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Horse Speed Events

Learn more about the following speed events, especially barrel racing; how to train for them and improve your skills; and read news and stories from competitors who compete in speed events with Horse Illustrated. 

  • Barrel racing involves a horse speeding around barrels in a cloverleaf pattern. The fastest competitor who leaves all the barrels up is the winner.
  • Gymkhanas feature events with pattern races and timed games and is often featured at Pony Club events or through 4-H. It is sometimes called an O-Mok-See. In addition to racing barrels, events can include pole bending, keyhole race, keg race, ride and run, egg stomp, $1 bill race (aka, ride a buck), and sack race are often scheduled.
  • Pole bending involves a rider weaving in and out of poles set in a straight line.
  • Flag racing involves running a pattern created by markers placed in specific locations.

You’re in the alley ready for your barrel run, and your horse is just as excited as you are. But although you thought you were prepared, your horse starts slow from the alley, or he tips a barrel. Maybe...
 Here are more tips to improve your runs, from champion barrel racer Lindsay Sears.For the horse that always gets off to a slow start from the alley, breeze him a short distance. Work in a pasture, on a...
Did you hear that the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) would be requiring helmets for barrel racers under age 18? If you did, you’re not alone. News of such a change apparently originated on Facebook and quickly circulated through...
You have a need for speed, but your horse is more interested in moving through life at a leisurely lope. No problem. This helmet cam video shows you the perspective of rider Jill Matson as she and her horse,...
Barrel racers know that overpracticing the pattern can sour a speed horse. But what do the pros do during the week to keep their horses in tip-top shape, both mentally and physically, for competition season? Champion barrel racer and trainer Sue Smith...
An ill-fitting saddle can cause training and behavior problems as well as unsoundness in the horse's back. While many riders are aware of the importance of saddle fit, no scientific evaluation of western saddle fit had been published until...
Barrel horses have earned the reputation of being a high-strung group of out-of-control animals. In reality, most are good-natured, willing to obey commands and easy to handle. However, the small percentage of barrel horses that display appalling behaviors are...
The speed of barrel racing makes it exciting for competitors and observers alike. Every second counts, and even the smallest mistakes will cost you. A fraction of a second can make all the difference between winning and losing. Here are...
In every western riding discipline, from western pleasure and roping to cutting, reining and working cow horse events, spurs can be found among the rider’s repertoire of equipment. It’s rare to see a cowboy or cowgirl riding without them. If a...
Spurs come in a variety of types and styles. How mild or severe they are depends on the type of rowel, which is the wheel on the end of the shank. Here is how spurs rank, from one to...
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