Timing. It’s one of the most important things to master in order to compete at a high level in barrel racing. One thing I’ve encountered while teaching clinics
When I was younger, I’d hear people talking about a rider who had particularly good timing and I didn’t really understand what that meant until later. I think it’s something people can benefit from by learning what it means to have good timing on the
First, there’s the timing of being in good rhythm with your horse during a run— stride for stride you’re right with your horse every step of the run.
The timing of when the horse’s inside hind leg needs to engage for the turn is crucial. It’s important to feel your horse’s inside hind leg landing, looking with your eyes to your track around the barrels, and adjusting your timing to where that inside hind leg is landing and traveling the correct path through the turn.
That’s one reason why learning the proper basics is so important in barrel racing. Learning leads is a great basic to start with because it teaches riders to feel their horse’s feet and be in time with their horse’s stride. Knowing when your horse is in the correct lead will help you feel the position of their hip, especially at faster speeds. The hip needs to be tracking in line with the horse’s front end and not swinging out. I explain it sort of like a fire engine where the back end can swing out and operate independently of the front end—that’s what a horse’s body will often do when it’s not asked for collection. Keeping your horse collected takes just the right degree of timing and good feel—it all goes together.
Ultimately, with every
Get a Good Start
The most critical part of getting your timing on the barrel pattern tapped off right in a run starts when you leave the alley. When you take off from the alley, you need to time your speed from that first stride, looking at your point just past the barrel of where you need to ride the horse’s hind end in order to make that good, smooth first turn around the barrel.
The thing about horses is they are long-bodied so you have to learn to
barrel or the front feet are at the barrel. It’s important to time when you sit for the turn in order to allow enough room for the horse’s hindquarters—their motor—to get to your points around the barrel, allowing just the right amount of room for the horse to get his body through the turn without losing momentum. You have to be looking at the path the horse needs to take up and around the barrel from the
When you’re at the in
I’ve noticed that sometimes people go too slow to the first barrel and a horse will sort of
Another problem I see is that a lot of people think you get to the barrel and pitch the reins forward, turning the horse loose in the turn. My advice is to learn to time the release of pressure so it’s not all at once;
If you have really good timing going around a turn it’s almost like being a
good driver. Getting out of time is sort of like a driver who takes a turn too fast and all their weight shifts to the outside. Horses are like that—if they’re going too fast and try to turn all at once, it’s going to throw your weight too much to the outside of the turn and get the horse off balance. To be smooth—which helps you be fast—you have to ride centered and your horse has to be balanced on all four legs.
This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of BHN.