Have you ever wanted to try out barrel racing, but maybe felt a little intimidated? Possibly you’ve tested the waters with a few time-only runs at the bigger venues, but aren’t quite sure you’re ready for those upper-caliber races?
The Salt Lake area just happens to have two local barrel racing groups whose focus is more on fun than competitive profit. Sure, it’s still a race, but these playful organizations are all about enjoying your horses and having a good time with your riding friends.
Barrel Buddies offers monthly runs in South Jordan, typically in the outdoor north arena. Payouts won’t cover your mortgage or board, but the entry fees are nicely affordable. Run times usually top out in the 18 second range (vs. the smokin’ sub-16 second runs you’d be up against at the NBHA Wednesday night events in Ogden, or the UTBRA racers’ lightening-fast times in the South Jordan arena).
Take a look at the Barrel Buddies website to view the race calendar and to learn more about this terrific group.
You may also want to check out Country Cousins. You can find them on Facebook to learn more about their race dates and times.
Riders who run in these organizations aren’t restricted to beginners only. You’ll see seasoned racers alongside folks who are new to the discipline.
Most horses (if introduced to the pattern in a slow and patient manner) absolutely love this sport. Once a horse is patterned (meaning you’ve spent countless hours at home walking the horse around the barrels, teaching them to rate well and then playfully slow-loping before thinking of asking for increased speed) they’ll generally hunt the barrels and enjoy their job.
Those well-ingrained skills will come in handy if your nerves disconnect your brain once your run begins. Some horses can even lose their rider (don’t worry; that doesn’t happen too often) and finish the pattern on their own! (You don’t get a score for that though). Truly, one of the biggest challenges when racing is simply staying out of your horse’s way, not getting into her face or pulling her into a barrel.
You don’t need a lot of extravagant gear to participate in casual, fun barrel races. Your biggest investment will be your quality saddle, which must fit the horse well, allowing them to move freely and comfortably. Circle Y, Crates and Shiloh are quality brands that come with a reasonable price tag. For higher-end models, look at Stoney, Martin or Double J.
A good-fitting saddle pad that wicks moisture and cushions impact is essential as well. A.A. Callisters on Redwood Road sells 5-Star pads, always a popular and effective choice.
You’ll need a headstall (bling is always welcome in the barrel world), an appropriate bit or hackamore, and a pair, or two, of one-piece (continuous) barrel reins. Splint reins aren’t advised for speed events such as barrels or poles.Most racers will add splint boots and bell boots to help protect the horse’s legs.
Rider apparel is easy. Most barrel racers wear jeans, a t-shirt or shirt, plus a helmet or hat. Boots are the preferred footwear choice for Utah’s cowgirls, and barrel-racing cowboys. Add spurs if you have a well-educated leg and know how, and when, to use them correctly.
If you’d like to check out the fun in person, Country Cousins will meet for a race in South Jordan, in the outdoor (north) arena this Wednesday, July 31st. There’s no fee for those who come out just to watch, and folks who aren’t afraid to cheer are encouraged to park it on the bleachers and shout out their support.
Fun for horse, rider and spectator, barrel racing is one of Utah’s favorite horse-related activities! Come on down to South Jordan and see what all the excitement is about.