Patterns for the Weekend: Pinwheel Drill for Barrels

If you’re looking to get your horse more balanced coming through the turns, here’s a great drill used by Dena Kirkpatrick.

This drill is a an awesome way to get your horse to be more balanced coming through the turns. It also helps horses stand up more and center themselves under the rider more naturally.

For the drill, you’ll need:

  • A large, flat area with decent footing (you’ll be riding an imaginary 75-foot circle, so plan accordingly)
  • A cone or paper cup (optional)

The initial drill was based on Ian Francis’s Flower Pattern drill. This is an excellent drill for performance horses to guide better with one hand.

To execute the drill:

  • If you need it as a guide, place the cone or paper cup at the center of your imaginary 75-foot circle
  • Start by riding through the center toward the outside edge, framing up your horse as you go
  • As you approach the edge, prepare to turn by sitting down in the saddle and making a half circle to either the left or the right
  • Double back through the center point, riding toward the opposite side of the circle
  • Repeat this for seven or eight turns in each direction

The path of the horse should make a flower or pinwheel pattern on the ground if you were viewing it from above:

When Dena does the drill, she modifies it by doing two or three circles when she reaches the outside edge, so it looks more like a pinwheel (hence the Pinwheel drill):

To execute this version of the drill, there are a few modifications:

  • Ride once around your large circle to establish a boundary
  • Turn and ride through the center of the circle with both hands on the reins
  • Frame up your horse as you ride across the middle
  • As you come to the opposite side of the boundary, sit deep in your saddle before starting the small circle
  • Go to one hand on the rein and one on the saddle horn (like you would going around a barrel)
  • Ride two or three perfectly round circles
  • Get two hands on the reins, straighten the horse’s body and ride through the center of the circle to the opposite side

Repeat this until the horse does it in a smooth and relaxed manner.


  • Make sure you square up your horse on the straight lines through the center
  • Sit deep in your saddle before starting the small circles
  • Start inexperienced horses at slower gaits and with larger circles until they gain strength and balance (horses will benefit from doing it at the trot before the lope so they understand it before adding pressure and speed)

NOTE: This is not a speed drill. You want your horse to move through in a balanced and smooth manner. Therefore, don’t go beyond the trot and lope.

Here is a video of the drill from our friends at the Retired Racehorse Project and The Western Thoroughbred:

Happy Friday, Horse Nation. Go riding!

The description of this drill was adapted from an article in Barrel Horse News.