Barrel Racer Rehab – Part 2.1 – The Line to 1st

The Performance Horse Academy - BarrelRacingEssentials-YourLinetoFirst-300x300-BRR

Stop Following Someone Else's Path

The only benefit to being on the top of the ground is there are higher odds you will choose the correct path for your horse, not just follow the foot steps in the ground and take someone else’s path BUT if you are used to following someone else’s path and ride tentatively because you have no foot prints to follow, then that makes it a wash.  Sigh.

The first barrel is often referred to as “The Money Barrel”. 

After analyzing so many runs against the interval timers and overhead videos, I have thousands of runs of evidence against this saying.

The line you take TO the first barrel determines whether you can turn the 1st barrel or not – it also effects the line between 1st and 2nd, and the 2nd barrel turn, so it really determines the first half of the run.

I have seen a lot of people give up the race right there if they don’t have a good first barrel turn.  They don’t know how to react when things fall apart, because they have no “Plan B” reaction.

We know that the shortest path to the 1st barrel is a straight line, but that is rarely executable. 

1 Straight, 1 Arc & 180 Degrees

It sounds so simple but what complicates it is the graduation of the bully forces over the longer distance

What you can execute is far more important than what is the shortest line, especially in consideration of the 1st barrel because it effects the 1st half of your run.

Walking from the barrel to the gate (Start at the topside and look towards the alley) is always the best start for picking your line to first. 

Walk from 2nd to 1st, around first and stop at the top side of the first barrel.  Now look at the alley or gate you are coming from and choose your line. 

Walk it, stop in the alley, turn around and see if you can travel that exactly as you just did, except for going to correct way to the 1st barrel this time.

Critical items to keep in mind on YOUR Line To 1st:

When we switch from walking from 1st to the alley back to alley to 1st, we are switching leads.  We usually pick their weakest lead for their 1st barrel turn so we only have to do 1 turn in that direction, but in doing this we need to add a bit of grace to the line to get there (unless your horse is balanced equally left to right).  It is of ultimate importance that you pick your line at a walk.  If you cannot execute a good line and 1st barrel turn at a walk, it is not going to be better with speed.

Your best line to first is the shortest line you can take AND that your horse also:

  1. Stay engaged and keeps driving up underneath and from their hind end the entire distance from the alley to the topside of the 1st barrel.  No pulling from the shoulder at anytime on the way there or disengaging or pushing out their hip.
  2. No resistance or push on the inside reins (You aren’t feeling like you need to hold your horse off the barrel).  You can have eye to the inside, but no push against the inside rein or have to pull against the outside rein.
  3. The horses feet follow each others paths – Right hind foot follows right front foot, Left hind foot follow Left hind foot.  No dog tracking, no hip to the outside.
  4. No extra corners or direction change on the line.  If you go too far up the middle of the arena before you get to the barrel, it creates a pivot point on the path.  This adds a lot of extra distance and your horse will also then pull their way to the barrel after the pivot point.
  5. No flat spots on your circle.  If your line is too close or too far from the barrel it will create a flat spot on the circle, forcing our horse to take at least 1 extra stride to get their feet back under them and come around, or to pivot step around on their shoulder.

You need to play with your line to the first barrel and take as much distance away from the barrel that you can execute 1,2 & 3 but not too far away that you end up with 4&5.

If your horse isn’t able to get their inside hind leg up to their vertical center of balance on their weaker side, you also need to consider how deep you need to get into the circle to have their foot as the axis or radius of the circle. 

We always want where their foot is actually landing to be the center of the circle.  If they aren’t getting their foot quite to the vertical center of balance where it is supposed to be, we need to make that adjustment on our path and get deeper into the circle.

Pre Score Distance - Timeline Awareness

This is outside of timeline but an important part of your line to first. 

You need to be at the speed you want to be going (I originally wrote full speed here, but most horses should never be their full speed before the run home) before you cross the timer line into the pattern.   You need to be aware of the timer line, but not looking for it.  When you come into a pen on your way to first, you need to be focused and looking at the ground you want to travel on.  The barrel needs to be in your view but not the focus of the path.  The barrel happens to be the object which determines the change of direction.  It should not be the focus of our vision.

The Blind 1st Barrel

When you cannot see the point you are traveling to at the top side (12 o’clock) position of the first barrel from the entrance of the arena, that is a blind first barrel. 

On a standard pattern you can see the 12 O’clock position of the first barrel well before the timer line.  This is a more forgiving path to execute.

Riders have a tendency to look AT the first barrel when they can’t see their destination on the path they need to travel.  If you head to the barrel you will need to make a line correction right at the start because we are aiming at the barrel, not beside it.

With a blind first barrel, you are going to have to travel straighter longer before coming onto the ARC.