Bar­rel Arc and Counter-Arc

Im­prove your horse’s po­si­tion go­ing around the first and sec­ond bar­rel.

Horse & Rider - - Practice Pen Private Lesson - By With Pho­tos by

The arc and counter-arc play key roles in ac­cu­rately po­si­tion­ing your horse around ev­ery bar­rel. We have an easy drill you can prac­tice to refi ne your ac­cu­racy.

Here, we’ll out­line the drill, plus dis­cuss ways you can work on your rein man­age­ment and rid­ing po­si­tion while prac­tic­ing with or school­ing your horse. You don’t need any spe­cial equip­ment to ex­e­cute this drill; sim­ply out­fit your horse in the bit you use to com­pete. Don’t for­get his pro­tec­tive leg­wear to pre­vent lower-leg in­juries, be­cause your horse will cross his legs over many times in the per­fect ex­e­cu­tion of this move­ment.

Work on this at the walk first, and then ad­vance to the trot once you refi ne your and your horse’s skills. Once you’ve mas­tered it at a walk and a trot, you can add it to your run for more con­trol and, hope­fully, you’ll never hit a bar­rel again! →

1Ap­proach the bar­rel at a walk, two hands on the reins, us­ing the same an­gle you would to ap­proach it in a run. Keep your hands and body quiet as you get closer to the bar­rel, and sit on your pock­ets. Tip your horse’s nose to­ward the bar­rel with your in­side hand. The horse’s body po­si­tion is in what we call a sim­ple arc.

2Arc an en­tire cir­cle around the bar­rel with both hands on the reins. Your horse should cross over in the front end, keep­ing his hips in line with his shoul­ders and slightly to­ward the bar­rel. Use your legs to hold your horse’s hips in po­si­tion and to en­cour­age his front feet to cross over. Rid­ing with both hands on the reins gives you the most con­trol; how­ever in a run, we al­ways en­cour­age keep­ing one hand on the horn once you get up to the bar­rel. Start this drill with two hands. Once you’ve got the shape and move­ment you de­sire with two hands, move to one hand like you would if you were in a run.

3In a per­fect world, you’ll pi­lot your horse all the way up to the bar­rel with two hands and then go to the horn

when your leg gets to the bar­rel. How­ever, in some sce­nar­ios, you must go to the horn early. Maybe your an­gle looks good, you feel your horse sit­ting down early, or you just get ner­vous and for­get the game plan. If you go to the horn too soon and re­al­ize your an­gle com­ing into the bar­rel is flat, your horse must re­spond to one-rein ask­ing him to move his shoul­ders out. If you don’t have this move in your arse­nal, your horse might be­gin to shoul­der, hit, or even crash bar­rels. When you go to one hand, keep your rein in your left hand (when turn­ing to the left), and grab the horn with a firm grip with your right hand.

4Once you’ve mas­tered the arc around the bar­rel while rid­ing two-handed and one-handed, move onto the counter arc. Be­gin rid­ing two-handed for the best con­trol as you ace the arc. Tip your horse’s nose away from the bar­rel by short­en­ing your out­side rein to bend his body in a counter-arc. Your hands con­trol the bend in your horse’s neck. Your legs and seat con­trol where his ribcage, hips, and shoul­ders move. To ef­fec­tively ex­e­cute this move­ment, ride more with your legs and seat than your hands. Get your horse’s shoul­ders cross­ing over, and keep his hips rel­a­tively in line with his body, slightly to­ward the bar­rel. Don’t let your horse swing his hind end out in any of these move­ments.

5Now hold the reins with one hand and place your other hand on the horn as you would in a run. Keep your eyes on the top of the bar­rel, and feel for your horse to cross his out­side front leg over his in­side front leg, to­ward the bar­rel. In ad­di­tion to hav­ing bet­ter con­trol over your horse’s body po­si­tion through this drill, you’ll get lots of rein-man­age­ment prac­tice, which is es­sen­tial for suc­cess­ful pat­terns. Try not to cross your hand over your horse’s neck when you go to one hand. Pull to your hip, not across your body.

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