Everything You Need to Know About the Sport of Barrel Racing

Everything You Need to Know About the Sport of Barrel Racing

The Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) made its debut in 1948 when 38 women came together for the promotion and advancement of women competing in professional rodeo. Seventy-one years later, barrel racing has undoubtedly evolved. It’s time to dust off the books and take a look back at the history of barrel racing. On the blog, read everything you need to know about the only women's rodeo event that the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) recognizes at their sanctioned events. The history of barrel racing A fan favorite at our own rodeo, barrel racing is a women-only rodeo event that is known for quick turns, high speeds, and edge-of-your-seat excitement. Like other timed events, the winner of the barrel race is determined by thousandths of a second! Although this wasn’t always the case. When barrel racing first started in the 1930s, the cowgirl’s flashy outfit and strong horsemanship skills received a judged score. Another stark contrast to modern-day barrel racing was that in the early days, the racing pattern the horse and rider took often alternated between a figure-eight and a cloverleaf pattern. It wasn’t until 1948 that the WPRA established barrel racing as a timed-event and adopted the cloverleaf as the official pattern.

What to expect during barrel racing

The barrels are placed in a triangle shape with the base closest to the alleyway (where the horses and riders enter). Barrel racers enter the arena at a full run, speeding towards the first barrel, choosing to go either right or left. After making a tight and complete circle around the first barrel, the rider must then race on to the second and third barrel to complete the cloverleaf pattern. Finally, the crowd cheers as the rider and horse bolt towards the finish line in hopes of stopping the clock with the fastest time! It’s not as easy as it sounds. In fact, there are many things that factor into a great barrel run. Long hours are put into practice to fine-tune both the horse and the rider’s skills. The duo must be entirely in sync because one wrong move can cause a barrel to fall, resulting in an additional five seconds tacked on to their total time. When a winner is determined by thousandths of a second, a fault like that could easily put them out of the money.

The makeup of a barrel racing horse

Although it certainly helps, speed isn’t the only qualification needed to be a good barrel horse. According to the International Barrel Racing Association, “The horse’s athleticism and mental condition and the rider’s horsemanship skills are crucial.” Most riders gravitate towards the American Quarter Horse for barrel racing. Professional barrel racer, Nellie Miller won the barrel racing World Championship in 2017 at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) aboard her Quarter Horse, Rafter W Minnie Reba “Sister.” The very next year, Hailey Kinsel took home the 2018 Barrel Racing World Championship aboard her Quarter Horse, DM Sissy Hayday, also known as ”Sister.”

Barrel horses are bred for specific strengths, including coordination and agility. Quarter Horses naturally possess both coordination and quickness and are stout and strong in the hind-end, which is why they are mainly used in barrel racing. Accelerating after a turn and the ability to stop, turn, then blast out of the turn towards the next barrel is what matters the most in a good barrel horse.

Ready to see barrel racing in action? Check out our event schedule so you can see just how fast these barrel racers can run!