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I have always ridden western (about 8 years), though I also use to ride English (I haven't ridden English in about three years), and still have more of an equitation seat rather than a typical western seat, so much so that many other riders have commented on it. My sister, on the other hand, has more of a ranch / working type posture. Most barrel racers I see in my area seem to have a posture that falls in-between these two VERY different styles. Some only lean forward slightly during their runs, others lean so far down that their horse's mane must be tickling their noses!

I have not been barrel racing for long at all, maybe doing 4-6 shows each year for the past two. This year I am really trying to become more competitive within this sport, which is the reason behind the questions that have been bouncing around my mind lately.

Is there a proper rider posture that one should have for optimum performance in barrel racing? How can I achieve this posture?

Thank you in advance for any opinions / advice that you can offer me!
 

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Rather than seeking one specific posture, I would ask you to consider what you wish to achieve with the posture.

What posture keeps your center of gravity over your horse’s center of gravity so you, as a rider, don’t interfere with your horse’s movement? Any effort the horse must make to compensate for you as a rider will likely interfere with the horse’s performance.

Should your posture remain constant or should it change depending on the specific conditions at a particular time?

But you should also consider something else:

How does your horse move at a specific time in the run? Will changing your posture help your horse change its center of gravity to help it perform more efficiently?
 

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https://horseandrider.com/videos/fallon-taylor-wad-body-position

I'm not a barrel racer. I am fascinated by the mechanics of riding. So...I suggest you download videos of top riders and then watch their runs in slow motion - 1/4 to 1/8 speed. Pay far more attention to what they DO than to what they SAY.

Why? Something I've seen - and something I do as well - is that what we THINK we do is often very different from what we ACTUALLY do while riding. Slow motion video can reveal the truth of what we do - and it must be slow because we can't see subtle changes at full speed. Stare at one body part, the feet for example, and see what very good barrel racers do. Do they put their heel down? Or not? Or do both depending on what part of the run? Compare the difference between the inside and outside leg position. Watch for how much they lean front to back during straights versus in a turn. Etc.

Kristy Peterson is riding Bozo below. Watching the run, I can't help but think most rules of riding are totally inadequate to describe what is needed for a horse moving with that much power:


Smart phones take decent video. Video people who are winning, then download the video. Invest in some good video editing software and watch successful people in slow motion. Then get someone to film you, and watch what you do in slow motion.
 

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There really shouldn't be much difference between an "English" seat and a "western seat". A balanced seat is a balanced seat, and a good saddle that fits you and the horse should put you in the proper alignment whether it's western or english. The only real difference is that English riders tend to not sit deeply at the canter, but the saddle shouldn't make much difference. My friend who rides jumpers looks at home in a western saddle at a local playday or English at an event, and she doesn't ride differently either time.



Barrel racers need to be able to get up over the withers to free up the back coming out of a barrel. A barrel saddle should allow this. If you're getting left behind, that's going to slow your horse, possibly sore his back, and keep him from driving out as hard. The key to riding barrel horses is to help the horse only as much as he needs it, then stay out of his way.
 

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Is there a proper rider posture that one should have for optimum performance in barrel racing? How can I achieve this posture?


Firstly, it will depend on your horse and their running style.

Are they a free runner?
Push style?
Or a combination?


Secondly, no matter what, you want to be BALANCED. If you are leaning in any direction, your horse has to compensate for that.


Thirdly, I like to think of the "correct" posture as being: How can I stay out of my horse's way so they can do their job?

So there is not going to be a straightforward answer to your question. Best thing you can do is have a friend video your runs, so you can watch it afterward and see what you are actually doing.
 
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