Barrel Racing — This event is a horse race with
turns. The cowgirl’s time begins as she rides her horse across the
starting line in the arena. She makes a run around three upright
barrels, which are in a cloverleaf pattern, and back to the starting
line where the clock stops. Tipping a barrel is permitted, but if it is
knocked to the ground, a five-second penalty is added to her time.
EVENT DESCRIPTION - Barrel racing has no judges, which
means the event has no subjective points of view. Time is the determining
Barrel racing is graceful and
simplistic — one woman, three barrels, a horse and the ever-present stopwatch.
The horse is ridden as quickly as possible around a cloverleaf course of three
barrels. At the end of the performance, after all of the racers have finished
their runs, the clock is the one and only judge.
Ride quickly and win. Hesitate and
Not only have the best of the sport
spent countless hours practicing and honing their skill, but they also have
invested many dollars in the purchase and maintenance of the talented horses
they ride. A proven barrel racing horse can cost $50,000. For the professional
barrel racer, this is indeed a small price to pay.
Not only must the horse be swift,
but it also must be intelligent enough to avoid tipping the barrels, an
infraction that adds five penalty seconds to the time and kills any chance for
The horse also must be able to
withstand the long roads a cowgirl must travel to reach the next rodeo. If a
horse is fast, competitive and reacts calmly to the demands of travel, chances
are good that horse can stop the clock as quickly or quicker than the animal in
the next trailer.
Because so many barrel racers have
finely tuned their skill, the sport is timed to the hundredth of a second. When
the racer enters the arena, an electronic eye starts the clock. The clock is
stopped the instant the horse completes the pattern.
Barrel racing at its core has
changed little from the days when cowgirls raced for minimal, if any, prize
money and support. And though the prizes and exposure are greater now than ever,
the ultimate goal remains essentially the same as in the past: stop the clock as
quickly as possible.