Lead Change Between First and Second

Lead Change DrillWhen do I change? Where do I change and why do I change there?   I’ve been to quite a few barrel racing clinics and these are common questions.   How do you train your horse to change leads out of first barrel (or between first and second barrel)?

I’ve heard a variety of answers all from professional barrel racers with a long list of achievements. Here are some of their thoughts on the matter:

  • Don’t worry about it, they figure it out
  • Never approach second on the wrong lead
  • Train for flying lead changes before I go to the pattern
  • Break the horse from a lope to a trot out of first (then pick up the other lead)
  • Break the horse to a trot at my rate point at second and pick up the other lead to lope around second
  • Teach them a flying lead change out of first on the pattern
  • Ask for correct leads going slow, but don’t worry about it going fast

Which is the correct way to do it?  That is up to you.   But, here are my thoughts on it.  I want to turn the barrel on the correct lead so I will try and avoid approaching the second barrel on the wrong lead.   Assuming I am loping, I will come out of first, set up for lead change (by finishing the barrel and pushing off).  I will feel for the correct lead and if I didn’t get it I will break to a trot and pick up the correct one and carry on.  Now this is where it is important your horse is very well broke before you start on the pattern.  If you have to trot for 10 strides before you get your lope you are going to be at second and not properly prepared to turn it.  To me, properly turning the second barrel is more important than my lope so I will either stop and regroup or stay in a trot and prepare for second (if I haven’t caught my lope.

I posted this drill on our facebook page and someone pointed out that this horse was obviously very talented and there were other things a person should be doing other than that drill.  Their suggestion was hip control exercises.  I agree that hip control is important for lead changes, but I also think this drill I’m posting here is helpful.  Before this drill this horse was not picking up her lead.  I worked some figure 8’s around this first barrel (she goes left first) and I was able to get the change.  With some horses you may have to do this over several sessions (days) to get this.   Others, you might have to circle less than I did before you start to feel the hip and rib control like I started to feel.

This drill is described in full on our sister site www.BarrelRacingDrills.com with the How to, Benefits and Cautions for it.

Check it out, it may help you get the lead change you are looking for.  Its just one way of achieving a lead change right out of first (if that is what you are looking for).

For more great drills check out www.BarrelRacingDrills.com

Comments 2

  1. I have an ex-race gedling I want to try this on. Did you do this drill durring you pattern work? When you finished your 8’s and left the barrel did you finish the pattern or would this be something you do around a barrel in the middle of the arena to work them off the pattern?

    1. Post

      You could do it either way. This time I did it during my pattern work. I broke to a trot around second and trotted to third and walked around it. Thought it was boring so I cut it out 🙂 I think you could do it with just one barrel or during the pattern. I usually do it on the pattern because that’s where I notice there is a problem. I would be more apt to just work on figure 8’s and hip control if it wasn’t right on the pattern.

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