Barrel racing is a rodeo event in which a horse and rider attempt to run a cloverleaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time. It requires a combination of the horse's athletic ability and the horsemanship skills of a rider in order to safely and successfully maneuver the horse around three barrels placed in a triangle pattern within a large arena.
The main purpose of barrel racing is to run a set pattern as fast as possible. The times are measured by an electronic remote timing device to record times, the timer begins when horse and rider cross the starting line, and ends when the barrel pattern has been successfully executed and horse and rider cross the finish line. Success 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).
Riders enter at the timing line, circle around the 1st barrel, proceed to the 2nd barrel, and then continue on to the 3rd where they will complete the pattern and finally exit the course crossing the timing line a second time. This pattern is often referred to as a "Cloverleaf". The pattern may also begin with the left barrel first.
A time penalty is assessed if any barrel is knocked over (touching or holding it up, is totally fine) a score of no time is assessed if the horse and rider deviate off course. In UKBHA classes we take an average of your 3 runs, in all other classes the scoring is based upon your fastest time in that class.
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 fast times.