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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Please share your opinions on starfishing below! :)

In my opinion: I realize it's an accident when a rider gets popped out of the saddle occasionally when kicking. But if you're kicking that hard, you're probably doing more harm to your horse than beating the clock. I think there is definitely a happy medium. You can kick, but your butt shouldn't be constantly coming out of the saddle. Technique is just as important as speed, and you can still make a smokin' run without kicking the wind outta your horse. :cowboy:
 

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I am anti-starfish.
I have been popped out of the saddle on occasion from a mistake but never from kicking.
I used to work for a barrel racing production company, you wouldn't believe how many boots and spurs had been flung off from over-kicking. There was usually a pile of unclaimed spurs at the end of a race, most everyone came and got their boot but sometimes there was a few random lonely boots left..lol

I am not a kicker and this may come from my very short career as a jockey racing mules on the fair circuit, but a well timed smack with a stick or over and under will cause a horse to lengthen it's stride. Where kicking causes a horse to tense up and shorten, lift the ribs.

nothing wrong with a few small kicks to encourage or remind a horse to listen to your leg but that huge starfishing kicking is excessive and uncalled for.
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*I am not a barrel racer* so I don't know if my opinions count, but I don't get it and it seems really foolish to me. It's actually one reason I usually avoid watching barrel racing actually... just seems like poor horsemanship, and along with all the other examples of poor horsemandship associated with the lower level local shows I've been to, it sucks all the fun out of going.

You don't see TB jockeys doing it. You don't see endurance riders doing it. I haven't been to QH sprinting events, so I can't say if they do it or not, but in racing (for fun) my own horse against friends', none of us have ever found it helpful or necessary. It seems like it would put the horse off balance, not to mention the rider, and if the horse is having to balance that, they can't concentrate on *forward.* When I've needed speed from my guy, a bump with the leg or a quick smack has been plenty sufficient. If they can feel a fly land, why would you need the theatrics?

I would be interested to know if anyone has studied it at all- ie, does it really help the horses run faster? Or does it just give the human something to do so they feel like they're 'helping' their horse run faster? Of course, I am sure the horses become trained to it, and are waiting for that cue after a while.
 

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you wouldn't believe how many boots and spurs had been flung off from over-kicking.
You mean the boot of the rider comes off?!

I am not a barrel racer, but I cannot imagine how any action on the part of the rider which results in boots flying off would be helpful to the horse at all.
 

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Long long ago, in my gymkhana days, there was a young man who participated with his long-legged un-quarterhorse-looking sorrel. Unusual just for being male (and he was sadly very shy as well), he was also unusual in that his horse walked calmly into the arena on a loose rein. He had no whip and no spurs. He would lean forward and say "shhhhh" in his horse's ear and that horse would take off like the proverbial bat from down below. When he wanted more speed he would shhhhh again and that horse would burn down the arena. At the end he would slow himself up and walk out the gate.

We never could figure out how he did it. He won a *lot*.

I think about him sometimes.
 

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You don't see TB jockeys doing it. You don't see endurance riders doing it. I haven't been to QH sprinting events, so I can't say if they do it or not...
That's where I am with it.

Jockeys (TB, QH) don't do it. If it worked, I guarantee they would. I love to see if it has been studies and what the results were.

Polo players don't starfish either. Of course they'd wipe each other out with the mallets if they tried!

I'm too visual. Now I'm picturing a field littered with the players of Orchard Hill and Valiente teams!
 

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You mean the boot of the rider comes off?!

I am not a barrel racer, but I cannot imagine how any action on the part of the rider which results in boots flying off would be helpful to the horse at all.
Yes unfortunately. The boot flying off was due to excessive kicking.

I like and enjoy barrel racing because to do it well takes training and know how to keep a horse running and running hard. But it draws a lot of novices because it seems so simple and fun. To top it off barrel horse bring a lot of money and the shows pay well. More than cow and rope horses where you need cattle to practoce. (However there are exceptions, I believe Bob Avila won a futurity on a horse that never seen a cow)
 

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OMG...starfishing. There was this HUGE debate about it on Instagram, someone even started a #teamstarfish and would post picture of people starfishing and say "Good job", "Go girl!!". Then they'd turn around and tell me they don't support it. How contradicting...

But I hate it! When your rear end is THAT far out of the saddle and your legs are practically doing the splits, it's NOT an accident. I can highly understand people that get bounced out of the saddle - I've experienced it. Cantering Roman, my legs can't keep still (something I need to work on), so while I'm trying to slow him down, my legs are still flopping and kicking his side. So I can understand you being popped out, but being that high up?

No, just no.

I've also been told it doesn't hurt them and they can't feel it. Which brought up the fact that horses have thinner skin than humans - which they also believed false. *sigh*

Example of how starfishing doesn't work, I have a neighbor who barrel races and he starfishes. He's been in the 2D/3D with his horse. My instructor (not bragging just because she's my instructor) does not starfish and finished like 6th (?) in the 1D on one of her horses. Hmm...and they don't race as often as my neighbor does either, that I know of.
 

