Why Does Stephanie Fryar Train a Square Barrel Racing Turn?

Nope, it's not like putting a square peg in a round hole at all.
Stephanie Fryar competes in WCRA Rodeo Carolina
Part of Stephanie Fryar's training approach involves a 'square,' turn where a horse powers on its hind end in the turn. Photo by Bullstock Media courtesy WCRA.

Stephanie Fryar has already proven herself on every level of barrel racing, but why does this NFR qualifier and million-dollar hopeful train a square shape to her horses’ turns to go around a 55-gallon drum in the dirt?

Fryar’s four points are equidistance around the barrel.

“If you can teach horses to hit those four points of the turn every single time,” Fryar said. “You never have to worry about them dropping into a barrel on the way into the turn with their shoulder, or leaving one early and dragging a barrel.”

By hitting these points, Fryar trains her horses to have confidence to run true to the points while pulling forward with their front feet and staying balanced and driving from their hind end.

They can stay standing upright all the way around that turn, too, for varying types of ground conditions.

To reinforce the concept, Fryar will often set up four poles in a square shape around a barrel or another object. The poles serve as visual markers so that both horse and rider can see the exact points they need to hit consistently. From there, the rider can use the poles as a guide to create patterns on the inside and outside, reinforcing turn points.

“You want to think about pushing your horse to each point in the turn,” Fryar said. “It works out better for me than trying to pull them around the barrel and potentially fighting with them. If you can just drive to those points, you don’t have to make a lot of movements during a run. It also gives horses a lot of confidence, when they know where they need to put their feet every time.”

See the below video for a visual demonstration of Fryar’s work on the pole drill.

Fryar emphasized that drills associated with this technique are nothing new—famed clinicians like Dena Kirkpatrick, Marlene McRae and Paul Humphrey are just a few who have used this square pole drill to accomplish their barrel racing training objectives.