Barrel Racer Rehab – Part 3.1 – Pattern Adjustments

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Pattern Adjustments

We talked about the changes on the line to the 1st Barrel in the previous lesson and now we are going to talk about the rest of the pattern.

Unbalanced Patterns -2nd Barrel and 2nd to 3rd Adjustment

I see this a lot in small buildings and growing up in Canada, it is more common than not.  People hosting races are trying to “utilize” the arena, so make patterns that have a large difference in the arc (difference in distance between 1st and 2nd as 2nd and 3rd) and smaller scorelines.

This creates a very different inside angle to the third barrel and can create a blind first barrel (this gets handled in the next lesson).  If you are always practicing on a standard pattern and you head out to a small pen with an unbalanced pattern your trajectory to the first and third barrel will change quite drastically.

In an indoor pen that has an arena that is 85 x 200, a lot of time people will place the barrels 15’ off the wall at 1st and 2nd and then 25 feet off the wall at 3rd. Instead of adding the length to the scoreline, they add the length to the pattern at the arc between 2nd and 3rd.  This makes the pattern lopsided and your inside triangle (pattern) angles very different.

Here are the differences on angles between a pattern that is 90’ x 105’ ( Full Standard) and one that is 55’ x 75’.  This doesn’t seem like a big difference because there is 15 feet difference in the arc between 90 x 105 and 20 feet difference in the arc between 55 x 75 but it opens up the angle almost 20 degrees.

You can see that if you follow your usual departure (Yellow arrow) from the 2nd barrel to  the third barrel you are going to end up 3 times farther away from the 3rd barrel than you want to be (Blue arrow).

Critical Thinking To Make The Adjustment


We still want to leave 3rd exactly the same so this leaves us with a couple of options to adjust for the steeper angle to 3rd and keep our straight line between 1st to 2nd and 2nd to 3rd as short as possible:

  1.  We can continue the revolution on the 2nd barrel and leaving the circle ¼ to ½ a stride longer than the regular pattern and make it a 4 stride turn instead of 3.
  2. We can adjust the start of our circle ¼ to ½ a stride deeper into the turn, which would result in finishing the circle that much further in the revolution, You also need to do the same to your first barrel to finish it a little deeper as well.
  3. We can leave as we normally do and make the adjustment on the line as we are riding.
  4. We can leave as we normally do, not make any adjustment on the line, and make a wide 3rd barrel turn.

This is where you need to learn you and your horses strengths and weaknesses and make the best decision that you can implement.

Walking the pattern backwards can really give you a feel on what your best option is to handle the situation.

Option 1 & 2 will do not add any distance on to our lines.  Options 3 & 4 will add distance, but as long as you maintain forward momentum, it won’t hurt the clock too badly.

You may plan for 1, but if 3 actually happens, this is where forward momentum and not panicking because you have already prepared for all of this, will come into action.

As a rider, I find making adjustments in the line difficult.  I tend to overreact and make too much of a correction, disengage my horses hip and end up inside the line I want to be.  I am a tight turning addict in recovery, so I still have to mentally prepare myself each time I ride to:

  1. Respect the circle and give my horse room to use themselves around the barrel.
  2. Keep going forward and don’t micro manage.

I always practice for #1 but because I am aware of the angles, I know if any of the options happen I am able to keep going!

You don’t have to have space to set up a full pattern to practice different angles and scenarios.  We can practice the angle itself with a short distance between the barrels and still get the feeling correct and angles right in our muscle memory and mind.

Measure out different size patterns and practice making the adjustment for the changed angles.  Determine what is your best plan of action based on you and your horses strengths. Think of a couple of arena’s that this has affected you in the past and watch your runs to see if you can handle it different in the future.  Let us know what you will change.We

Plan B - What to do when $hit goes sideways!

Sometimes, things don’t work exactly as they should, patterns aren’t set with balanced angles, ground causes us to take extra steps and the list gets longer than the eye can see.

This is where critical thinking and planning are going to play a huge role in your success, if you can make the adjustments needed, you can still clock.