Master the pattern with tips from youth competitor Patton Ann Lynch.
One of the things I work on is keeping my horse Tiny Bit French from cheating his turns. “Twister” is a turny horse and has a lot of rate, so I have a few things I work on during practice to keep him working correctly in competition.
I work on four things during slow work: my angle to the first, hip and shoulder position, forward motion around the barrel and straight lines between the turns.
I do this drill at a trot. I start by lining up with the third barrel to make my approach to the first barrel. I run Twister to the left barrel first. I’ll take him up the pen toward the third barrel for quite a ways, almost until I’m even with the first and second barrels and then I’ll make my approach to the first. I do this so he doesn’t start angling to the first right away. This helps exaggerate his position in our practice so that when speed is added, he won’t cut in on the first barrel.
Then, to keep his front end moving forward and his hip underneath himself, when I get to the barrel I use my outside foot to put his hip in and my inside rein to pick up his shoulder and move him forward, up and around the barrel. The distance I go past the barrel depends on how cheaty he is that day. Typically I’ll make him get his hip even with the barrel before I start my turn, but if he starts anticipating the turn really badly then we might go all the way to the fence. It depends on how much work he needs that day.
Once I’ve started my turn, I’ll make sure to finish it correctly and line up immediately for the second barrel or third barrel, depending which turn I’m making. When I finish my turn, I’ll arc his body and move him over to take the next lead. I’ll head in a straight line to the next barrel. By over-exaggerating the finish and focusing on a straight line, this helps to keep him from bowing off a turn or swooping into the next one.
I’ll do the same steps for the second and third barrels to make sure his hip is underneath himself and that he’s moving past the barrel, listening to me and moving in a straight line from pointto point.
Sometimes kids and horses blow off the second and swoop the third. Twister has a big problem of doing that, so I really exaggerate our straight lines and keep his hip in and get past the third so he doesn’t get so swooped out heading to the next turn.
Why It’s Helpful
When we’re working slow and I’m keeping two hands on the reins, Twister should be focusing on me and not where he is at the turning point.
This is a good drill for staying twohanded, driving to your points and exaggerating your horse’s body position in the practice pen. Sometimes kids and horses tend to anticipate each other, which causes a horse to rate too early or get out of position for the turn, because the horse is anticipating the turn.
I do all of this at a trot, especially with ratey horses, because it gets them reaching forward, staying close to the ground and staying under control. The main point during this drill is staying calm and controlled.
By taking Twister past my turning points during slow work, it emphasizes forward motion so when we go to competition and add speed he won’t be anticipating the turn.
When I finish my turn and head in a straight line to the next barrel, this keeps Twister from bowing off a turn or swooping into the next one. By exaggerating his body position in slow work, when speed is added he’ll know exactly where I want him to go.
This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of BHN.