Barrel Racing - Women Making History in the Arena

Posted by Lynnsy Johnson - Saddle Up on Aug 1st 2019

Barrel Racing is a well known rodeo event for women and men world wide. The event originated around 1948 by the WPRA or Women's Pro Rodeo Association. Barrel Racing was the beginning of women in rodeo and opened so many opportunities for women in the industry. 

The pattern was originally a figure 8 set up using plastic barrels. It has evolved to a cloverleaf pattern, using 3 barrels that are either plastic or metal. The goal is to run around the pattern as fast as you can all while leaving all 3 barrels standing. The time is measured by an electric eye that is placed at the gate or the end of the alley way. The rider's time starts as soon as they cross the timer and then it ends when they cross it again. 

The completion of the pattern does depend on speed, but it is not the only factor. The horse's physical/mental condition, the rider's horsemanship, and the type of ground also plays a part. The horse also needs to be strong, agile, and intelligent. There are also many factors/rules that apply to this event and it also varies depending on the organization that is hosting the event. Pattern sizes can also vary depending on the size of the arena and again the organization. 

For the WPRA their standard pattern size is:

  • 90 feet between 1st barrel and 2nd barrel 
  • 105 feet between 1st and 3rd barrel and 2nd and 3rd barrel 
  • 60 feet between 1st and 2nd barrel and the score line 

Penalties and disqualifications are different depending on the organization as well. For example, if you or your horse knock one of the barrels over, it is either a 5 second penalty that is added to your final time, or some places will disqualify you for hitting the barrel. You can rock the barrel or touch it, but if it falls over then you face a penalty or disqualification. 

Barrel Racing is not everyone's cup of tea, but to the can chasers, it is their passion. 

(photo credit -