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First Posted: Mar 2007
Jan 7, 2011

Barrel Racing


Barrel Racing

Barrel racing has many dimensions. Most importantly it is the communication and cooperation between the horse and the rider. Time matters! Whether the competition is a rodeo event or a competition between enthusiasts, the race with the clock matters. The horses that are used for barrel racing are quick and agile. Often they are well trained Quarter Horses and can be quite expensive.

To barrel race it is important to be familiar with the terms. Three barrels are placed at marked locations. Usually this is done in an arena type setting. Since time is important, speed starts as soon as one enters the competition area. The rider comes in on a slight angle, rounds each barrel, as closely as possible without knocking one over. The barrels are placed in a triangular arrangement running in a cloverleaf pattern. The decision to do this to the left or to the right is a decision the rider makes. Often this decision depends upon the horse's favorite lead. There is a term "pocketing" the barrel. This means that there is a 3-6 foot pocket between the horse and the barrel. Usually the narrower the pocket (or gap), the better the rider and barrel racing horse. If a barrel is knocked over a penalty of five seconds is added to the time. The exit from the arena is the entrance. This event is so competitive that the time is to the hundredth or even thousandth of a second! Every tiny bit of time counts.

What Is A Good Time?

All things are not equal. The size of the arena may vary. The ability of the horse and rider varies. However, in rodeo terms, around 14 seconds is considered a good time. The time of the event is affected by the size of the arena in which the event is held and the distance between each barrel relative to the others and the time line. The standard barrel pattern looks like an isosceles triangle with a base of 90 feet and sides each of 105 feet. The distance from the first barrel to the time line is 60 feet. These distances can be adjusted to fit the size of the arena in which the event is held, but the distance between the corner barrels and the top barrel must be equal.

Barrel racing competitions are for females and males; however, traditionally barrel racing is a women's event at a nonprofessional level. Rodeo, of course, is another story. There is a dress code. A cowboy hat is traditionally worn during the competition. In professional competitions if the cowboy hat falls off during the race, the rider is fined up to $25.00 Western shirts, blouses, jeans, cowboy/cowgirl boots, and a western belt are considered a standard dress code. Local events do not always require this dress code. It is best to check. Professional events usually adhere to the dress code.

Barrel racing saddle:

Barrel racing bridle and breast plate:

Barrel racing shirt:

Barrel racing boots and hat:

Barrel racing pattern:


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