Teaching Your Horse to HUNT The Barrel

I have had so many requests to share some of my drills that I do. The truth is, I don’t do that many drills! There are only a handful that I do on a regular basis, other than that I try to just ride each day with an open mind and do whatever I can to help the horse that day.

With that being said, there are a few things that I do like to do when I want to achieve something really specific! In this case I am talking about getting a horse to hunt the perfect position around a barrel.

I was reminded of this drill lately when I was having trouble with a mare at the second barrel. She seemed to always want to run to a spot that was too far to the right of the second barrel. Which made her have to take a really big, strung out stride to start her turn.

I knew we were losing time there because she would have to take one or two extra strides in that turn that we’re unnecessary.

Last week I made a point to work on this drill for two days, then I ran her on Saturday. I had my best run on her yet and the clock reflected that the new approach and less strides could take a half second off and put her right up there with the big dogs.

I’m calling this drill the Seeker Drill because it works to motivate your horse to seek out their spots and run really honest to them.

THEORY: This drill works off finding your horse’s motivation. It teaches them to take responsibility in finding the correct positioning around the barrel. It works off their natural drive and instinct and creates a positive association with the barrel.

APPLICATION: This drill is for the horse that has trouble consistently finding their positioning around a barrel. It works really well on horses that you are just starting on the pattern and older horses that you would like to dial in on perfect positioning.

I designed this drill after a cutting horse trainer explained to me one of the ways that they start a young horse on the flag.
One thing he did was lope big circles in the arena on a loose rein. The flag was waiting there on the fence while he loped circles. When the horse would notice the flag or start to look in that direction he would ease the horse down and walk toward the flag and give the horse a rest there when he found his position on the flag. He would proceeded to do some flag work once the horse aired back up. If the horse became disinterested or lost it’s drive on the flag he would go back to loping circles and repeat the process again. The key is that he gave the horse a good long break and the horse learned to associate the reward with the flag.

How does this apply to the pattern? I’m glad you asked!
I put one barrel in the middle of the arena and I start by loping really big circles around it on a loose rein. When I can feel my horse slowing down a bit or getting tired and looking for a rest, I will start to guide them towards the spot beside the barrel where my leg is past the barrel and I would normally ask them to start their turn. I will ease them down and stop in that spot and let them catch their air.
After they have had a good LONG rest, I will repeat that process again and instead of stopping at that spot I will have them lope around the barrel in the position I would want in a run. Just once around then I ease them down to a stop again, only this time on the backside. Again, I give them a good long rest.
That’s it for the day. Then a day or two later I will do the same thing and build on it. Pretty soon those spots around the barrel become like magnets. And as I’m loping circles I can feel my horse hunting those spots. They perk their ears up towards them. They lick their lips when they get to them.

If you make the right position a desirable place to be, you will foster an environment where the horse looks forward to their job and takes responsibility.

I hope this helps you on your journey with your horse! I would love to hear feedback if you try this at home. Please be sure to share if you found some value in this blog!


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