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Discuss BARREL RACERS! Saddle Horn Question at the Horse Training forum - Horse Forums.

What is your opinion on holding on to the saddle horn? I used to hang ...
  1. #1
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    BARREL RACERS! Saddle Horn Question

    What is your opinion on holding on to the saddle horn? I used to hang on to the saddle horn all the time, but I had a JUNKY saddle at the time and I was just praying to stay on and thanking the lord the horse was automatic LOL. Well now Ive gotten a WAY better saddle (Charmayne James Scamper Barrel Saddle) and since then I no longer hang onto the saddle horn and I ride my horse with 2 reins (this is his first year). Well tonight we did really good, I got 1st in the 1D in the Novice group and if I ran in the open I would have had the 3rd fastest time. The fastest being 17.1 and I ran a 17.6. Well after I got done running a lady told me that I need to start holding onto my saddle horn, because it was safer. I never feel like Im going to fall off or anything. So Im wondering should I go back to holding onto the saddle horn? What do you guys think, to hold or not to hold, that is the question LOL.

  2. #2
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    Some people need it, some people don't.

    Personally, I'm of the opinion that riders should learn to be balanced enough with their own seat to ride 2-handed even at high speeds, without yamming on the horse's face. This allows the rider to more effectively guide the horse and maintain equal balance. It also prevents over-bending by using the outside rein as a supporter. Overbending the turn can cause serious balance problems, which result in knocked barrels or slow turns.

    A person who just sends their horse into the barrel, drops to their horn and pulls with the inside rein is pulling their horse out of alignment from head to tail and thus off-balance. This often results in cross-firing, loss of momentum, and dropping onto the forehand. Also, specifically, will cause a horse to start shouldering a barrel, slicing off the backside of the barrel, and just generally slowing everything down.

    I decided to go hornless in 2008 when I came out of the Congress polebending arena and couldn't move my arms, having bashed the bejeezzus out of my elbows during the run. Not to mention, typical western saddles didn't fit my very hard to fit little mare, so I decided to buy this instead:

    Wintec Aussie Pro Stock, Western Fender, 17" - $1650.00 US. "Little roan mare, aka Wisher" is modeling.









    It was a hefty price tag, but well worth it. Not only do the thigh-blocks keep you from popping up out of the saddle, but they allow you to ride effectively when two-handed, or losing stirrups. If I lose a stirrup, I lift my leg and lock myself down with the counter-pressure on the block. That feature allowed me to run 6th place in two pole runs over a week at a big NBHA provincial show, instead of bombing out.

    Not to mention, for horse-comforts, the saddle is lightweight, has changeable gullet width and CAIR panels (air instead of fleece or flocking), a flex tree, and since it is built without skirts of any kind, you've got tons of hip room for short-backed horses. The panels are set quite wide and disperse pressure well over a broad/wide or flat back. The gullet is rather high, so this saddle is EXCELLENT for horses with tall or prominent withers (or just withers). However, it does not sit on mutton-withered or "no withered" horses well due to this. My horses feel smoother running in this, and smoother in their turns. My gelding Turbo loooooves the freedom he's got, and I loooove not getting blown off the back of him.

    Video of the saddle in action with Turbo- 2nd in 2D, Black Gold Supershow 2009, out of 130-140ish horses. This run was smooth as silk and felt like "whoooooooosh, turn... whooooooosh, turn....." Just really effortless.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuWnC-QSW7Q

    So yeah, I for one am all for two-handed riding and ditching saddle horns. So is Edwin Cameron, and a few other people I know, including my little sister (who 2-hands Poles and has 3 Congress championships to back her up). One of my recent students is a Dressage rider turned barrel racer who has done all of her lessons so far in her veeeery pricey Dressage saddle and a bitless bridle. She rides beautifully and her large pony is already turning like a top 1D horse, progressing much faster than I expected in a short amount of time.

