Getting a horse to collect and slow down merely depends on the running style of the horse. If your horse is more of a free runner, you might need to cue him earlier than a horse that tends to set harder. You also have to consider ground conditions and arena size. In a big, open pen you might need to prepare your horse to check or slow down a little earlier than in a smaller, shorter pen. If you are running in a big outdoor pen, you will need to help your horse a little more because he will be running harder.

Collection and Rate      

        There is a lot more to barrel racing then running as hard as you can and hoping for the best. We need to ask our horses to be able to slow down and collect themselves to be able to turn. Frequently at our clinics, we see horses running so hard and forgetting to slow down. It isn’t always the horse’s entire fault, since as riders need to be able to cue our horses for the turn as well. Having a horse that will rate and collect can be achieved through slow work, getting our hands right and oftentimes, just having the correct bit can be the answer.

If you are having problems getting your horse to rate down during the week, you should focus on riding your horse up to the barrel. Trot to the barrel and then breakdown to a walk as you go around it. Next you can lope to the barrel and then breakdown into a trot around it. Doing these two exercises helps to teach a horse to rate.  Horses learn from repetition, so a few times of doing this will teach your horse when you sit down its time for them to sit down and prepare to turn. You can do this at a walk, trot and lope. If you’re having problems with the first barrel, you might want to try doing stop offs. Stop offs are a drill where you pick a different place to stop on your way to the first barrel and back up your horse. This just makes your horse start listening to you because he’s not sure where you are going to ask him to rate. His ability to listen and respond to your cue to rate down is very important when it comes to a competition run.

Your hand placement is critical to you being able to rate and collect your horse properly. You need to think about riding your horse like you’re riding a bike. Your hands are spread apart because you have the most control that way. When you’re going into the arena, you want to have your hands in the proper place on the reins. Your competition reins should already be adjusted to the proper length for a run. Frequently, we see students who have their reins at an improper length when making a competition run which then hinders them from being able to quickly find their proper hand placement on the reins.  Training your horse to rate and collect along with your equipment adjusted properly so that you can do your best to help your horse during his run will help ensure a good, solid performance.