Common Tack Issues in Barrel Racing

Improving your barrel horse’s performance might be simpler than you think.

Trainer and breeder Bill Myers has seen a lot of competition arenas through the years, hauling from his Myers Performance Horses in St. Onge, South Dakota, which he owns and operates with his wife, Deb. They’ve trained and campaigned horses in several events, from cutting to racing and barrel racing. Their legendary stallion, Frenchmans Guy, is a leading barrel horse sire.

Bill and Deb have spent many years starting young stock and coaching riders. Many problems that Bill sees in barrel racing performances often stem from two simple tack problems: curb strap fit and breast collar fit. Using these tips, take a closer look at your rig before your next go.

Problem No. 1: Fitting Curb Strap on Bit

The Problem: Curb strap is too loose. The old “two fingers” rule – making the curb strap loose enough for two fingers to fit between it and the horse’s chin – can make a strap too loose.

Why It’s a Problem: If the curb strap is adjusted too long, it will create a pinch in the skin at the corner of the horse’s mouth when you pull on the reins. A  curb strap that’s too long turns the bit over too much in the horse’s mouth. This is bad.

The Fix: Have the curb strap snug enough so that the bit stays in place and works properly. The strap shouldn’t pinch the horse’s skin.

Problem No. 2: Fitting Breast Collar on Saddle

The Problem: Breast collar is too loose. The breast collar shouldn’t hang down below the point of the horse’s shoulder.

Why It’s a Problem: When a horse is running and performing, your weight distribution has a lot to do with how he works and where he goes underneath you.

  • A loose breast collar allows a saddle to slip back.
  • As the saddle slips back, the rider’s weight is too far back.
  • Undue strain is placed on the horse’s kidneys.

The Fix: The breast collar needs to be tight enough that it keeps the saddle up, sitting on the withers where the saddle is designed to sit. When the breast collar is fitted correctly, the saddle isn’t going to move out of position as you ride, even if you loosen the cinch.

Courtesy of The American Quarter Horse Journal