Originally Posted by AQHA
when do you switch to one hand and grab the horn?
When do you sit down?
When do you start to turn?
How many feet do you stay from the barrel during a run?
When do you rate?
How do you position your horse?
What are your top barrel practice patterns?
Every horse runs different and has a different strategy to running barrels. This is what I do with my barrel horse:
When I'm in the chute I point myself and my horse towards the third barrel. I run towards it coming out of the chute, and when I'm almost lined up with the first barrel I make an arc towards it. Once I'm just a hair past the barrel, I sit down in my saddle, grab the horn, yell "hey!" to my horse for his cue to collect himself and turn, then I pull the rein towards my pocket of my jeans and gently push his side with my inside leg. I hold the horn A: to hang on! And B: so I don't interfere with his turn. It's better to turn with one hand instead of two so you aren't even dealing with his off side. Once he's on the other side of the barrel, I use two hands again and press my outside leg against his side to straighten him up. At the second and third barrel, I do the same exact thing with my turns. As for your pocket, there's no set "feet" you should stay away from it. You just guesstimate. Go in a little wide, stay away from the backside of the barrel, and come out close. This is where your legs come in handy. If your horse anticipates the turn of the barrel, do NOT turn his nose away from it. This will cause him to drop his shoulder and knock the barrel over. Instead, kick past the barrel and then turn. In practice, I like to stop right next to the barrel and back up about 3 steps, STRAIGHT backwards, and let him sit there for a second to take it in. This helps him keep his mind on you, and get himself collected. Do this at a trot first, walk around the barrel, and trot between barrels. Once I do that, I trot all the way through the pattern without stopping. Then, I lope up to the barrels, stop beside them, back up, stand a second, then trot around them, picking up a lope between barrels. When you finish the third barrel, do not run straight out. I take him to the rail and walk him. Only when I do my fast runs do I take him straight out. Once I do this a couple times I lope all the way through the pattern. I will only run my horse like I'm in a competition only about once every 3 weeks or so. I keep it at a lope most of the time. Also, I don't like to practice the barrels all that much. I like to take my horse out on the trails to keep his mind away from the barrels. I practice the pattern about once or twice a week and usually keep it no faster than a canter. The "funnel barrels" is a fun pattern that I like to use to practice my turns on. Here's a sketch of it. Please ignore the proportions on the lines around the barrels. Hard to draw with a computer pencil :] But this is the pattern and how it goes.