    I wouldn't expect a little kid or novice rider to be able to run 2-handed. It does take skill and it does take a lot of natural balance, an independant seat and independant hands, a strong core, strong legs and back. And the barrel racing equivalent of a crest-release. lol

    But then again, I wouldn't want them to run faster than they are capable of, anyways, because horn or no horn, it comes down to safety. If they are really going to fall off without grabbing their horn more than half of the course, they need to slow down and get some better riding skills. The horn at most is there for support when needed- such as on the departure from the barrel when the horse is gunning it and you're flying out the back of the saddle by sheer power alone. I can actually grab the gullet of my saddle when needed. My sis will grab her horn usually on the last turn of a run, because her Fattie launches her about a foot out of her saddle. LOL

    The horn should not be over-used and really should only be used when you are more than halfway through your turn, and your horse is well clear of the barrel.

    It should not be used as a crutch to allow your novice rider or rider with poor balance/seat to run faster than what they are capable of running safely.

    I feel the same way about velcroing your 4-10 year old into a saddle on a big powerful horse. If they can't stay on without the velcro, they shouldn't be going that fast on that horse.

    In conclusion- you do what works for you (within reason). If you feel just fine, your horse feels just fine, and you are running good clean runs with two hands, or one hand, or both, or your legs, then do it. Other people are opinionated and need to keep their opinions to themselves unless they are asked to give it.
    Last edited by IIIBarsV; 08-07-2010 at 07:53 PM.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by IIIBarsV View Post
    Some people need it, some people don't.

    Personally, I'm of the opinion that riders should learn to be balanced enough with their own seat to ride 2-handed even at high speeds, without yamming on the horse's face. This allows the rider to more effectively guide the horse and maintain equal balance. It also prevents over-bending by using the outside rein as a supporter. Overbending the turn can cause serious balance problems, which result in knocked barrels or slow turns.

    A person who just sends their horse into the barrel, drops to their horn and pulls with the inside rein is pulling their horse out of alignment from head to tail and thus off-balance. This often results in cross-firing, loss of momentum, and dropping onto the forehand. Also, specifically, will cause a horse to start shouldering a barrel, slicing off the backside of the barrel, and just generally slowing everything down.

    I decided to go hornless in 2008 when I came out of the Congress polebending arena and couldn't move my arms, having bashed the bejeezzus out of my elbows during the run. Not to mention, typical western saddles didn't fit my very hard to fit little mare, so I decided to buy this instead:

    Wintec Aussie Pro Stock, Western Fender, 17".

    It was a hefty price tag, but well worth it. Not only do the thigh-blocks keep you from popping up out of the saddle, but they allow you to ride effectively when two-handed, or losing stirrups. If I lose a stirrup, I lift my leg and lock myself down with the counter-pressure on the block. That feature allowed me to run 6th place in two pole runs over a week at a big NBHA provincial show, instead of bombing out.

    Not to mention, for horse-comforts, the saddle is lightweight, has changeable gullet width and CAIR panels (air instead of fleece or flocking), a flex tree, and since it is built without skirts of any kind, you've got tons of hip room for short-backed horses. The panels are set quite wide and disperse pressure well over a broad/wide or flat back. The gullet is rather high, so this saddle is EXCELLENT for horses with tall or prominent withers (or just withers). However, it does not sit on mutton-withered or "no withered" horses well due to this. My horses feel smoother running in this, and smoother in their turns. My gelding Turbo loooooves the freedom he's got, and I loooove not getting blown off the back of him.

    Video of the saddle in action with Turbo- 2nd in 2D, Black Gold Supershow 2009, out of 130-140ish horses. This run was smooth as silk and felt like "whoooooooosh, turn... whooooooosh, turn....." Just really effortless.


