What do you want to know about Barrel Racing?
Although the exact dates are unknown, the sport of barrel racing traces its roots back to the 1930’s when young women competed in horsemanship contests that involved riding their horses in a figure eight pattern around two barrels. Legend has it that Texas was the state where barrel racing originated. Women wanted to participate in rodeo events as their male counterparts did. However, woman had been competing in rodeo, in a variety of ways since the 1880’s when Buffalo Bill Cody and others hired female bronc riders, trick ropers, trick riders and gun handlers in their Wild West Shows.
Through World War II “All Girl Rodeos” were very common but popularity decreased again as men, who frequently competed in events such as bronc riding and roping returned from the home front. It is believed that the barrel racing was changed to a cloverleaf pattern in 1935, but it was not judged as it is today, by the quickest time, until 1949. It was in 1949 when a group of courageous women joined together to form the Girl’s Rodeo Association, later renamed to the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association in 1981. Barrel racing evolved through the GRA organization to become an event for women that today offers purses equal to the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association event purses.
A Barrel Race might be organized as an individual event or held as part of a rodeo or horse show. Barrel racing has become highly competitive and involves barrel horses with extreme athletic ability and a barrel racer who possesses superb horsemanship skills. Horse and rider teams compete for the fastest time as they maneuver their horses in a clover leaf pattern around three 55 gallon closed end metal barrels placed in a triangle shape in the arena. In timed rodeo events, the purpose is to make a run as fast as possible while the time is being clocked by an electric eye, (a device using a laser system to record times), as well as an arena attendant or judge who manually takes the time as a backup. 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 barrel horses training and ability to control its body to make efficient turns, 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).
On a standard pattern in today’s professional competitions, one run is usually over in as little as a quarter of a minute. One of fastest times recorded at the National Finals Rodeo was 13.52 seconds by Brandie Halls in 2006. Barrel racers are subjected to only a handful of rules as they compete. One is that they not break the pattern, doing so usually results in a disqualification. Also, tipping a barrel can add at least a 5 second penalty or at some events results in a “no time.” Most rodeo associations require that a barrel racer wear certain attire such as a hat, boots and long sleeve shirt. Depending on the association, barrel racers might be fined for losing their hat in the arena.
Barrel Racing is an event that demands some of the most athletic horses and dedicated riders in order to be successful in terms of financial earnings. In today’s world of barrel racing, the standards are high and the competition is tough, there are very few individuals who have been able to make a good living from barrel racing professionally. In the past it was common to train a horse for barrel racing that had been rejected from it’s original intended discipline such as racing, cutting, or reining. Today there exists many barrel horse trainers who’s main focus is only on developing competitive barrel horses. Today many quality breeding programs have been developed for the sole purpose of producing elite barrel horses. There are many barrel horse stallions available for mare owners to choose from in hopes of raising the next barrel horse champion. It has been said that a barrel horse must possess speed and the ability to keep their volatile features under control. This is necessary in order to execute precise, quick turns. When shopping for the right barrel horse some of the more important things to consider are a good mind, a huge heart, correct conformation and a true love for running barrels. It is also imperative that a horse be able to withstand the many miles traveled throughout the country to various barrel racing competitions. A grueling travel schedule can be taxing to a barrel horse and not all can handle the stress and still remain competitive.
Over the years, barrel racing has primarily been a sport for women. However, there are now many barrel racing associations that have been developed that allow men to join and compete as well. Many local riding clubs and barrel associations also offer special classes for youth. In all, barrel racing is really a sport for the entire family. It is especially common to see men compete in barrel futurities which are for four and five year old barrel horses only who have not yet competed in barrel racing.
Barrel racing has come a long way when considering how much it has progressed over the years. It’s expected that it will become even more competitive as barrel horse trainer’s methods and barrel horse stud owner’s breeding programs continue to improve. Barrel racers are hard workers who never lose sight of their end goal. They don’t mind making sacrifices to ensure they are completely prepared to compete to the best of their ability. Because of the determination of the cowgirls of yesteryear, barrel racing is now a sport that stands out next to other sports dominated by males. Barrel Racing is definitely an event that today’s horseman will continue to enjoy for centuries to come.
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