I want to talk a little about problems hitting barrels and what you can do to avoid that. One of the biggest things I see for barrel hitting, is people looking dead at the barrel. You really need to keep your posture up and look ahead. Everybody says to look between your horse’s ears. Look up, and not at the barrel.
Don’t get so far up over your horse. Sit up straight, sit on your butt and drive them forward from the hindquarters, not by leaning forward. Those are two things that are going to help the anticipation of your horse tremendously with how your body is positioned. You know that a horse can feel a fly land on him, so if you’re leaning up and over your horse’s shoulders or leaning your upper body down to the side while you’re looking down at the barrel, your horse is going to feel that and he’s going to anticipate the barrel just as much as your body is. Get your body positioning right, and look at the correct spots to keep yourself square and straight in the saddle. I tell people to look ahead at the fence to help them take out not only their anticipation of turning the barrel but also to keep the horse moving forward and not anticipating the turn too soon.
Hitting the barrel coming out of the turn is mainly because people aren’t making their horse reach far enough forward in the middle of the turn—they’re going from Point A to Point C. You need to push your horse forward in the turn to hit Point B, then come around to finish the turn at point C, which is the spot all the way around the barrel on the side of the timer’s line as you straighten your horse up to move to the next barrel. But, you can’t straighten your horse too soon or you’ll hit the barrel leaving the turn. Make sure you are pushing your horse forward all the way around the middle of the turn and around the barrel until you get past that point, then you can move to the next barrel. Get more forward motion in the middle of the turn so you don’t hit it coming out.
I think the second barrel is people’s worst barrel for hitting, because it’s a really straight angle coming in. For me, as I’m looking straight onto the second barrel, I would look at a spot on the fence 3–4 feet to the side of the barrel and focus on driving my horse farther toward that spot on the fence. Whether it’s a banner or a fence post or something else, find something visual to look at beyond the barrel to make yourself sit up, look ahead and don’t start the turn until your leg is past the barrel. Drive your horse ahead instead of anticipating how far away you are from the barrel. I think fixing your own riding and body position instead of tuning on your horse will help your run more than anything to keep the barrels standing.