Barrel Racing

By Emily Larson

3 Barrels...2 Hearts...1 Passion

Sprinting towards the barrel, the horse dropping it's shoulder to make an accurate turn, spinning around the barrel and heading for the next. All hoping to receive the best time. Barrel Racing is not just a sport, its a passion that both the rider and the horse live for. They both want to win and will to whatever it takes to achieve their goal.

What's it all about?

Barrel racing is a rodeo event in which a horse and rider attempt to complete a clover-leaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time. Though both boys and girls compete at the youth level and men compete in some, in collegiate and professional ranks, it is primarily a rodeo event for women. It combines the horse's athletic ability and the skills of a rider in order to safely and successfully maneuver a horse through a clover leaf pattern around three barrels (typically three fifty-five gallon metal or plastic drums) placed in a triangle in the center of an arena (RPM Barrel Racing 1). Not every horse and rider is capable of a perfect run every time. It takes years of time and dedication to become truly ready for professional barrel racing.

In timed rodeo events, the purpose is to make a run as fast as possible, while the time is being clocked either by an electronic eye, (a device using a laser system to record times), or by an arena attendant or judge who manually takes the time using a keen eye and a flag to let a person who runs the clock know when to hit the timer stop; though this last method is more commonly seen in local and non-professional events. The timer begins when horse and rider cross the start line, and ends when the barrel pattern has been successfully executed and horse and rider cross the finish line. The rider's time depends on several factors, most commonly the horse's physical and mental condition, the rider's horsemanship abilities, and the type of ground or footing (the quality, depth, content, etc. of the sand or dirt in the arena).


Barrel racing began in Texas, as a fun activity for women who came along to roping events with their husbands. After the husband roped, the wife or daughter would get on the horse and pull them around the barrel pattern. The horses didn't have any training so generally the fastest horse won. In the 1950's, people started taking barrel racing more seriously, and people started holding clinics for others to bring their horses and receive the extra help that their horse may have needed. Specialized training equipment like barrel racing saddles were also made for the first time. Trainers are now training barrel horses so that they stay willing longer. Better riding and training equipment is being used. The amount of prize money is now equal to that in the other events. Barrel racing has gotten extremely competitive now, it used to be just something fun for women to do when they went roping with their husbands. Now its a professional event all over the world.

Rules and Regulations


1. An NBHA barrel race is a timed event using three identical barrels set in a cloverleaf pattern. (The NBHA World Championships, NBHA National Championships Series and NBHA Super Shows will use 55‑gallon metal barrels with closed ends. District shows are not required to use metal barrels, however, barrels must be empty. They must not have any weights in them which will make it less likely for them to be knocked over.)

2. The starting gate or gates must remain the same throughout the entire event. A contestant may request that the gate be closed after they enter the arena. If an arena has more than one gate at the end where riders enter the arena, riders may be given a choice of starting gates as long as the choice is extended to all riders.

3. The start/finish line and the barrel positions should be permanently marked and must remain the same throughout the entire event.

4. The pattern at an NBHA show must meet the following conditions:

a) The first two barrels must be a minimum of 15 feet off the side fence.

b) a minimum of 30 feet between the third barrel and the back fence.

c) a minimum of 30 feet between the time line and the first barrel.

5. Ground conditions

a) The ground conditions within the arena must remain consistent throughout the event. The ground around the barrels must be reworked and leveled after each 10 or fewer contestants have competed. An amount less than 10 may be set by the District Director.

b) The preferred method of working the ground is with a ground tool pulled by some type of motor vehicle. Hand raking is not acceptable.

6. Any time a contestant crosses the starting line, time will begin.

7. A contestant will be given a "no time" for missing the pattern.

8. A contestant will be disqualified for running out of turn. It is the contestant's responsibility to know his/her draw position.

9. A contestant will be given a "no time" for knocking over a barrel. A "no time" will also be given if a barrel is knocked over and it sets up again on either end. Touching a barrel, including to keep it from falling, is permitted without penalty.

10. A contestant will be given a no time if the horse or rider falls during the run in such a manner as to break the pattern, or if the rider falls off the horse.

11. If a barrel is moved off its marker during competition, the barrel must be reset prior to the next competitor's run.

12. Contestants may ride any horse, regardless of ownership, and may ride as many horses as they choose in a class. However, a horse may not be shown by more than one person in a class, unless the following conditions are met:

a. Both contestants are members of the same immediate family who

reside in the same household (husband, wife, children and grandchildren 21 and under). Children and grandchildren 21 and under who are attending school away from home, but who reside part of the year with their parents or grandparents are included under this rule.

b. Neither contestant is showing any other horse in that class.

c. In no case will the same horse be run more than twice in the

same class.

13. Entries for an NBHA class will close when the first horse in that class runs, or at an earlier time as specified on the show bill. Under no circumstances will entries be taken for a class after the first horse in that class has entered the arena.

14. At all NBHA sanctioned shows, the draw shall be done in a random manner. (computer, shuffling cards, drawing numbered chips, etc.) All horses in the draw must be named. Riders with multiple entries must ride their horses in the position in which they draw up. Once set, the draw may not be changed, except to accommodate entries with the same horse or rider, or entries involving members of the same immediate family, as defined in Section A, Rule 12a, which have drawn up close to each other. What constitutes "close to each other" will be determined by Show Management; however, a consistent standard should be adhered to for the class. The draw may not be changed to give preference to any rider or to accommodate another commitment of a particular rider such as work or another barrel race. Changes must be moved to the end.

15.Only one horse may be in the competition arena at any time during competition.

