How picky are you about this?
Just wondering because I have noticed a lot of opinion controversy going on in my area about this topic.
The topic being, keeping your horse's head down and framed up when working the barrel pattern.
Now for me, I like to keep them framed up to a certain extent, but I'm not as firm about it as I would be if I was say doing a dressage or a reining pattern. However, I do NOT, under ANY circumstances, let Selena put her head up super high and hollow out her back. I want her rounded, ALL the time, so she can be ready to get down and turn when I ask her to.
Now the main arguments here that I have heard is that head up = butt down. Whil this is typically true, it does make the horse work all the wrong muscles, hollows out the back, and makes it a lot easier to get out of control. If they horse has their head in the air and they take off, it's gonna take more work to stop them then if you had their chins ever so slightly down and were driving them under themselves and making them round up. The second argument I've heard is "They aren't a show pony, don't worry about how they look", and while I agree with this as well if the looks serve a purpose to the training then there is nothing wrong with it.
I will make Selena lope up to the barrel and round up in practice. Would I be slamming her face down? No. Would I ask her to drop her head and neck below her whithers? Noooo. But in practice, keeping them rounded (Heads included...taboo I know) is what is going to help them later on when you finally go for a run. They're already going to have those muscles and know how to turn without hollowing and like I said earlier it will make the control a bit easier if you have that option. So many barrel horses just...don't.
Just wondering your guy's standpoint on this. I actually got into an argument at the last race with another exhibitor about it so I thought I'd ask. Please provide reasoning.
My "barrel mare" is first and foremost a dressage horse, so trotting and cantering the barrel pattern is simply another exercise, like serpentines or circles. I expect her to be collected, on the bit, and working correctly. It's important to me that she never sees the barrels as a crazy speed race, rather an exercise with speed. Having her collected and listening makes it easier for me to tell her where to go, correct her if she tries to cut out of a turn too easily, and keep her focused and listening on ME. Granted, I don't drill the pattern very often, and never with speed, but the same goes for practicing turns and lead changes.
Just like any event the foundation needs to be correct. If your slow work is correct and the horse is building the correct muscleing to keep collected and working as they should then when they build speed their muscle memory will kick in and keep then working correctly. A horse who is working correcly even as a barrle horse is going to rate and turn faster and run better. If they get all strung out it makes it harder for them to put in a fast time. As with anything this comes down to the foundation you up on them to begine with.
Very well said, nrhareiner.
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Personally....I let them put their heads where they want. If they are working and doing everything I ask correctly I don't constantly pick at them to keep their head collected in because they are gonna put their heads where they need it to be when running. My aunt constantly puts her horses in a frame (2 she started for us) and I had heck of a time with them on the pattern when adding speed. They had the chance to be free and stuck their nose straight in the air....got them over it but it wasn't easy (all there horses nose out).
So if they are working I let them put their head where they are comfortable and I have not had any problems with the way I let them carry their heads.
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Well, It's not so much the headset, so much as rounding up. That is my thing. Though I would rather them NOT have their head flipped upsidedown like a coyote howling at the moon, and when we atually run I'm not going to be yanking on her to have her put it down, but my justification is working the right muscles.
Honestly, I couldn't care less where my horse puts his head when we are riding, as long as he softens up and drops his head when I pick up the reins. I'm not riding a reining or western pleasure horse, so I don't expect him to move like one. That being said, my horse does need to have a good, solid foundation, and does need to be soft and supple. When we are working the pattern, he does need to use his back end and not be strung out. I just don't mind if his head is slightly raised, as long as he comes back to me and really uses himself. :-) But, again, that is JMO. :-)
I don't really care where his head is as long as he's working for me like he's supposed to. Riding around i make him tuck up into a frame like a show pony, but never on the barrel pattern.
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