Le Barrel Racing est une course chronométrée au cours de laquelle le couple cheval cavalier doit effectuer le plus rapidement possible un slalom autour de trois tonneaux disposés en triangle. Le cavalier peut débuter le parcours selon son choix par le tonneau à main gauche ou par celui à main droite. Il a le droit de toucher les tonneaux de ses mains mais en prenant bien garde de ne pas les faire tomber. Virages serrés et galop effréné, les chevaux doivent faire preuve d'une grande agilité et être capable d'effectuer des accélérations rapides. Cette épreuve de vitesse entraîne généralement beaucoup d'engouement et d'applaudissements de la part du public. Le cheval Appaloosa et le Quarter Horse sont les deux races les plus douées pour cette discipline.
Barrel racing is a rodeo event in which a horse and rider attempt to complete a clover-leaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time. Though both boys and girls compete at the youth level and men compete in some amateur venues, in collegiate and professional ranks, it is primarily a rodeo event for women. It combines the horse's athletic ability and the horsemanship skills of a rider in order to safely and successfully maneuver a horse through a clover leaf pattern around three barrels (typically three fifty-five gallon metal or plastic drums) placed in a triangle in the center of an arena. In timed rodeo events, the purpose is to make a run as fast as possible, while the time is being clocked either by an electronic eye, (a device using a laser system to record times), or by an arena attendant or judge who manually takes the time using a keen eye and a flag to let a clocker know when to hit the timer stop; though this last method is more commonly seen in local and non-professional events. The timer begins when horse and rider cross the start line, and ends when the barrel pattern has been successfully executed and horse and rider cross the finish line. The rider's time depends on several factors, most commonly the horse's physical and mental condition, the rider's horsemanship abilities, and the type of ground or footing (the quality, depth, content, etc. of the sand or dirt in the arena).
Barrel racing originally developed as an event for women. While the men roped or rode bulls and broncs, the women barrel raced. In early barrel racing, the pattern alternated between a figure-eight and a cloverleaf pattern. The figure-eight pattern, though, was eventually dropped in favor of the more-difficult cloverleaf. It is believed that Barrel Racing first saw competitive light in the state of Texas. The WPRA was developed in 1948 by a group of women from Texas who were looking to make a home for themselves and women in general in the sport of rodeo. When it initially began, the WPRA was called the Girls Rodeo Association, with the acronym GRA. It consisted of only 74 members with as little as 60 approved tour events. The Girls Rodeo Association was the first body of rodeo developed specifically for women. Women were allowed to compete in several events of rodeo. The GRA eventually changed its name and officially became the WPRA in 1981, and the WPRA still allows women to compete in the various rodeo events as they like, but barrel racing remains the most popular event competition.
In Barrel Racing the purpose is to make a run as fast as possible. The times are measured either by an Electric eye, a device using a laser system to record times, or by a judge who drops a flag to let the timer know when to hit the timer stop. Judges and timers are more commonly seen in local and non-professional events. The timer begins when horse and rider cross the start line, and ends when the barrel pattern has been successfully executed and horse and rider cross the finish line. The rider's time depends on several factors, most commonly the horse's physical and mental condition, the rider's horsemanship abilities, and the type of ground or footing (the quality, depth, content, etc. of the sand or dirt in the arena). Beginning a barrel race, the horse and rider will enter the arena at top speed, through the center entrance (or alley if in a rodeo arena). Once in the arena, the electronic timer beam is crossed by the horse and rider. The timer keeps running until the beam is crossed again at the end of the run. Modern barrel-racing horses need to not only be fast; but strong, agile and intelligent as well. The strength and agility are needed to maneuver the course in as little distance as possible. A horse that is able to "hug the barrels" as well as maneuver the course quickly and accurately follow commands, will be a horse with consistently low times.