    So yeah, I for one am all for two-handed riding and ditching saddle horns. So is Edwin Cameron, and a few other people I know, including my little sister (who 2-hands Poles and has 3 Congress championships to back her up). One of my recent students is a Dressage rider turned barrel racer who has done all of her lessons so far in her veeeery pricey Dressage saddle and a bitless bridle. She rides beautifully and her large pony is already turning like a top 1D horse, progressing much faster than I expected in a short amount of time.

    I wouldn't expect a little kid or novice rider to be able to run 2-handed. It does take skill and it does take a lot of natural balance, an independant seat and independant hands.

    But then again, I wouldn't want them to run faster than they are capable of, anyways, because horn or no horn, it comes down to safety. If they are really going to fall off without grabbing their horn more than half of the course, they need to slow down and get some better riding skills. The horn at most is there for support when needed- such as on the departure from the barrel when the horse is gunning it and you're flying out the back of the saddle by sheer power alone.

    The horn should not be over-used and really should only be used when you are more than halfway through your turn, and your horse is well clear of the barrel.

    It should not be used as a crutch to allow your novice rider or rider with poor balance/seat to run faster than what they are capable of running safely.

    I feel the same way about velcroing your 4-10 year old into a saddle on a big powerful horse. If they can't stay on without the velcro, they shouldn't be going that fast on that horse.

    WOW that is a cool looking saddle! I bet that does ride pretty cool around barrels.

  4. #4
    Senior Member cowgirlkayt's Avatar
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    I for one think its fine if you hold onto the horn. I ride with two hands between the barrel and drop my outside rein coming around and then after im outta the barrel give my horse a wack pick up to two hands drop again wack and pick up drop again and wack all the way home. Its a personl preference, it doesnt make or break a barrel racer holding onto a horse. You seen many top pro barrel racers hold onto horns, this is NOT A CRUTCH!
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    Buddytink- Thanks, it just smooths things out. No interference to the horse, supportive to the rider. You can put your leg pretty much anywhere you want to- I ride with a straight, Dressagey leg, but it has plenty of swing so you can get your leg forward if needed. This great for leg-trained horses who need to feel your leg in a certain spot for different maneuvers.
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    Senior Member+ MissKitty's Avatar
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    I use it simply to balance and make darn sure I don't get in my horses way around a barrel. To me/for me it is not a crutch. But I do see so many adults and kids who have a death grip on the horn and have no control over their horse because they're stuck there and can't even let go to switch reins.

    BTW down here that saddle is not legal for barrel racing. Just sayin'.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member CrazyHorseRanch's Avatar
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    barrel racing, I generally only use the horn going around turns.. sometimes when I have a rough stopping horse

    pole bending, I ride 2 handed the entire ride
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    I've never used my saddle horn. And sure, plenty of people have depended on it without a problem. But many riders I've seen depend so much on using the horn to stay on that they forget how to use their seat and legs to stay on. So I see quite a few people causing themselves to throw theirselves off balance by using the horn to keep balance--if that makes sense.

    And I ride two handed for everything but the barrel turn and the end pole turns. And I always ride one handed for flag races.

  9. #9
    Senior Member tiakitty16's Avatar
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    I onyl use the horn around barrels cause my guy turns really hard. Can I do it without using the horn? Yes but I also keeps me from getting in his face too much. He listens perfectly fine to my legs whether I ride the whole run two handed or grab the horn around the barrels. I loke the look also of grabbingt he horn around barrels because I've seen in my own photos, my reins are loose and I'm predominantly guiding with my legs. I don't see using the horn as a crutch, the only time I see people riding with a death grip on the horn is if they're novice riders or have no idea whatsoever how to ride a horse.
    Don't think....JUST RIDE!!

  10. #10
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    On my paso mare, I don't hold the saddle horn, at all. I run with 2 reins, in barrels or poles. But with my paint gelding, I use the horn when I'm just turning the barrel, because he is still in training, and I want to make sure I'm balanced for him. So I ride both ways. But it does bother me when I see someone run and they never let go of the darn horn, some people don't even take the time to switch hands....
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