Understanding the Basics

There are some basics that require understanding before you can understand the things that follow the basics.  I love to study websites of coaches and teachers and am constantly reminded of how everything long lasting and workable is built upon basics of principles that are being taught.  The greatest teacher of all times was Jesus Christ.  He taught in parables – short stories to make a clear point.  He made a point so that we could understand in a clear way what He was saying.  He taught a parable in Mark 4 about seeds.  This parable fascinates me because He said – “If you don’t understand this parable –how can you understand the others”?  To me, this says that IF I can understand this parable, then I will be able to understand the others.  This is a powerful concept.

I relate many things from the Bible to my horse training.  This parable reminds me of the basics in barrel racing.  If you can understand the basics of a barrel racing horse, then you can understand the rest of it.  There are three basics that I find myself continually teaching to people who come to the ranch.  When those three are learned, the rest is easy.  These three key points are: the circle, a straight line and a gather.  IF you can do these three things with your horse, you have all the basics to build a successful horse upon.

Circle:   The circle is the foundation for suppling exercises.  If you can match your horse’s body to a big circle with his hind feet following his front feet tracks, then you have a horse that is supple on that side.  There are 5 pieces to consider in the circle.  1st, you want to be able to see his eye on left if you are going left. (right if you are going right)  You will not be able to slightly see the eye if he will not give you the face. It all starts with the face, but does not end there, but works back from there.  The 2nd concern is a soft neck.  The neck must yield in order to supple the 3rd piece which would be the shoulder.  Move back to 4th piece which is rib cage and finally, the 5th would be the hip area.  If any of those 5 pieces are not supple and following, then you will not be able to trot or lope a round circle with the hind feet following the front feet.

Straight line:  I have heard people say that IF you can circle a horse, you can also travel in a straight line.  If your spine is supple all the way back, then going in a straight line should be no problem.  Trot your horse in straight lines right after a rain and you can study your tracks.  I find many horses that come in here for lessons that are not tracking straight.  Until you are tracking straight, you will find it difficult to get a consistent gather.

Gather:  When a horse is traveling in a straight line to a barrel, he can bring his hind feet underneath himself and collect for the turn.  A barrel turn is like driving your car to a curve, putting on brakes, making the turn, then speeding off a little faster.  Many horses are trying to collect for the turn much like a car that came up to a curve with the back end of the car over and to the outside of the front wheels.  You will see this happen on icy roads.  It makes the turn very rough in car terms and in horse terms it sores the hocks up.   If his hocks are not set square when he gathers to turn, you will see them torked to the outside of the circle.  Imagine what this does to the hips and spine of that horse.

After you understand these three things, then you can put them into application.  You can go straight to your pocket in a straight line, gather your horse and then go into the place where you need roundness to turn.  (Methods vary here, but if you can make good circles away from barrels, you can pick your method in turning a round barrel.)  But, like the parable in Mark – if you do not understand what steals the seed, then you cannot understand what is going wrong in your life.  To relate that to your horses, if you do not understand what is going wrong in the areas that make a successful circle and straight line, then you cannot understand what is stealing your time.

How you handle the horse’s head going from a straight line into the barrel turn will determine how you turn and how you come out of the barrel.  The circle teaches us this.  If you bring too much eye into the circle, then the opposite hip will step out to the outside.  I am seeing a lot of horses that are light on the back end and heavy on the front end.  A horse that can extend and trot in a true circle with hind feet following front tracks has his body weight spread out evenly.   I will go farther into this next month. 

May we think about the foundations of everything that we do and how it has to be built upon principles that are good and strong and workable if we are to build anything solid from there up.  Understand the parables of the seeds and you will understand life.  Understand the basics of circle, straight line and gather and you are a long ways down the road to understanding barrel racing.

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Copyright © 2004 - 2011 Joyce Loomis-Kernek
Last modified: January 05, 2014