This ain’t no Salsa Dance, leave the “Fancy” moves on the dance floor

Are we bored with our setup?  Are clinicians running out of content so they bring in something “new” or more complicated to try to add to their clinics?  It has me baffled.


There are 3 straight lines, 1 arched line and 3 changes of direction around a barrel (turns) to navigate on the barrel pattern.  These maneuvers are encompassed within a timer line. 


That is the barrel pattern.


In a nut shell, there is nothing “Fancy” about barrel racing.  Calm down, I’m not saying it is EASY, I’m saying their is nothing Fancy  –   If you are a barrel racers yourself, you can watch it for hours, but other than the clock stopping faster than a previous run, a high stakes slot race or short go, it isn’t really a spectator sport.


For some reason, a large part of the barrel racing community currently believes they need to be influenced by outside sources and different events with different moves.  Right now the big trend is cutting horse moves.  This trend happened about 12 years ago (for those of you who were around the barrel world that long) with the Reiners.  Reining trainers were suddenly dabbling in the barrel horse clinic world. 


The problem with both of these scenarios are the emphasis of winning the events are based on entirely different functions of the horses movement.  ALSO – Comparing speed events and judged events and trying to cross mingle is a good recipe for failure.


Reiners and Cutters are required to do completely different maneuvers for success, none of which are within a timer line.  The success of a Reining horse is based on their ability to pivot and turn around in a circle without moving forward, their second biggest score comes from their ability to slide to a stop.  Although there is a forward moving portion to their event, it isn’t timed and the “criteria” for scoring in it is based in how it looks.  The success of a cutting horse is 100% based on their ability to move laterally in sync with a bovine that is also moving laterally, keeping it away from the rest of the herd.  How things LOOK is the emphasis in both of these events, not how things CLOCK.


Lateral moves do not belong ANYWHERE in a barrel run, neither do Pivot Steps or Sliding Stops.  Lateral moves on any forward moving line (even if that line is shaped as a circle) adds distance and takes away forward momentum.  Pivot steps (stop, pivot and go) adds 2-3 10ths of a second to any turn they are applied on.  THESE ARE PROVEN TIME STEALERS.  Why would you purposely add time stealers to your run?


The most successful cutting/reining horses have a 1 to 1  or  1 1/2 to 1 length to strength ratio in their stride and this ratio is extremely hard to win on in the barrel pen.  We go over understanding your horses Strength to Length Ratios extensively in our Foundations Courses.  


A top end Cutting horse/Reining Horse will have completely different bio mechanics than the successful ratios that are showing up in the barrel pen.

Asking a horse with a long loin and a stride ratio greater than 2 to 1 to roll over their hock is very unkind.


Let me repeat and EMPHASIZE that asking a horse who is not built to roll over their hock, it is VERY unkind.  Those conformation ratios ARE NOT DESIGNED for that move and you can cause long term damage to a number of tendons, muscles and joints including the hocks and sacroiliac joint by making a horse do it.  Long loins and a greater than 2 to 1 stride ratio are VERY common for horses that have race horse breeding and those bloodlines are very intertwined in the barrel racing world. 


Start asking yourself: WHERE & WHY?


Where do I need this in my run and Why will it help me clock better.  If you don’t have a solid answer (solid meaning logically, you can apply logic and it is reasonable), leave that move in whatever pen with who ever is trying to sell you on it.


I have a question – Why are we “buying” into the idea that your horse needs to be able to do certain reining/cutting maneuvers?  It isn’t cross training (which is an upcoming article), because I see people actually adding these moves coming into their runs.


I am also seeing an alarming number of people posting videos and they say the horse is being difficult because it doesn’t want to do some of these moves, but all I see is a horse that is trying to tell a rider, that is not what they are designed for and it hurts.  WHY can’t people recognize that? 


There is a saying in the horse training world to “Make the right things easy and the wrong things hard”.  It is catchy and meme worthy, but there is more to it.  Have you ever considered that what you believe is the “Right thing”, isn’t the “Right thing for all conformations”?


Have you looked at your horse for their bio mechanics and conformation ratios and chosen a training strategy and maneuvers around their physical and athletic function? 


Just like humans aren’t all built to do the same athletic maneuvers, neither are horses.  A move that is easy for 1 horse can torture another and cause physical and emotional damage.


Just like a Workout or Yoga video has modifications for different athletic levels and body types, so should your training/drill/workout program for your horse(s).


Choose exercises, drills and moves that will bring you success in the barrel pen, and are also suited for your horse’s skeletal structure.  If you don’t know how your horses skeletal structure works, we would like to help you out with that.


I’m not saying you can’t go play with cows, play with some sliding stops, do rollbacks on the fence, hell add some jumping standards if you want, just make sure your expectations match your horses build AND athletic ability.

Originally published on the Take Time off the Clock Site March 15, 2019