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A saddle can influence your style of barrel racing! I want my horses to turn their barrels with their hind end up underneath them and I also want their weight to be balanced and not have them drop to their front end in a turn. I believe that when a rider leans too far forward, more of the total weight will inevitably shift onto the horse's front end. When a horse has more weight on his front end, he will have a tendency to have sloppier turns. Basically, his athletic ability is handicapped by this imbalance. A horse's true power comes from strength in his hind end.

When I look at a saddle, I will first take the fender and swing it back and forth. I am looking for a little catch when I swing the fenders back because I don't want my legs to be able to fall behind me. When they do, my upper body will more than likely fall forward from the inertia when we approach a turn, and by falling off balance, I will handicap my horse.
Another thing that I am picky about in a saddle is having the correct seat size. I estimate that about 75% of riders are riding saddles that are too big for them. When a rider sits in a seat that is too big, their ability to ride that saddle well is very much compromised because of the placement of the fenders in relation to the rider's hips. If your seat is too big, you will have a tendency to sit back on your pockets and your legs will be slightly ahead of you (this becomes more apparent when your stirrups are adjusted to the correct lengths and not too long). In a run, when you go to stand up in your stirrups, you will have a tendency to lose your balance and fall forward because your legs are not supported. Again, the result will many times be a less consistent or correct turn. I judge the correct seat size for myself by measuring the distance from my thigh muscle to the swell. I do not want my thigh to touch the swell, but the distance should not be over one inch. Somewhere in the middle is my comfort zone. When I have the correct seat size and stirrup length, I will notice that my shoulders, hips and feet are aligned. This balance helps me to minimize the shifting of my body weight approaching and leaving a turn. I can lean my upper torso forward or backward during a run. If I ever feel like I am not riding my horse to the best of my ability, I strongly evaluate my saddle. More than likely, when I have the correct seat and stirrup alignment, I will ride better.

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