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First Barrel Approach


    The first barrel or the money barrel as I like to call it, is one of the most important barrels out of the three. It can determine if you win money or go home empty handed. The first barrel can be tricky for many reasons because of the different types of arenas. Some alleyways are located in the center, off to the side, or have no alley way at all.

This photo shows me pulling on the saddle horn to stay in balance with the horse.

When preparing for your run you want to look at the arena and where the first barrel is set. It can be right on the fence or miles away from it. You will need to keep this all in mind as you plan your run. Once you have determined the placement of the first barrel, you can prepare your approach to the first barrel.

Ty Mitchell (above) turning the first barrel. He is doing a good job with turning and looking at his pocket at the second barrel.

    We see a lot of people go straight at the first barrel which can cause the horse to go wide, run up the fence, or even hit the barrel. You should already have your horse’s spot picked out when you are coming down the alley way. Do not at the barrel because that will cause you to go straight at it. Think about it like driving a car, where you look affects the way you turn the steering wheel. When you have your spot picked out, you want to concentrate on riding straight to that spot. The spot should be at least 8-12 feet from the barrel giving your horse enough room to rate and turn the barrel.

    If you are riding a horse that rates the first barrel, you won’t have to check your horse. If you’re riding a free runner, you will want to check him with both hands and cue him with your voice & by dropping your weight in the saddle. If he doesn’t respond you might want to check him again. You want your horse to set in the ground and slow down to make the turn. Once you have checked, you want to drop your outside rein go to your saddle horn and ask the horse to turn. Push back on the saddle horn so you can let your horse accelerate out from the turn.

Having a good money barrel can help you set up for the rest of the pattern and help you make a championship run. I like to have a game plan for my first barrel before I even set foot in the alley way. Arriving early and seeing where the barrels are placed in the arena can give you more of an edge. I like to get to the race early,  prepared and having my homework done so that I can confidently go into the arena with a championship winning run.