Ask the Expert: Shifting Weight in Barrel Racing

Barrel Racing
Photo: micadew on flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Q. How should I shift my weight while going toward, around and then away from a barrel so that I don’t hinder my horse’s ability to make a quick turn?

A. The best way to keep from hindering your horse’s performance is to refrain from making any exaggerated movements. Your horse is aware of every movement you make, even your eye movement, and he must compensate every time you shift your weight. I like to compare it to carrying a backpack on your back while riding a bike. You don’t want the backpack shifting around or hanging to one side, especially during a high-speed turn; nor does your horse want you shifting your weight side to side while turning a barrel.

However, you will need to transfer your weight from the forward “run position” to a deeper seated “rate position” as you approach the barrel. If you stay in time with your horse’s stride, this is a subtle move. Relax your body, roll your hips back, keep your abdomen supple and tuck your back pockets in the saddle. Pushing on your horn helps secure this position.

As you make the turn, continue to sit deep in your saddle, keep your shoulders level, do not tilt your head, do not lean left or right, and do not twist your body. Keep yourself balanced in the middle of your horse. Your eyes should be focused on where your horse is going, not on the barrel. Looking at the barrel causes you to tilt your head and shift your weight, which forces your horse to compensate for your movement.

Allow your horse to complete the turn before you look for the rate spot of your next barrel. If your horse’s ears are not under your line of vision, you are looking too soon, which causes you to twist your body, shift your weight and send your horse wide away from the barrel.

You will need to transfer your weight forward to the “run position” again when you leave the barrel. As your horse pushes off with his hind feet, pull on your horn and roll your hips forward.

Shifting your weight as little as possible and only when necessary helps your horse make a quick turn around the barrel.

Liked this article? Here’s more barrel racing advice:

Barrel Racing Troubleshooter

Increase Barrel Racing Flexibility

Julie Voigt was the National Rodeo Association champion for seven years straight from 1997 to 2003 and now trains barrel horses on her ranch in Beulah, N.D., where she lives with her husband and two children.


  1. Julie Voigt is SUPER with her advice. She gives very well thought out information that is easy to understand and apply. I have learned so much from reading her responses. Please include more of her in the future. Thanks!!


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