Barrel Racing Training Help

All things barrel racing

Horse turning barrel.

What is Barrel Racing?


Barrel Racing is a popular rodeo event that involves a horse and rider against the clock to navigate a cloverleaf pattern of barrels in one right-handed turn and two left-handed turns. Or one left-handed turn and two right-handed turns. The pattern consists of three barrels placed in a triangular formation, and the rider must make tight turns around each barrel before heading back to the finish line. 

The goal is to complete the course in the shortest amount of time possible without knocking any barrels over which will result in a five-second penalty. Barrel Racing requires skill, speed and agility from both the horse and rider and is considered a thrilling and exciting sport to watch.


barrel racing Patten size

The event of barrel racing has a standard size of pattern. Rodeos and jackpots will not run a bigger pattern than this unless you run at the Pendelton Roundup. You can also run a pattern smaller than this as well. The standard allows for time comparisons from horse to horse. 

How can I get into Barrel Racing?

If you don’t have a horse yet I would advise taking lessons and learning how to have really high level horsemanship and then after a few years transition to taking lessons from a barrel horse trainer until you feel you are ready to own your own horse and know how to take care of them.  

If you have your own horse already and are looking to take up a new sport here is some steps. 

1. Find a barrel horse. Barrel horses do need to be suitable for the sport. Look for a horse that has close to perfect conformation, has a willing mind, athletic ability, speed, a huge stride, a willing mind, no physical issues and if you are buying one already trained make sure they are placing already where you want to be competitive at. For example, if you are wanting to rodeo, you might want to reconsider buying a jackpot horse who doesn’t have experience with tough ground. Papers are nice buy don’t prove anything if you don’t learn how to ride the horse properly. 

2. Provide the right tack. A barrel saddle is needed as well as some barrels to use in practice. In some cases it would be appropriate to switch to a bit suitable for barrel racing, which will be talked about below. 

3. Find a barrel racing trainer! Barrel Racing can easily add up in entry fees and more without earning any money back if you are just winging it. When you have a barrel horse trainer who knows what they are doing, you can decrease the thrown away money and start earing it back quickly. If you are to this stage check out the clinics tab on this website to see if I (Breanna) am holding any Barrel Racing clinics in your area. 

4. Practice at least 5-6 days a week what your trainer has taught you. 

5. When you can comfortable breeze through the pattern, now it is time to enter. Keep reading below to get tips to find places to enter barrel races or rodeos at. 

Horse running
Horse Walking

How to find and enter barrel races:

Facebook is your friend on this one! Get into horse groups for the state you want to compete in and keep your eyes out every post. Feel free to even make a post asking people what is happening in the area. 

Ask your trainer or other friends who compete in the area. They will have ideas as well. Sometimes you have to just get association names and do your own homework to see when they all are. 

To enter a race it will be important to see if the race allows you to enter day of when you get to the race or if you have to pre-enter. If you have to pre-enter for the race you will follow the instructions they provide. Usually it involves filling out a form and sending in money before a certain date. 

Where to buy or find a barrel horse?


2. Talk to barrel horse trainers in your area to see what they know of. (It is all about the connections)

3. Ask around on Facebook or other social media platforms.

Horse standing
Horse trotting

Questions to ask the seller when buying a barrel horse:

-How tall is the barrel horse?

-Why are they selling the barrel horse?

-Do they have papers for the horse?

-What kind of maintenance does the horse need?

-Ask for photos and videos. 

-Has the horse been vet checked lately? Ask for the results.

-Does the horse get sore, ulcers, ever coliced?

-What kind of quarks does the horse have?

-Ask for their health history.

-Where is the horse clocking?

-How old is the horse?

-If the horse is young, do they have a video of the horse being breezed out and do they have a video of the time only’s. 

*Ask around and get a general idea for a reputation for who is selling the horse.*

how does the 1d, 2d, 3d, 4d, & 5d at a barrel race work?

When you enter a barrel race you will not enter any of the divisions, you will just enter the race. Once you make your run, that will determine what division or D you are in. 

Usually there is a 1/2 second split at a race. Sometimes it is a full second split. The very fastest time will be 1st in the 1D. From there that time will ad on 1/2 second and place them in the top of the next division.

 There will usually be 3-5 spots under each division that will place in the money as well. From there the times just fit into their slots and you will fall into a division based upon the time you ran at that race. 

Girl and horse

More horse shopping tips and red flags:

What to feed your barrel horse:

Barrel racing training tips:

Barrel racing bits explained:

barrel horse bonding tips:

barrel horse care tips: