(Metro Creative Graphics) Sports fans and athletes have a plethora of sports to enjoy in this country and around the world, and those options include equestrian events. Equestrian sports have a deep-rooted history and have inspired some avid fans, including those enamored with the sport of barrel racing.
Barrel racing originally was established as an event for women on the rodeo circuit. While men rode bucking broncos and bulls and competed in roping events, women displayed horse speed and stamina in barrel racing competitions. Today, barrel racing primarily is a female sport at both the collegiate and professional levels.
Barrel racing can be an entertaining experience for spectators and a rewarding one for riders. The goal of the barrel race is to complete a perfect pattern in the least amount of time, so the rider who completes the pattern the fastest wins the competition.
The pattern riders face is a complicated cloverleaf design. Riders can choose to enter the first barrel to the left or the right. They circle the barrel and proceed across to barrel number two, then finish out at the third barrel, where they will complete the pattern and exit the course. The approach to the first barrel should be carefully timed and executed to set the stage for the rest of the course.
An official distance between barrels exists for professional races. Riders cover 90 feet between barrel one and two. There is 105 feet between barrels one and three and between barrels two and three. Finally, 60 feet marks the distance between barrels one and two and the entry/exit “score” line.
According to Michigan State University Extension, barrel racing requires a mild-tempered horse with natural athletic ability. Horses need to be fast, agile and intelligent. A hot-headed horse is not a good choice because he may fight the rider and cause injury. Riders also must be in tune with their horses’ movements and sit correctly in the saddle to allow the horse to hug the sides of each barrel. Riders need to be both physically fit and capable of planning ahead to accommodate for their horses’ speed.
Experts advise riders run horses through repetitive drills to improve their performance. A horse learns by release and will think he’s done a good job if a rider moves on to a new task. If riders are unhappy with a turn, they should return to the same barrel over and over until it is mastered, as riders need their horses to remember the good techniques. Horses can do drills running straight lines as well as circles. Soon both horse and rider should develop a feel for each other and move more intuitively together.
Although barrel racing has been around for a long time, one of the premier governing bodies of the sport was only established 66 years ago. The Girl’s Rodeo Association was formed when 38 cowgirls came together in San Angelo, Texas, to create an organization dedicated to the promotion and advancement of women in the sport of rodeo. In 1981, the association changed its name to the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, and it remains one of the most influential sanctioning bodies in the sport. It also is the oldest women’s sports association in the United States and the only one governed entirely by women.
In 2007, the WPRA instituted the My Horse’s Choice Junior Division for girls ages 17 and under. The junior division introduces a whole new group of members to the ranks of professional competition and allows mothers and daughters to compete for world points at some of the same events.
Barrel racing is most popular in the western and southern areas of the United States and some parts of Canada. To learn more about a particular racing circuit or the sport of barrel racing, visit www.wpra.com. TF14A618