Barrel racing or “chasing the cans” to the uninitiated doesn’t seem like a sexy or classy events such as equestrian jumping or dressage. Nor does it appear to be as rough and ready as rodeo.! But there is no mistaking the passion, hard work and glory that forms barrel racing.
We’ve got an A through Z of some of the most common barrel racing terms. Just in case it’s something you want to get into, or even just learn the lingo for when you head to your next competition.
Historically barrel racing originated from the need to have an event at rodeos for women to partake in. Back in the day you alternated between the cloverleaf pattern and a figure eight pattern around the barrels on the course. The cloverleaf pattern is now the most favourable as it requires the most amount of skill and agility.
For those readers new to barrel racing let me set the scene. Three drums or barrels are set up in an arena. The rider must complete a cloverleaf patterned ride around the circuit. Skimming as closely as they can to the barrels while trying to get around the course. Oh and did I mention that it has to be as fast possible? Timing works by an electric eye that uses a laser to record precise racing times during competition. So now we’ve covered the gist of it here is a list of the most common terms used in barrel racing. Memorise these and you’ll look like you know your stuff at your next rodeo.
Bowing – is when the horse turns out too quickly and widely from the barrel. It can cost seconds to your time as your horse is then slightly off course for the next barrel.
Direct and indirect reins – This use of rein control that communicates with your horse the direction you want them to turn. By either applying more slack or tightening one rein over the other, your horse will have a clear understanding of its route and direction.
Electric Eye – The timing device that uses a laser to record when the competitor and horse pass over the start and finish line. Time is everything to this competition and a hundredth or thousandth of a second can be the difference between a win and second place.
Pocketing – refers to the area between the horse and barrel as the horse passes around it. A 3 – 6-foot pocket is standard. Any closer and you can shave a hundredth of a second off your time.
Rate – the pace that a horse travels to measure the distance between barrels and to turn.
Slicing – when a horse turns too quickly towards a barrel and either hits it or then loses its pace towards the next barrel. Slicing can cost a major loss in time.
Barrel racing is a go hard or goes home type of sport. It relies on an almost divine relationship between horse and rider. The rider trusts the horse to carry them and manoeuvre their way around the course in the fastest and safest path. The horse needs to trust the rider will give them fast, accurate and precise commands and instructions to help get through the course safely and swiftly.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch a barrel race, then put it on your bucket list. It is a teeth grinding, breath holding couple of seconds. There may be spills, scrapes and knocks, but there will always be a thrill when the rider and horse cross the finish line.
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