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Barrel Racing

Copyright Mark Gunter

Photo: Mark Gunter

Barrel racing is an all female timed event that has no judges and therefore no subjective points of view. Barrel racing is graceful and simplistic — one woman, a horse, three barrels and the stopwatch. The horse is ridden as quickly as possible around a cloverleaf course of three barrels. Ride quickly and win. Hesitate and lose.

Not only have the best of the sport spent countless hours practicing and honing their skill but they also have invested many dollars in the purchase and maintenance of the talented horses they ride. The top horses ridden in barrel racing are highly trained and extremely athletic. They must be able to run extremely fast over a short distance and then collect themselves to make fast, neat and tight turns.

The horse also must be able to withstand the long roads a cowgirl must travel to reach the next rodeo.

Barrel racing is one of the fairest events in rodeo as the winner is based solely on time.  There are events for youth and adults alike and be ready to see some fearless riding when you watch the young girls ride!


Barrel racing is timed to the hundredth of a second. When the racer crosses the starting line, an electronic eye starts the clock. The clock is stopped the instant the horse completes the pattern. Barrel racers must follow a clover leaf pattern around the barrels but may choose to start from either the left or right side first. If the horse or rider knocks over a barrel, they incur an infraction that adds five penalty seconds to the time and generally kills any chance for victory.

There are also rules around when a rider can whip her horse on; she is not allowed to whip at all to the first barrel, the rider is not allowed to whip the horse at all riding to the first barrel,  she can whip twice to the second and third barrel and she can whip four times to home.

Touching a barrel with the hand to prevent it from falling is permitted as long as the top rim of the drum has not hit the ground.