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I agree Roman.
one of my best friends runs pro and to watch her run and see the pics, it looks like she's pleasure riding. Relaxed, legs on her horse. She rides eventers and cow horses the same. I aspire to ride like her.
 

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I agree Roman.
one of my best friends runs pro and to watch her run and see the pics, it looks like she's pleasure riding. Relaxed, legs on her horse. She rides eventers and cow horses the same. I aspire to ride like her.
Yup. If the riders like you explained can do it, surely "starfishers" will have no trouble keeping their legs still. There are two barrel racers I met on Instagram, one rides quiet and doesn't starfish, the other starfishes sometimes - occasionally she shows a video of her riding and there's very little kicking. The one who doesn't starfish at all placed higher than the girl that does at a show.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Sharpie;7864978 When I've needed speed from my guy said:
Can I just say how much I LOVE this bit: "if they can feel a fly land, why all the theatrics?" That is just so true- I have to laugh when people say horses are thick skinned, or can't feel it... yeah, that's why they shudder when a fly lands on them...
 

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No. No. No.

Would you kick a horse that hard from the ground?! (Actually I have once, it was a fjord who was running me over, literally, for treats)

Besides, when a horse is expecting a blow like that the are tensing up their muscles, which really doesn't allow them to fully stretch out their stride. I'd prefer and over and under and a VERBAL cue to run like the dickens.
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Have you ever been punched in the ribs? Did you feel like stretching out?
Agreed. I told the starfish supports to have a friend kick their side, then come back and tell me if it hurts or not. Because we have thicker skin, so image how much worse it feels to them..
 

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Agreed. I told the starfish supports to have a friend kick their side, then come back and tell me if it hurts or not. Because we have thicker skin, so image how much worse it feels to them..
It's not really the skin that's the issue, it's the muscles over the ribs and admittedly a horse can take quite a bit of a beating and still do okay, but that doesn't mean they like it or it will make them perform any better. Some horses just don't like to run and no amount of kicking or beating will change that, but most of them don't make it into the barrel racing arena. With a horse which likes to run, I've never had the need to kick them to make them reach out out and move. I think if you communicate well with the horse, he will give you everything he has when he knows you want it. Furthermore, I don't see how essentially removing your legs from the equation is a good idea from a purely safety standpoint. It looks like some of these gals have stopped riding and started hopping up and down. I'd think if anything that would tend to throw the horse off stride. I could be wrong, I guess, because some people who are winning are doing it, but I have a suspicion they'd do as well or better if they just stayed in the saddle and rode the horse.
 

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I've barrel raced for around 15 years, there's no pictures of me "star fishing". I've been popped out of the saddle a few times but from leaving the barrel or taking off, not from kicking. I don't see how it helps the horse go faster having someone flop around on their back at all. I kick from the knee down, which is more of just encouraging my horse to move.
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I don't see how anyone could advocate starfishing. What good can come of it? Having your butt that far out of the saddle will inevitably slow down your horse, because their body energy is working against yours and I don't know any horse that wants to run hard when being whallup'ed in the sides.

Unfortunately, even world champions can be caught in the act. Although in her defense, this was before the "light bulb came on" for her and she's much improved her riding and owned up to her previous mistakes.




Even though I try, I wouldn't claim that I never get off-balance or get put into a bad position, because that wouldn't be true. I'm not perfect. It happens. Barrel racing is so fast-paced and the horses are powerful. But even so, this is probably my own personal worst-case of starfishing ... if you can even call it that.




I find it much more effective to encourage them by either squeezing my legs or bumping slightly. All-out kicking just doesn't make sense, in my mind.



Long long ago, in my gymkhana days, there was a young man who participated with his long-legged un-quarterhorse-looking sorrel. Unusual just for being male (and he was sadly very shy as well), he was also unusual in that his horse walked calmly into the arena on a loose rein. He had no whip and no spurs. He would lean forward and say "shhhhh" in his horse's ear and that horse would take off like the proverbial bat from down below. When he wanted more speed he would shhhhh again and that horse would burn down the arena. At the end he would slow himself up and walk out the gate.

We never could figure out how he did it. He won a *lot*.
He did it with good training and good communication with his horse.

If I ask them to do so, my horses walk calmly into the arena, and then take off like a bat outta he!! when I ask them to. And then proceed to walk out of the arena on a loose rein.

Training. And time.
 

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Personally I think this is all for show - to make it look like they are making their horse run faster. Any good rider wants to ride with their horse and not hinder or ride against it. For those that race competetively it must make a good sponsor shot.
 

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Unfortunately, even world champions can be caught in the act. Although in her defense, this was before the "light bulb came on" for her and she's much improved her riding and owned up to her previous mistakes.
Fallon still starfishes today. :/
 

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If only they were able to levitate in that position, THEN I could see a benefit: no weight on the horse's back! Lol!

I didn't realize this atrocity had a name, and I struggle to comprehend that there are supporters of this. Horses are going to contract muscles and brace in anticipation of impact of the legs and seat on their backs, leading to hollow, shorter strides. A rider who sits the movements and can time their cues to the correct footfalls is going to be able to get a relaxed, longer, more powerful stride. Oh, and keep their horse's back healthier.
 
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