Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A quick blog entry on barrel racing

I love this sport. It's a bit of my thing, I'm OCD about everything about the sport from what horses should be doing it to how people should be riding the runs. It disappoints me how much bad horsemanship I see in the sport, everything from kicking the living hell out of the horses to clinging to the horn for dear life to yanking on the horse's mouth to jerking around uncontrollably on the saddle.

It all doesn't matter, as long as the run is fast. So I'm going to share with you my idea of a good barrel racing turn and a bad one, pulled off of a Google image search.

First, a bad one.




First off, what's with being able to fit the universe between your butt and the saddle? Second of all, the hands are straining at the reins and the horn because clearly a solid seat and legs aren't going to keep her on the horse, so we'll rely on its spine and poor, sensitive mouth (click here to see a full picture, complete with BIG LONG SHANKS on the bit...) and the hopes that the horse doesn't decide it doesn't like the hat the lady on the other side of the ring is wearing and takes off in the other direction (seriously, how would she stay on? Not a hope in hell).

There's the legs with the toes down and out, heels pressed into the sides for dear life (most likely the reason for flying out of the saddle) and the look on the horse's face says it all. Head up, neck stiff and tense, shallow stride, wide turn, ears back and a snarly look on the face that says "LADY LET GO OF MY MOUTH!" At least the horse is on the right lead.

Here is another horrible position to be in. We'll let you figure out what's wrong on your own... but I can tell you one thing, your legs don't belong THERE.

Here is an example of a good barrel turn.



I would like to see the heels come down, but the legs are quiet and gentle (the probable reason for the toes being down is that the stirrups don't seem to be in use at all, which is a good sign of balance), the balance of the rider is properly turned upward and staying in center. The hands are sitting quiet and forward without straining to the side on a huge curb, the horse is turning close, tight, and quick (note how far in he's leaning), and the rider is looking where she's going. She looks to be in balance and working hard for the horse. My other complaint besides the toes is how the horse's nose is for some reason turned out, likely a product of being checked for trying to turn too fast because the rest of the body is going into the turn nicely. But notice how relaxed this horse seems compared to the picture above. He's just doing his job. The other one looks like he'd shatter if you prodded him with a chisel.

It's just a nicer picture all-round. All it is is basic horsemanship...

When I was just four years old and in riding lessons, my trainer always told me that touching the horn would burn the horse. I knew, of course, she wasn't serious (it was the middle of winter!) but I used that to never cling to the horn and learned to rely on my balance. I never learned to ride with stirrups until I was eleven years old.

And speaking of four-year-old me... I have to hunt that picture down. Little me on a big horse in a class full of adults.


And how hard are you booting your poor animal that your heels are coming this far out from the horse's sides? Ouch.

17 comments:

  1. Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I had a very cute little buckskin QH, name Cody. He was a pistol. We were in Missouri, stationed in Fort Lost in the Woods.

    I played around with alot of stuff, including the barrels. What fun. Mel, wish I could have done more. No one to train, and parents who were sweet but not really going to support that much.

    That first pic scares even me.

    Do you still do some barrels. I know Willow isn't a barrel horse.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh heck yes! I'd never stop. The farm Will is at used to be a SJ barn before I was born... then she switched over to Western and barrels and that's what I started doing there. Then out of nowhere she bought this cheap, gangly, batshit crazy TB gelding that had a showjumping history just for the hell of it, I guess, and asked if I was interested in working with him. I wasn't really, but hell... I fell in love with him and that's how Will and I got started.