The approach to the first barrel is a critical moment in the life of a successful pattern; the rider must rate their horse's speed at the right moment to enter the correct path to make a perfect turn. The turns in barrel racing should be a relatively even half circle around the barrel. As the horse sets up to take the turn, the rider must be in position as well, which entails sitting deeply in the saddle, using one hand on the horn and the other hand to guide the horse through and around the barrel turn. The rider's legs will be held closely to the horses sides; the leg to the inside of the turn should be held securely along the girth to support the horse's rib cage and give them a focal point for the turn. The athleticism required for this maneuvering comes from optimum physical fitness of the rider and especially the horse. (Improper preparation for such a sport can cause injury to both horse and rider. Injury can be avoided by using the proper protection for both horse and rider.(i.e. protective boots for the horses legs or a back brace for the rider.)) In approaching the second barrel, the rider will be looking through the turn and now focused on the spot to enter the second barrel, which is across the area. Now the horse and rider will go around the barrel in the opposite direction, following exactly the same procedure just switching to the opposite limbs. Next, running toward the backside of the arena(opposite of entrance), and through the middle, they are aiming for the third and final barrel that they must turn, in the same direction as the second barrel was taken. All the while racing against the timer. Completing the third and final turn sends them "heading for home", which represents crossing the timer or line once more to finish. From the finish of the third barrel turn, the horse and rider have a straight shot back down the center of the arena; which means they must stay between the two other barrels. Once the timer is crossed, the clock stops to reveal their race time. Now the "cloverleaf" pattern, the three barrels set in a triangle formation, is completed. Standard barrel racing patterns call for a precise distance between the start line and the first barrel, from the first to the second barrel, and from the second to the third barrel. The pattern from every point of the cloverleaf will have a precisely measured distance from one point to the next.
Usually the established distances are as follows : 90 feet between barrel 1 and 2. - 105 feet between barrel 1 and 3 and between 2 and 3. - 60 feet from barrels 1 and 2 to score line.
Note: In a standard WPRA pattern, the score line begins at the plane of arena, meaning from fence to fence regardless of the position of the electric eye or timer.
In larger arenas, there is a maximum allowable distance of 105 feet between barrels 1 and 2; and a maximum distance of 120 feet between barrels 2 and 3, and 1 and 3. Barrels 1 and 2 must be at least 18 feet from the sides of the arena—in smaller arenas this distance may be less, but in no instance should the barrels be any closer than 15 feet from the sides of the arena. Barrel 3 should be no closer than 25 feet to the end of the arena, and should be set no more than 15 feet longer than the first and second barrel. If arena size permits, barrels must be set 60 feet or further apart. In small arenas it is recommended the pattern be reduced proportionately to a standard barrel pattern.
The above pattern is the set pattern for the Women's Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA), and The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA). The National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) use the following layout for governing patterns:
A minimum of 15 feet between each of the first two barrels and the side fence. - A minimum of 30 feet between the third barrel and the back fence. - A minimum of 30 feet between the time line and the first barrel.
The fastest time will win. Not all horses start from the right barrel some start from the left barrel but, riders let their horses pick which is more comfortable.
In Barrel Racing, the fastest time will win. It is not judged under any subjective points of view, only the clock. Barrel Racers in competition at the professional level must pay attention to detail while maneuvering at high speeds. Precise control is required to win. Running past a barrel and off the pattern will result in a "no time" score and disqualification. If a barrel racer or her horse hits a barrel and knocks it over there is a time penalty of five seconds, which usually will result in a time too slow to win. There is a sixty second time limit to complete the course after time begins. Contestants cannot be required to start a run from an off-center alleyway, but contestants are not allowed to enter the arena and "set" the horse. It is required that the arena is "worked" after twelve contestants have run and before slack. Barrels are required to be fifty-five gallons, metal, enclosed at both ends, and be at least two colors. Competitors in the National Barrel Racing Association (NBRA) are required to wear a western long-sleeved shirt (tucked in), western cut pants or jeans, western hat, and boots. Competitors are required to abide by this dress code beginning one hour before the competition and lasting until after slack.