Barrel racing should really be easy to do and easy to win, right? It is simple enough. Well, here is a quick overview. You and your horse’s job is to quickly and correctly maneuver around a cloverleaf pattern in the shortest amount of time. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, no. Because in between the time you enter the arena and then leave at the completion of your run, there are many variables that can affect this otherwise simple looking event. I mean, there are just three barrels. However, as any of us who have ever tried this sport knows, your horse can run past the first barrel, shoulder the second one, knock the third one out of the arena, spook at the overhead banners, shy away from the shady spot in the center of the arena, buck, run off, and on and on and on. In order to do well at barrel racing, you must anticipate the unexpected and head it off. You and your horse must be both physically and mentally ready. You both must be focused on the task at hand, and must have a game plan. All of this requires copious amounts of work.
You do realize that barrel racing is not life or death! Well, unless you worry about what everyone else thinks of your outfit, your rig, your horse or your actual run. Or, if you worry about what the rest of the non-horse people in your life think about the fact that you give up most other activities to work in the heat, cold, dust, mud, etc. etc. to try and be proficient at this silly event. And they may just think you are crazy if they find out what you spend on this endeavor.
And when you and your horse are about ready to go and win something, he comes up sick, or lame, or a long laundry list of things that can go wrong physically. So we constantly worry and care for these precious animals. We spend lots of money on their health and well being. We work very hard, most of the time, in less than ideal conditions. Many work over time to be able to afford to barrel race and not short change their families. This could be because barrel racing is so tied to our fun and probable addiction. So when I asked my friends WHY they barrel race, here are some of the responses:
“It is a passion, a fervor, intense emotion compelling action. Passion can also be the enduring of inflicted pain.” I think both here describe barrel racing at different times. LOL! Many say they do it for the thrill, the rush, the speed. Barrel racers have been called adrenaline junkies. I mean, why else would we want to go as fast as we can on a 1,000-pound animal, with all the trust in the world, that we can turn those three oil cans in the arena and then pull up safely?
“It is the challenge to improve. The bond with the horse. A sense of accomplishment, and it is addicting. Because, effort equals reward.” Well, most of the time. Haha, I will say, that for women especially, there is a feeling of empowerment in being able to maneuver this large, four legged beast around three barrels at a high rate of speed. Some say that barrel racing is their dream, others say that it is their strength. I do know for sure, that since it is a timed event, it is an equal playing field. I am glad it is not a judged event, because almost all of the barrel horses are beautiful and the barrel racers spend lots of money on their beautiful equipment and rodeo shirts.
Another thing, I know that barrel racers are an extended family. Well, we sure do understand each other. One huge bonus of barrel racing is the friends we have made along the way. And barrel racing does keep you young. Well, at least you have to compete against other racers, some one quarter your age, some three times older. In any case, the race can be won by anybody, on any given day. And it sure does keep you physically fit, if you ride enough. But, I have known some that only have a horse or two to ride, so they go to the gym to try and obtain that competitive edge. So one way or the other, the barrel racing family is all in pretty good shape.
Also, it is a journey. Well, at least it is surely an adventure. We have been so many places, I do not think we would have gone to, if not for the event once we got there. And I know we all have some crazy stories to tell from our many trips. I surely do.
There is also a partnership with your horse. And what a sense of achievement when you have worked so hard for this unity and communication with one of God’s beautiful creatures. What barrel racer out there cannot tell you when their horse is having an off day. There is also nothing like being able to feel every muscle and know that you are in sync with this animal that can feel a fly. You can even appreciate watching others talent and try, in both horse and rider.
I know for myself that there is nothing like training a young barrel horse and watching him progress. The same goes for a student. There is an intensity and a vitality in this sport I love. Many families travel to races together. It is a wonderful way to bond with your kids and spouse. It is a great way to foster confidence in your kids. For others, barrel racing is a chance to escape from their everyday jobs, duties and lives. I know that many work very hard at keeping their family members happy in order to go and compete. I have seen mothers juggle school activities and doctor appointments, in order to get this chance to escape. I know many fathers juggle work schedules and money in order to be able to go or for their family to be able to follow their dream of barrel racing.
Barrel racing and training barrel horses is a passion of mine. I am sure glad I share this passion with a large group of beautiful, strong and accomplished women, that I call friends.