16. Reruns shall be granted if the timer fails to work properly or if the barrels are not placed properly on their markers. Any penalty incurred on the original run shall not be applied against the rerun; however, any penalty occurring on the rerun shall result in a _ no time _ .

17. If the pattern is altered in any way during the running of a class, such that it cannot be restored to its original layout, all runs made to that point are void for the purpose of NBHA points. NBHA points may be awarded only if the entire class is rerun. (An altered pattern includes, but is not limited to: Changes in the staked position of the barrels; a change in the position of the timing device, either vertically or horizontally; or a change in the position of the entry gate(s).

18. Contestants who are given a no-time, either for missing the pattern or knocking down a barrel, may complete the pattern. However, show management may, at its discretion, ask a rider who is taking excessive time to train to leave the arena immediately. If such request is not complied with, a $25 fine may be assessed, payable to the district awards fund.

19. NBHA Officials have the right to disqualify any uncontrolled horse which does not begin performance within three minutes of the time the rider has been called. This rule does not apply to competitors who have not checked in with gate personnel.


1. Any act in connection with an NBHA sanctioned show or other NBHA business in violation of this section by a member of the family of an NBHA member may be deemed to have been committed by the NBHA member and subject him or her to penalties.

2. Any act deemed prejudicial to the best interests of the NBHA may result in the suspension of a member, including but not limited to the following.

a. Using abusive or intemperate language or attempting to threaten, bribe, influence or harass any contestant, show official or NBHA official. Also, any remarks made with the intent to cast aspersions on the character or integrity of an NBHA official or show official.

b. Moving or attempting to move markers at any time.

c. Use of electronic and/or remotely controlled devices to alter the outcome of a run.

d. Abuse of a horse in any way.

e. Competing while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

f. Misidentifying a horse in any NBHA class will disqualify a contestant.

g. Other conduct that is not in the best interest of the NBHA or its members.

h. Failure to make good on a returned check to the NBHA or to any NBHA sanctioned event, or to any other association which has a cooperative agreement with the NBHA on returned checks.

i. Show Management and/or NBHA Directors at their sole discretion shall have the authority to disqualify or deny entry to any horse they deem dangerous to the rider, or to other individuals, animals or property.

3. A member who has been suspended, disqualified, or denied points under this section may appeal to an appeals committee of NBHA members and directors appointed by the appropriate State, Area, or Regional Director. the date, time, and location of such meeting will be determined by the State or Area Director. The decisions of such appeals committee shall be final and binding on all parties (NBHA Sections A & E).


Spurs, boots, hat, plaid shirt, breast collar, back cinch, over-under (also known as a really long whip), barrel reins, narrow stirrups, and a saddle that fits both you and your horse. Barrel saddles are built lighter than saddles for other events, barrel saddles are light, and built for speed, the saddle needs to fit the horse so he or she is able to preform the way that you want them to. If the saddle doesn't fit you will have a very unhappy horse that will not preform to the best of his or her abilities (Barrel Racing-net 1-4) The type of equipment that is used is dependent on both the needs of you and your horse.

Famous Barrel Racers

Lindsay Sears Sherry Cervi, Carlee Pierce, Lance Graves, Pete Oen, Dena Kirkpatrick, Charmayne James, Sharon Camarillo, Judy Myllymaki, Charmayne James, Brenda Mays, Brittany Pozzi, Kelly Kaminski, Mary Burger, Janet Stover (HGS Horse Forum 1). Barrel Racing has been around for a long time and there are many famous barrel racers, these are my personal favorites.

Wrangler NFR Barrel Racing Champion Brittany Pozzi

"I didn't hang out with anybody at school; I hung out with rodeo people" Pozzi said (1).

Well Known Rodeos

The Riverdale Rodeo (California)

The Redbluff Rodeo (California)

Western Frontier ProRodeo (Pocatello, Idaho)

Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo (Oklahoma City, OK)

San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo (Texas)

National Western Stock Show and Rodeo (Denver)

Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR Las Vegas)

Southwestern International PRCA Rodeo (El Paso, TX)

Medicine Hat Stampede (Alberta)

Silver Spurs Rodeo (FL)

Wide Open Rodeo (FL)

Brighton Field Day and PRCA Rodeo (FL)

Mid Winter Fair and Rodeo (LA)

(Pozzi 4). There are many more rodeos around the country but these are the most well known rodeos for barrel racing.

Work Cited

Barrel Racing History. (n.d.). Retrieved 10 13, 2012, from 12

Barrel Racing Tips. (n.d.). Retrieved 10 15, 2012, from

Famous Barrel Racers. (n.d.). Retrieved 10 12, 2012, from

"NBHA." National Barrel Horse Association - #1 in Barrel Racing. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. <>.

N.d. Photograph. Google Images. Web. 12 Oct. 2012. <,r:2,s:0,i:142&tx=75&ty=55>.

N.d. Photograph. Web. 11 Oct. 2012. <,r:2,s:17,i:200>.

N.d. Photograph. Web. 12 Oct. 2012. <,r:1,s:0,i:140&tx=67&ty=40>.

N.d. Photograph. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. <,r:6,s:0,i:155&tx=58&ty=70>.

N.d. Photograph. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <,r:16,s:0,i:185&tx=85&ty=48>

N.d. Photograph. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <,r:0,s:0,i:68&tx=75&ty=55>.

Pozzi, B. (n.d.). Brittany Pozzi Biography. Retrieved 10 15, 2012, from

Racing, R. B. (n.d.). About Barrel Racing. Retrieved 10 12, 2012, from