May 7, 2019
There’s nothing more uniquely American than a rodeo, and no rodeo would be complete without the thrilling event of barrel racing. Fast-paced, fun and entertaining, everyone enjoys seeing horses and riders race against the clock in an exciting display of skill and horsemanship.
The History of Barrel Racing
Barrel racing, not surprisingly, evolved out of rodeo events from as long ago as the 1880s, when Buffalo Bill Cody’s famous wild west shows began featuring women in key roles in order to draw as many spectators as possible. Annie Oakley, one of the most famous female gun handlers from the period, was convinced to take part, and other women started competing in horse races and other displays of talent as show organizers realized the draw of female entertainers. Through the 1920s, cowgirls participated in some of North America’s most famous rodeos, including the Calgary Stampede, Pendleton Roundup and the spectacular World Series Rodeo at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The sport itself developed over time but is believed to have officially been introduced in 1948. Created by the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, or WPRA, as the first real rodeo competition for female horseback riders in Texas, the spectator event focused almost entirely on women athletes, as it does today. Though boys and girls both take part in youth and amateur competitions when they are young, generally speaking it is a sport devoted almost exclusively to female equestrians.
Rules of Barrel Racing
The rules of this sport are fairly simple – a horse and rider must race their way around a series of three 5-gallon barrels placed in a cloverleaf pattern as fast as possible, and the rider with the shortest time is the winner. The course must be completed with no skipped or overturned barrels; a tipped barrel will add five crucial seconds to the rider’s overall time. The first barrel in the course is sometimes referred to as the “money barrel” because how well or poorly a rider does in reaching and circling this first obstacle of the race often determines how well she does in the run overall.
Horse Breeding and Training in N.C.
Barrel racing horse farms exist throughout the state of North Carolina, breeding and training race horses that are athletic and coordinated enough to become barrel racers. Typically training starts around the age of five, at which point a horse not only starts going through rigorous physical and agility training, but he is taught to listen closely to and obey the commands provided by his rider. Appaloosas – the most well-known breed of horse in the U.S. – Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses are the breeds most typically chosen to be barrel racers; all are fast, intelligent, athletic and full of energy.
Tips for Getting Started
The path to success in the world of barrel racing will involve many different stages and factors. To start off, the proper selection of a horse is extremely important; the horse should be healthy, athletic and strong with a good temperament, and the horse will need regular guided exercise that will allow him to run and maneuver during a competition at a very fast pace. The saddle used, one that provides the greatest possible stability, will be one designed specifically for the sport of barrel racing. The rider will need to learn to lean slightly forward in that saddle during a race in order to keep the horse as balanced and free to run as possible, and to be able to communicate effectively with the horse through a series of movements and vocal commands. The rider will learn that control, in learning to barrel race, is just as important as speed.
Barrel Racing in North Carolina – Upcoming Events
Rodeos taking place throughout the year in North Carolina featuring bull riding, roping, barrel racing and other exciting competitions include these fun upcoming events –
- SEBRA (Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association) Rodeo at Prices Arena in Dallas, NC / Saturday, May 25, 8:00 pm
- NCYRA (North Carolina Youth Rodeo Association) Harmony Rodeo at Circle G Arena in Harmony, NC / Saturday & Sunday, June 1-2, Noon each day
- 5L Rodeo sponsored by the NCPRA (National Cowboy Pro Rodeo Association) in Cleveland, NC / Friday & Saturday, June 14-15, 8pm each evening
- Bar W Agricultural Scholarship Fund Rodeo at Cutworm’s Corral in Hayesville, NC / Saturday, July 6, 8 pm
- Currituck Bulls ‘n BBQ (SEBRA) at Currituck Rural Center, Powells Point, NC / Monday, September 2
- Coastal Run Super Show presented by the NBHA (National Barrel Horse Association) at Senator Bob Martin Eastern Agricultural Center in Williamston, NC / Saturday & Sunday November 23-24, 8 am each day
Barrel racing shows are also taking place statewide over the next month or two, including the following events. More information about these two competitions may be found on this site: https://www.ibra.us/shows/US-NC/approvedShows.php.
- Yadkinville, NC / Lone Hickory Indoor Arena
- May 19, 2019
- June 9, 2019
Find out more about barrel racing here: