Barrel horse racing started as an event for women, providing them with an opportunity to compete in a physical competition. It has grown from a housewives' pastime to a big industry, with professionals taking part in it.
Barrel racing is considered as a form of horse riding, with expert riders having superb riding skills and some of the best athletic horses. It is all about testing the coordination between the athletic prowess of the horse and the brilliant horsemanship skills of the rider.
The rider has to steer the horse around three barrels, each weighing fifty-five gallons, placed in a pattern similar to a clove leaf. The aim of the game is to make the horse run as fast as possible, even at a breakneck speed, within a limited time frame.
The time is recorded by a timekeeper, who signals the start time and the finish time, by using his eyes and a flag, to a clock keeper who records them by using a timer.
Nowadays, the run is timed using an electric eye, a device using a laser system. The timer starts at the beginning line, when the horse and the rider crosses the first barrel, and without knocking out any of the barrels, reaches the finishing line through the other two barrels.
Tips for Barrel Racing
1. Knocking the First Barrel
The horse should be able stop before the barrel, after running at full speed, without knocking it down. Make the horse walk slowly, stop, and then backup exactly at the point.
2. Turning Before the Second Barrel
The horse tends to turn before the second barrel kept near the fence. Practice running the horse directly up to the fence, and make it stop just before arriving at the fence. The horse should be able to run, stop, turn left, or right.
3. Coming Off the Third Barrel
The horse tends to run off after passing the third barrel, without reaching the finishing line. Practice by placing some barrels in an irregular order, to make it turn around the barrels and complete the run till the finishing line. The horse should learn when to turn and run at the rider's command.
4. Dropping the Shoulder
The horse can knock the barrels by dropping a shoulder. Practice running the horse till the normal rate point' and make it turn in the opposite direction, away from the barrel. Complete the turn, and after facing the direction of the first run, make it run whenever the horse drops its shoulder.
5. Returning to the Start After the First or Second Barrel
The horse will try to head back after the first or second barrel. Practice with barrels placed in a random way, and make the horse go through them. It needs to take the turns without any hesitation.
6. Running Past the End
The horse will not stop running after the end of the run if it has been running for too long. It can be taken for a trial ride or for a walk in the arena. Once the horse is comfortable with the arena and the barrels, make it do a slow run, either in a field or the arena, to see if it is ready to complete the run.
7. Turning Away from the Arena Entrance
The horse will not enter the arena if it is angry. Make it walk slowly in the arena without following the barrels or the pattern for a while. Also, make sure that it is comfortable enough. Do not bolt, as it will be dangerous for the rider.
8. Lead Change
The horse should lead very fast from the first barrel to the second, and be able to switch the lead and turn without any hesitation. Make sure that the saddle is not hurting it, and it is not hurt in the legs or the back. Also, the position of the rider should not be wrong, and the rider's weight should not be too heavy on the horse.
9. Throwing the Head
The horse could throw a head, which might lead to rearing and bucking while running, if it is in some pressure or pain. Make sure that the teeth are fine, the strap or the chain is not too tight, and that the animal is responding to the movement of the reins.
The horse should be rated according to the rider's movements. It must be able to follow the rider's orders through body movement from the seat or the legs. The horse should be taught to follow the intention of the rider with the body movements of the rider.
Though these tips for barrel racing might help those who are already a part of the sport, newcomers who aspire to become a barrel racing professional should take training before competing in a race. Perfection comes only with practice.