is a form of
event that demands some of the most athletic horses and dedicated
riders. Success can be defined in terms of financial earnings, or more simply, pattern completion and
The sport in itself consists of horse and rider combining the horse's athletic ability and the superb
horsemanship skills of the riders in order to safely and successfully maneuver their horses in a clover leaf
pattern around three barrels (typically three fifty-five gallon metal barrels, but as long as the size and
shape of the barrel is accurate, different material can be used.) placed in a triangle in the center of an
arena. In timed rodeo events, the purpose is to make a run as fast as possible, often characterized as
breakneck speed, while the time is being clocked either by an
, (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 clocker know when to hit the timer stop; though this last method is primitive by today's
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).
Diagram of a Barrel Racing Course. Riders enter at the red line, circle around the 1st barrel,
proceed to the 2nd barrel, and then continue on to the 3rd where they will complete the pattern
and finally exit the course crossing the red line a second time. This pattern is often referred to as
a "Cloverleaf" The pattern may also begin with the left barrel first.
Beginning a barrel race, the horse and rider will enter the arena at top speed, through the center
entrance(or alley if in a rodeo arena). Once in the arena, the electronic timer beam is crossed, or
broken, and begins to keep time.