What is Barrel Racing?

Barrel racing is a timed rodeo event where competitors complete a clover leaf pattern around 3 barrels. The horse and rider must communicate well and combine the horse’s athletic ability and the rider’s horsemanship.


The timer starts as the horse and rider cross the starting line. The timer stops when the pattern has been completed and you cross the finish line.

Completing the pattern incorrectly results in disqualification and knocking over a barrel results in a 5 second time penalty. This usually makes your time too slow to be a winning contender.

Original Barrel Racing

Barrel racing was first developed as a women’s rodeo event. While the men participated in rodeo events like roping and riding broncos, the women participated in barrel racing.

In the beginning, these races would alternate between a figure-eight pattern and a clover leaf pattern. The figure-eight pattern was eventually dropped in favour of the more difficult clover shape.

Although there are no official records on when and where it commenced, it is believed that the event first became popular in Texas.

The New Barrel Racing

Although the basic rules haven't changed much over the years, the competition has. Whilst it was initially developed as a sport for cowgirls rather than cowboys, it is now open to anyone to compete in. It is now run all over the world, not just at rodeos.

It is often seen at horse shows, gymkhanas & pony clubs with participants of all ages and genders competing.

The modern day barrel racing team is no different to the original one though, they need to be fast, agile and in sync with each other in order to win.

Health concerns for Barrel racing horses

Barrel Racing horses are commonly exposed to health risk factors when preparing for competition. These risk factors, such as stress and poor diet can often lead to ulcers. Statistics show that up to 80% of performance horses are at risk of developing ulcers. There are a number of ways to mitigate health risks in performance horses, such as learning how to identify the different symptoms. Learn more about health concerns in barrel racing horses.

Strenuous exercise, stress, travel and diet are the biggest risk factors for horses to develop ulcers.Studies have shown that up to 80% of performance horses are likely to suffer from ulcers. Unfortunately when preparing barrel racing horses for competition, they are exposed to these risks. Stay on top of your barrel racing horse's health by learning how to identify the different symptoms of horse ulcers.

Another cause behind ulcer development is exposure to stress. Stress comes in many forms, but specific to barrel racing horses can include training, transport and competition. There are ways to treat and manage ulcers in performance horses. 

Omeprazole is the go to medication for treating gastric ulcers in horses.