Barrel Racing, An East Texas Tradition

What Is This Sport?

Barrel racing was developed In the 1930s-40s by women, who wanted to show their skills in a rodeo event of their own. Through their hard work, this competition became respected and rewarded professionally.

The race is a timed event in which the rider directs her mount in a clover leaf pattern around three barrels set in a triangle pattern. A successful barrel race requires finesse, agility, and athleticism of the horse, aided by a strong bond with the rider. The rider must spend many patient hours of careful training with her horse. Many successful horses are Quarter horses, but one can see pintos and other varieties as well in a rodeo arena. Young girls begin early with play days and jackpots and diligent training, and some go on to travel and participate in college competitions or in professional circuits.

Like these young women, my main character and narrator Rebecca Ramey loves horses and trains hard to run a winning race. Her football coach grandfather would call it “a thing of beauty.”

One tee shirt sums up barrel racing like this: “After three, set him free!”

Scroll on for terrific images of barrel racers, and video of the leaders in the sport.

Racers in Action

Many of the following images were captured at the Jefferson and Berkeley County Fairs in WV. To see a larger version, click an image to start the slideshow!

Barrel Racing Video


Martha Josey:

A Purina-Sponsored Documentary

A Martha Josey Instruction Video

Barrel Racing Cowgirls: 93rd Falkland Stampede 2011

Youth Barrel Racing Finals: Cinch Spring Thaw 2018

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