Perfect Practice MAKES PERFECT by Martha Josey his inside eye and not his whole face. While you are doing slow work, teach your horse to respond to voice control. Use the voice command “whoa” before you slow him down. Later, when you are making a run and need some set or rate, you can slow him down with just your voice. A common mistake with some barrel horses occurs when pressure is applied to the reins to check the horse. His head will get out of position. Rate him with your voice and leave the reins alone as much as possible. By leaving the reins and his head alone, he can make a faster, smoother, more natural turn on the barrels. Every barrel racer to ever climb on a horse and enter the arena wants to go faster. Barrel racing athletes will work hours on end to cut a fraction off their time. They will try lighter saddles, losing weight, changing bits (which is very important), using bats and whips, even putting on spurs. This may sound funny to you, but the best way for you to speed up is to SLOW DOWN. If you’ve been a Josey student in the past 48 years, you’ve heard me say this so many times, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” Slow down to the point where you can go through the pattern perfectly, even if it has to be at a walk. Once you have slowed down to a point you have absolute control, then it’s time to go to work. A horse can learn more at a slow controlled pace. Start out in a good training bit such as an O-Ring or a light bit with either split reins or longer barrel reins. This would be a good time to use a Running Martingale or Josey Pro Training Reins. Also, riding to the first barrel two-handed can help balance your horse’s head and body going into, around and leaving the barrel. When approaching the barrel, picking the correct pocket is crucial. The horse must have room to turn. Give him room going into the barrel and then line up straight leaving it. If a horse is going in too close, he has to take the room coming out of the barrel. He will then be out of position to leave it correctly. Thus, he cannot make a good turn on the next one. As you are doing your slow work, learn your horse’s turning style. How close or how wide you need to go into your first barrel will depend upon your individual horse. There are several different ways a horse can turn a barrel. Some horses will give their heads and run around a barrel. Others will run up to the barrel, keep their heads straight and drop their front end and go around it. Others will run to the barrel, keep their heads straight or slightly turned to the inside, sit down and slide around it on their hindquarters. The best way for your horse to turn is the way that is most natural and quickest for him. The way your horse turns, his size, athletic ability, etc., must all be considered to determine the amount of pocket area that must be given. Don’t hurry your horse. Make sure that your horse is not swinging his rear end in the turn. A swinging rear end is usually caused by the barrel racer taking too much inside rein or not giving enough room around the barrel, which causes the horse to pivot on his front end and swing his hindquarters out. A minor correction is to ride him with outside rein and leg contact and use less inside rein. All you need to see is the corner of Work on getting rid of any bad habits while you are doing slow work. Once you can walk through the pattern several times in a row with no mistakes, then it is time to go to a trot. Once you can trot perfectly through several times in a row, then move on to a lope, then a run. By slowing down and being very detailed about your every move in the pattern, you are learning to practice perfect. If you stick to this routine, before you know it you will be at a run, and then full speed. Your efforts should show on the scoreboard and there will probably be a lot less barrels tipped in your runs. Take your time, and give your horse the time he needs to learn, then practice perfect. “Perfect practice makes perfect.” Good luck and I’ll see you at the pay window. Martha Josey personifies barrel racing for many people. She was the first and only cowgirl to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in four consecutive decades. She has the distinction of winning both the AQHA and WPRA World Championships in the same year. Her career has stretched, win-to-win, over four decades. For more information, visit 16 Issue 6 • 2015