7 Tips to Immediately Shave Seconds off your Barrel Time
Today, I am sharing my top 7 tips for a “quick” fix in your barrel run. I say “quick” with quotes because I truly believe that quickening your runs comes from the months and months of work done before a race. BUT, I often see people (even myself) sometimes make mistakes that could be easily fixed and therefore their run would be so much smoother. My hope is that by sharing these tips, you can learn something to apply to this week’s routine and/or the race this weekend to save yourself a couple tenths!! So without further-ado, let’s get into it…
Tip #1: Refine Your Supplement Program
So, this is probably the least “quick” tip out of all of these “quick tips” lol. BUT, this is something that you can do the research and application of TODAY. This also really goes out to those of you who have a very basic hay diet for their horses. Let me ask you, do you think that an Olympic gold medalist has the same diet as an office worker? (I work in an office and I’m not training so don’t @ me). The answer is obviously no, and the point that I am trying to make is that a horse that is treated like an athlete deserves to have the diet of an athlete. Do. Your. Research. Not some quick google searches, some actual research that gives you a very clear picture of what you need to be doing in order to meet the nutritional needs of your equine athlete. I mean think about it, no matter what, a healthier diet will equal a healthier horse. A horse that feels much more “up to” making runs for you, and a horse that’s body can keep up with the demand that you put on it. Why not fuel your freight train, not only to improve your times, but the longevity of your horse as well!
Tip #2: Focus on Recovery Time
This goes out to all of us who are going hard and making a lot of runs this summer. Something that I have recently learned is that everytime we work our horses, their joints inflame a little bit (this is natural for even us as humans). BUT, if we do not give our horses the proper recovery time and situation, this inflammation can actually cause the joints to start breaking down. Obviously for an equine athlete, this could be a harsh reality. Something that I have done after every run is take the extra 20 minutes that Moonshine (my barrel horse) deserves to stretch her out, give her joint supplements, alcohol her tendens, etc. I have found that by taking the extra 20 minutes, Moonshine fires much harder on day 2 of a race. Whatever I can do to save those extra tenths and make sure she’s feeling good, I will do.
Tip #3: Practice Perfect Circles
This is something that you can incorporate into your weekly schedule before your next run. Practicing PERFECT circles is such a key in the training because it establishes muscle memory for the perfect position for you and your horse. Lately I have been walking circle after circle after circle, with my inside hand super still, my outside hand on my horn, and my legs driving Moonshine into my hands. This has helped her mellow out, focus on me and my body more, establish her comfortable body position for turning, suppleness, and more. It sounds simple but it truly works wonders and I guarantee that if you do this a week before your next run, you will see and feel improvements.
Tip #4: Test Bits
If you haven’t already, do your research about the bit you are using on your horse right now. Chances are, there are probably better options out there to fit the way your horse runs. I am not saying that for sure, but it is in you and your horse’s best interest to just go ahead and test out various bits that might work as a great fit. Bits are a confusing and somewhat controversial topic, so do your OWN research to find a bit thats a fit for YOU and your horse. It could shave actual seconds off your time. Quick tip on that note- go to local second-hand tack stores to find bits for cheaper!! (just make sure you clean em!)
Tip #5: Adjust your Stirrup and Rein Length
Thissssssssss. THIS. THIS. This. is so important. Whenever I do a first lesson with a student that I have never met before, it seems like the first thing that I always do is shorten their reins and shorten their stirrups. You guys, I cannot express to you how important these two steps actually are. As far as your reins go, you want them to lay halfway between the middle of your horse’s neck and the horn. This is just a rough estimate so again, do your research. But having your reins too long causes so much time due to your lack of actual control. By keeping your reins shorter, the reaction time between your que and your horse’s turn is muchhhh shorter. With your stirrups, I always want them one hole higher than what you would think is correct. Again, do. your. research. to figure out exactly how that would look for you!! But doing this helps me be in a ready stance, one that allows me to keep up with my horse while shes firing out of the barrels, and sit down tight with her while she’s turning. Both of these factors felt so incorrect when I first started, but once I got used to it I realized how much more control I had during my runs. (by the way I don’t ride with short reins during practice but my stirrups always stay the same)
Tip #6: Think about each Barrel as a 2-Point-Turn
So this is somewhat new to even my own routine. But I have found some huuuuuge benefits with it. If I go into each barrel thinking that I am going to make it a 2-point turn, it is flawless. I learned this from one of the McLeod girls (I can't remember which one), and was shocked when I first implemented it with Moonshine. For me, I really think that it is a mindset deal and it’s about the way you ride your horse through the barrel. Drive in to the farthest point, and snapback. Easier said than done, but definitely something to think about during a run to shave literal tenths.
Tip #7: Watch. Your. Runs.
Seriously seriously seriously. Don’t just watch your past run so that you can post it. Instead break it down, digest it, label it, critique it, learn from it. Spend an hour examining 1 run. There’s no one you can learn more from than yourself, so be so overly aware of how you ride and the way you run that way you have no issues knowing exactly what you need to do in the next one.
Anddddd cut!!! That. is. all. folkks!! I hope that you guys learned something from reading these tips!! Let me know if you implement them in your own runs/routines! If so, please tag me or DM me on my instagram (@hannahbethvirginia).
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the next one!