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CanChasers | Barrel Racing
Barrel Racing

Barrel racing is a rodeo event that features a horse or barrel racer and one rider, also called a barrel racer, running a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels in a triangular arrangement.

The cowgirl or cowboy will take up a gallop and ride towards the first barrel. They must make a complete loop around the barrel then accelerate toward the second barrel. At the second barrel, they will again make a complete loop, which means they will make the turn on the other lead then accelerate toward the third barrel. At the third barrel they will again make a complete loop and then run back to the start. The racers will pass through an electronic timer entering and leaving the barrel arrangement and the elapsed time is the time for the event.

It is permitted to touch the barrels but not to knock them over. Knocking a barrel over adds a 5 second penalty to the time. Since going wide around a barrel is slower, a delicate balance of speed and control must be made to achieve the fastest times. The time of the event is affected by the size of the arena in which the event is held, but the times for top professionals barrel races are between the 13-18 second range in most arenas.

A cowboy hat is part of the prescribed dress of the rider. If her hat falls off during a race, a rider will be fined $10-$25. This fine is unique to barrel-racing.

The sport is governed by several bodies. The Women's Pro Rodeo Association (WPRA) governs on the professional level and several amateur associations exist, including the National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA).


Training for barrels takes time and effort on both you and your horse.

Set a good foundation before you start to compete. Your horse should know his/her leads, be supple/flexible (Soften a stiff bodied horse through bending and circling drills), know to whoa very well, back up, and have good transitions.

Take your time and make sure you do it right the first time.


The National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) use the following layout for governing patterns:

  • A minimum of 15 feet between each of the first two barrels and the side fence.
  • A minimum of 30 feet between the third barrel and the back fence.
  • A minimum of 30 feet between the time line and the first barrel.


There are several different types of bits that are used in barrel racing, there are no specific bits required for barrel racing, though there are bits that are more common to barrel racers. The type of bit used is determined by an individual horse's needs. Bits with longer shanks cause the horse to stop quicker., while bits with shorter shanks are used for more lateral work. Curb chains, nosebands,and tie-downs can be used in conjunction with the bit. Tie-downs give the horse a sense of security when stopping and turning.


The fastest time will win. It is not judged by points, only the clock. Barrel Racers in competition at the professional level must pay attention to detail while maneuvering at high speeds. Precise control is required to win. The rider is allowed to choose either the right or left barrel as their first barrel but must complete the correct pattern. Running past a barrel and off the pattern will result in a "no time" score and disqualification. If a barrel racer or her horse hits a barrel and knocks it over there is a time penalty of five seconds.