Barrel racing is an intricate balance of speed, trust, and timing between horse and rider. There are no judges or scores like in other equine events, the results are strictly based on a timer and who stops the clock the fastest. The sport of barrel racing may look easy but it takes no lack of talent and precision to make a fast and clean run through a cloverleaf pattern. A cloverleaf pattern may be run one of two ways: to the right barrel first which will result in one right and two left turns, or to the left barrel first, which will result in a left and two right turns. Preference on which direction to run the pattern, more left or more right will depend on you and your horse; are you stronger to the left or the right? Knocking a barrel over will either result in a five second penalty or a disqualification depending on the association you are riding in. It is possible to reach down and “pick up” a barrel if it starts to tip over, just be sure not to fall off! There is no penalty for saving the barrel. Each arena is set up differently thus times and pattern sizes vary depending on the set up and the rules of the organization holding the event. On average a run will last around 15 seconds. The standard WPRA barrel distances for a traditional 130’ wide by 200’ long arena are as follows: from the score or starting line to the 1st and 2nd barrels is 60 feet. The distance between the first and second barrels is 90 feet, and the distance from the 1st and 2nd barrels to the 3rd barrel is 105 feet. If you would like a smaller pattern, equally reduce the distances by 5-10 foot increments for each measurement. An electronic eye is tripped when the horse crosses the laser path and time begins. The rider must kick and hustle their horse all the way to the first barrel and then “sit down” in the saddle to queue the horse to turn. The horse and rider must get as close to the barrel without knocking it over! Once the horse has made its first 180 degree turn, the rider must start to hustle again across to the second barrel for a 360 degree turn, remember you can rub em’ and rock em’, just don’t knock em’! The final third and 180 degree turn is made and the mad dash to the finish begins. Running with your horse’s head low and outstretched is the most efficient use of a horse’s anatomy and will trip the laser eye faster to bring in the best time.
Physical shape of the horse and rider is paramount because this sport is an absolute all out sprint! Ensuring that your horse is in proper physical condition is of the utmost importance. However, as a rider, you must be in shape as well! Following a regular workout schedule as a team is crucial to ensure you will be able to compete and be prepared every weekend to do your very best. Don’t forget, we have to look good since the race only takes around 15 seconds! So don’t forget to put on your cowboy or cowgirl hat and that flashy Noble Outfitters™ Mariah Long Sleeve Crew in Persimmon to make sure everyone notices you when you come running down the alleyway! There are a variety of competitive levels for anyone interested in competing in this sport. From the very top of the rodeo to the locally held events, there are opportunities for every individual out there interested in the sport of barrel racing. Taking lessons from a trusted instructor and getting started in this fast paced sport is easy! Go out and get your adrenaline pumping!