Approaches and Happy Turns
focus of this article is on the position of the horse’s legs coming to the
first barrel, turning around it and leaving it going to the second.
have just returned from two clinics and it reminds me of the importance of being
aware of the horse’s legs. I believe that a lot of the hock problems that we
are seeing in horses today are caused from bringing the horse in with his hind
feet to the outside of the front tracks and turning in that same way. If a horse
continues to turn in this manner, especially if he is not collected, he is bound
to become sore in the hocks.
you are running to the barrel, you want your horse’s hind feet to be following
the front tracks. If you are not sure about where your horse’s feet are, have
someone video you standing in line with your approach to the first barrel. If
possible, they can film you from behind and up, or they can stand on the ground
past the first barrel. The main thing is to be sure they are in line with where
you break to start and where your pocket is. Notice if your horse is
two-tracking going to the first barrel. Two-tracking looks like the front feet
will be running to the right of the hind feet. I see this often when the nose is
tipped too far to the inside (right).
a horse that is two-tracking gathers to turn, he will be trying to gather with
his hock to the outside instead of underneath himself. When hind legs are to the
outside of the front feet tracks, the shoulder is also down toward the barrel,
which can cause a slow barrel or even a knocked-down barrel.
the two-tracking horse starts to turn, he will go from the front pair of legs to
the back pair, alternating and giving a look like he is buckling in the middle.
This is not a smooth turn. I see barrel racers trying to turn this way; they
slip or fall, and then put the blame on bad ground conditions. This is the case
when the reality perception will keep you from winning. You cannot fix a problem
unless you first identify and admit what the problem really is.
problem usually starts when a rider is teaching the horse to come from the flat
to the round. In other words, the rider is asking the horse to run up to the
barrel going in a straight, full-out stride, and then gather and go into a round
turn. This is flat to round. If the horse has not been taught how to make the
transition from flat to round correctly, he will most likely learn to throw the
hind feet to the outside as soon as the rider takes hold of the nose and bends
it to the inside. Remember the basic principle: If you pull the nose to the
inside, the outside hip will move to the outside to re-align the body.
common thing I see at clinics, is the rider who sees that the horse’s hip is
to the outside and the shoulder down, and tries to correct it by kicking right
where the foot is. This actually loosens the hip even more and the shoulder
becomes stiffer and stiffer. This is another reality problem. In reality that
rider is increasing her problem because the horse is doing exactly what the
rider told him to do and being punished for doing it. The correct way to fix
this would be to get the left shoulder suppled up through a series of exercises
and then the hips would follow. We would go back to the circle, and the moving
of the shoulders by reverse arcs. If the feet are not re-aligned correctly, you
will see this same horse have his shoulders and head very close to the barrel
and his hips way to the outside. He will leave tracks on a barrel that look like
this: (see diagram).
the tracks up and down, and you will have less pressure on the hocks, and get
the horse underneath himself in order to make up those valuable tenths of
seconds of time.