horse article
horse site navigation

Barrel Racing for the Fun of It by Bill Dunigan

Over the years I have noticed a situation that develops much to often. That is the Here is a sport for everyone. This activity offers to its enthusiasts the relaxation of the outdoors coupled with the excitement of speed and the unparallel connection with an animal many times larger, stronger, and faster than the individual mounted on top. The only judge involved is the clock. You wont find any style preferences, attitude, or subjective opinions here. Either you have the fastest time or you don't.

Barrel racing has been around for years. It has been a game event in numerous competitions for decades where men, women, and children have enjoyed displaying their expertise at top speed for all to see. Most often the first exposure to it comes from watching the Rodeos. The cowboys introduced barrel racing into their list of events so their wives and girlfriends would have something to compete in at the Rodeos. However, throughout the rest of the world it is open to and participated in by all.

The race is relatively simple at first glance. It consists of three barrels placed at specified distances in an arena in a triangular pattern, referred to as a cloverleaf pattern. Different associations have their own recommended distances. A general guideline would be ninety feet from the first to second barrel and ninety feet to the third. These distances vary anywhere from sixty to one hundred and five feet. However, once set, it remains the same for all competitors in that race. The competitor enters the arena at one end and proceeds at top speed around the first barrel and then proceeds across the arena to the second, which must be turned in the opposite direction from the first. Next they proceed down the arena to the third barrel, which must be turned in the same direction as the second barrel. Then it's down the centerline at breakneck speed across the finish line. That's it, fastest time wins.

I have been teaching riding and barrel racing for years and have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of individuals wanting to learn to barrel race. They don't say " I want to learn to ride", instead what I am hearing is "I want to barrel race". Of course like the saying goes, that is really putting the cart before the horse. I normally don't have any problem resolving the situation. Usually the horse explains it rather quickly, and much better than I could. After that they understand just why they need to learn to ride and control the horse before asking for speed. Then there are those who have been riding for some time and desire something different or more challenging. For these riders things move along much more quickly. They already have the basics and simply need the technical aspects. However, even for some of those with experience it takes some getting used to for the speed. Once that is accomplished, there off and running.

Barrel racing is a wonderful activity for anyone who enjoys being outdoors, excitement, an adrenalin rush, and the chance to really communicate with horses. When you travel at top speed your communication skills need to be on time and accurate. This is one sport that seems to hold the interest of entire families. Even the teenagers stay with it. That could be due to the fact that most of the time you win cash and not ribbons.

If you think that your ready for a little excitement, don't hesitate, give it a try. Don't be put off by the idea of competing or even the speed. Many of my students don't go out and start competing right away. Some never want to compete. They simply want to enjoy having the ability to do it and the opportunity to give it a try. Most of all they are thrilled to be able to do something so completely different from anything they have ever done before. Barrel racing provides them that fulfillment and excitement, and I feel certain that it will do the same for you if you let it.


About the Author
Bill Dunigan has been teaching and competing in excess of 40 years. He has taught and competed in Barrel Racing, Hunter/Jumper, Eventing, Dressage and served as President of a local Dressage Association. During this time, he Fox Hunted four days a week with two different Hunt clubs, one of which he served as Joint Master. Bill qualified six years in a row for the World Championships with the National Barrel Horse Association. http://www.barrelracingclinic.com/