Barrel Racing for Beginners: The Basics

Barrel Racing for Beginners: The Basics

Need for speed. Adrenaline rush. Competing on a national stage. Barrel racing brings it all. If this sounds like something you want to pursue, the GFG (Go Fast Girls) guide on beginners' barrel racing is perfect for you.

Did you know barrel racing is the only women's rodeo event that the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) recognizes at their formal events and ONLY women can compete in it?

Barrel racing is an extremely fast and intense sport where the winner is determined by just thousandths of a second. And no matter how gifted and athletic the horse is or how talented the rider is, an error can be the deciding factor on who takes home the prize money.

The special events for barrel racings showcase cowgirls on horses charging through the gate in a race against the clock. To be victorious at barrel racing, a rider must understand the event and its rules, have reliable training, know-how each movement affects the horse, and overcome any errors to stay on the top of the leaderboard.

The Sport: Barrel Racing

Barrel racing is running your horse around three barrels as quick as you can. The barrels are set up in a triangle or cloverleaf pattern in an arena — with the first and second barrels 60 ft from the starting point and the third barrel 105 ft from the starting point. (distance between the barrels differs by the organization).

The name of the game is adjusting and cleanly negotiating the pattern — with concentration and speed.

Entering the arena at a gallop, the rider runs toward the first barrel. A rider can choose between starting at the left or right-most barrel and turns a complete circle around the barrel. Circling barrel two and rushing toward barrel three. After rounding the three barrels, the rider pushes her horse toward the finish line at lightning speeds.

The Penalties

Penalties can mean the difference between winning and losing. There are two penalties in barrel racing. The first is knocking over a barrel and breaking the pattern — which can add five seconds to the total racing time. If a rider catches the barrel before it hits the ground, no penalty is given. The second penalty is for a broken pattern — in which you are completely disqualified.

The Groundwork

If you want to be the best female barrel racer on the scene, it takes enormous amounts of training, discipline, and control. First-time riders must understand it's not all about speed. You must be able to perfect the pattern first and gaining momentum will come with practice. It's crucial to find a trainer who can help you lay the groundwork, whether it be an experienced barrel racer or an instructor.

The Time

The goal of winning a barrel racing run is to complete the pattern in the fastest time without knocking over any barrels. Use an electric timer with a sensor that automatically starts and stops when the horse runs past the sensor when you train. Professional timers eliminate the chance of human error — and help you to build on each run.

The Rate

A rate in barrel racing? Yes, the rate is about 10 feet from the barrel. When training, you can place a cone at the 10 feet line. This will help you understand and become comfortable with when to slow down and start setting up for the pocket and turning the barrel. An important tip is to prepare yourself not to look at the barrel in front of you — but look past it.

The Finish

As you master the basics and lay the groundwork, your horse's speed will begin to form. Barrel racing is fun and addicting — and can be an excellent sport at a young age.

Do you have any barrel racing tips for beginners that you'd like to add? Let us know in the comments. If you're looking for some inspiration in the world of barrel racing, check out our GFG Ambassadors, Kelly Kremkau and Isabela Boneta.

Go Fast Girl. Barrel racing is poetry in motion.


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