works for one person doesn’t mean it will work the same for everyone. We all use our hands a little differently, and if you are heavier handed than your sister, you may need to adjust your riding for that. This same principle applies to the use of spurs. I don’t know if either of you wear spurs, but again, just because they work for one doesn’t mean they will work for the other due to differences in your riding styles.

I am also a big believer in bonding with a horse and really getting to know your horse. Again, I don’t know the situation, but it could be that the horse has bonded with your sister for some reason. Maybe your sister feeds the horse or loves on the horse and they just get along better. This doesn’t mean this can’t be overcome, but it may just require a change in routine.

Another thing to consider is the size of the rider. If your sister is younger than you and smaller, I have seen horses that will just clock and run better with little people. It could mean if you are the older sister, maybe the horse needs to be in a little better shape. Also, if you both are riding the horse on the same day and your sister always runs first, your horse may just not run as hard on the second run.

One thing I want to stress above all is I try to teach people to relax. We can do more damage to ourselves and our horses when we get stressed and continue to worry about things. Sometimes if you simply relax a little bit on your horse and feel what is happening, the corrections come easier than when a person over analyzes. It’s difficult to determine the exact issue at question here, but with some time and consideration on your part, I am positive you will get to the bottom of the problem.


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