It is time for barrel racing in western North Carolina!! What an exciting, fast sport for the young and old. You ride your horse into the arena, make sharp turns around 3 barrels, then sprint out. It is timed, of course. In these parts, it is a great family and friend time as well.


Barrel racing has certain stress demands on a horse’s musculoskeletal system due to the nature of the sport. It involves balance with the rider, balance as the horse and its momentum take it turning quickly around a barrel and running full gallop at the end. When a horse and rider approach the first barrel, the top runners are always well balanced as they approach the barrel and cut it close. The hock and stifle joints are under significant pressure as the animal leads with the inside front leg and head/neck muscles, plants its hind legs, pivots, and pushes off in the loose arena sand/dirt and sprint to the next barrel or out of the arena. Coming into the first barrel, the rider is in total communication with her horse as the animal uses its front end to make the line around the barrel. The hind end is low, planting both legs to push off as it passes the midpoint of the barrel. The front legs, shoulders and neck muscles pull to continue around the arc of motion. The hind legs push off in a hopping type movement while the front legs and shoulders pull to race to the next barrel. The center of gravity of the rider in the saddle affects the smoothness and speed of the run. The horse and rider, as a unit, lean together to keep their momentum going in the same direction. Then running for the gold at the end. It is all over in the blink of an eye.

Stretching and warming up your horse if, of course, essential.

It is fun to watch and when I see horse run, I watch closely with the arc of movement around the barrel for explanations of a slow time, tipped barrel etc. If it is a horse I see regularly, then an adjustment is often used to correct any imbalances prior to the second run. Sometimes the rider might also need some care and stretching.

Look at the attached video of Brittany and Two Timing Lady. As they go into and around the barrels, there is a perspective of balance and pushing off. See if you can see any asymmetries, especially of the hind legs digging in and pushing off, the head veering off to one side, slipping of any of the feet or wide circles. At the events, cheering from friends and family make the energy pretty high. Both rider and horse are great athletes! I am pretty sure that I would be off the horse halfway through the first barrel.

Go see barrel racing close to you. Support your local National Barrel Racing association and other associations supporting equine events.

Note:…….Happy St. Patrick’s Day.