    My big boy on the farm there is Dex. Big bulky QH, light as a feather on the reins and hot damn can he run! Last season I also worked with a QH gelding Buddy and a black Quarab mare Shadow AKA the Dynamite Mare (I may have talked about her to you at some point) and now I've got those three and she bought a new one back in January named Jack Daniels (who names a horse that??) and he's just a whole bundle of awesomeness. Already ran on the pro circuit, he's going to bring home some wins.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Man, that brings back memories. Both my girls ran barrels for years and were pretty successful. I will tell you there are some pretty crappy ass riders out there that fail to understand the principles of basic horsemanship. Kudos to you for educating.
    Mel- how did you find the Quarab to do? We had a few people try full Arabs without success, just could not get the turns and headsets on them.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Actually I've seen a couple of pretty successful Arab barrel horses, but the rider has to be light handed and use the right bit. Arabs have a much narrower lower jaw than most breeds, and don't do well in the jointed curbs that are so popular now. (WTF? If I need that piece of iron to stop or turn that horse why would I get on it?! Rant!) I ran barrels a lot when I was younger, and I can't believe what I see in arenas now. We would have been DQ'd at the very least, and beaten by old cowboys besides!
    We rode bareback most of the time, as most oldtimers agreed that a kid might fall off but couldn't get dragged to death that way.
    The most successful barrel racers that I know ride with a lot of classical technique. Balance, trained turns instead of forced turns, and a trained whoa instead of running the horse into the wall.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Actually I've seen a couple of pretty successful Arab barrel horses, but the rider has to be light handed and use the right bit. Arabs have a much narrower lower jaw than most breeds, and don't do well in the jointed curbs that are so popular now. (WTF? If I need that piece of iron to stop or turn that horse why would I get on it?! Rant!) I ran barrels a lot when I was younger, and I can't believe what I see in arenas now. We would have been DQ'd at the very least, and beaten by old cowboys besides!
    We rode bareback most of the time, as most oldtimers agreed that a kid might fall off but couldn't get dragged to death that way. Saddles were for arenas only!
    The most successful barrel racers that I know ride with a lot of classical technique. Balance, trained turns instead of forced turns, and a trained whoa instead of running the horse into the wall.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Okay, how did that happen?! Went from can't post to two posts.....

    ReplyDelete
  7. RE: The quarab

    I don't know where she came from but she's pretty good when she decides she's in the right mood. Once it comes time to work she WORKS, but sometimes she just won't give it her all.

    She's a fairly bulky Quarab too, I think she's only 1/4 arab, and she's able to get down and dig in and she wraps herself around the turns pretty nicely.

    She just pitches into random bucking fits when we're just working on general muscling and not galloping or doing fast turns. Very, very moody mare.

    My first barrel horse Cheyenne was actually 1/2 Arab and she did EXCEEDINGLY well in the sport. I was "her" person and she was willing to work hard for me. We kicked butt =)


    I can barrel race bareback and that's where I want to be. I make for a very quiet ride. No kicking, a lot of time half-seating and I don't move my hands a whole lot. I mostly run in a plain old snaffle bit, I two-hand loose reins and I'm a firm believer in riding with your seat and legs, so it makes me SO MAD when I see people hauling on their horse's face.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hey Mel,

    Wanted to let you know, my Brother's surgery is tommorrow, if I don't post for a bit that is why.

    Would you please send your considerable positive vibes into the atmosphere for him. I would appreciate it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Of course. Thoughts and hugs with you and your brother, hope he does alright.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I had a friend that had a half arab, and they were decently successful on the rodeo circuit. I had a little CMK arab, decent barrel horse, smokin pole horse.

    I'm pretty quiet though, and so is this friend. That may help. But quiet helps with all of them, really. Some horses are just more forgiving, but I think a quiet, secure rider is always easier on the horse.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I've done goat-tying, does that count?
    No?
    Okay, back under the rock..

    hugs to all
    flip gave me no sleep, again.
    doesn't kestrel rant well!
    incoherently out

    ReplyDelete
  12. Arabs and I tend to get along really well. We have a few arguments and then we're best friends.

    I don't do any of that seat-jerking, barrel-kicking, rein-throwing stuff. I'm a quiet rider, I don't like to move a lot. Hell, I don't like to sit a lot. I half seat a lot of the time and have very spongey knees. I have a video of me running a horse down a beach just standing right above the whithers because he was so choppy and the saddle wasn't helping matters LOL.

    Michael (my Grand Prix friend) used to get so mad at me when he was giving me jumping lessons (for FREE. How awesome is having a friend like that?) because I'd never sit down and the horse I was using used to take that as an encouragement to speed up.

    Sitting in an English saddle at a canter feels weird, though...

    ReplyDelete
  13. wow...um the first pic isnt that bad. maybe the pic was takin at a bad time?? i dont think she was yankin at the horses mouth at all. she was neck reining. heck yeah she was pretty darn high up off that saddle but you aint got no right to be bashin on her. ok? JMO

    ReplyDelete
  14. also.....holding on to the horn aint bad either. you shouldnt half to hold on to it all the time, but if you loose your balance.....it helps to grab it........btw im that william person, but that aint my name lol....call me kay.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because some people recognize horse racing as the Indian Horse Racing option available despite racing’s failure to market it that way. With an educated cheering, these fans get involved in the game. The races are more thrilling.

      Delete