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Getting Started in Barrel Racing: A Guide to Essential Barrel Racing Supplies

Woman on a horse riding around a stripe red, white, and blue colored barrel.
Woman barrel racing.

Barrel racing is a popular sport that requires speed, agility, and precision from both the rider and the horse. Getting started in barrel racing can seem overwhelming, especially if you are not familiar with the equipment that you need.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the resources and equipment you need for barrel racing. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or just starting out, this guide will help you understand what you need to get started.

Find a Mentor You Can Trust

When setting out on any new endeavor, it is always a good idea to have a mentor or trainer that can provide assistance along the way. Barrel racing can potentially be a dangerous sport and it is important to learn the ropes from someone that practices safety and understands the sport….and horses inside and out. One of the coolest things about the equine community is that it is like one big family. It is never hard to find those that will be eager to help you on your journey. Are there no other barrel racers in your area?…No problem. Over the last couple of years, virtual coaching has grown in popularity.


You may be looking to train you current horse to barrel race, or you might be preparing to go horse shopping. Great barrel horses come in all sizes. What they all have in common is agility, speed, a passion for the sport, and a connection with their jockey. To be able to hold up to the speed and rigors of barrel racing, your equine teammate should have good bone and feet and correct confirmation. Undoubtedly, the most popular breed in barrel racing is the American Quarter Horse. It is common to also see thoroughbreds, Paints and Appaloosas also excelling in the sport (just to name a few).

Don’t forget that some of the most famous barrel horses came from less then flashy beginnings. Charmayne James’ legendary Scamper came from a feedlot and her family paid only $1,000 for the little misunderstood bay quarter horse that would later be inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.


When it comes to saddles, you have a few options to choose from. There are hundreds of different kinds of barrel racing saddles available in varying designs and styles. Barrel saddles have a deep seat for added security and stability. You should also make sure that the saddle that you choose fits your horse properly, as an ill-fitting saddle can cause discomfort and lead to performance issues.

In recent years, synthetic saddles have become more popular because of their lighter weight. Less weight on your horse can mean a faster and more efficient run.

Whether choosing a leather or synthetic saddle, make sure to choose from reputable brands. A well made and safe saddle is part of what will keep you safe no matter what discipline you ride.

High Horse Proven Mansfield Barrel Saddle, Regular Tree – Jeffers (

Kelly Kaminski Swift Flex2 Barrel Saddle, Regular Tree, Antique – Jeffers (

Wintec Barrel Saddle – Jeffers (

Saddle Pads

There are almost as many different saddle pads to choose from as there are saddles. A quality saddle pad is another important investment that can help protect and preserve your horse’s back and soundness. Material, size and thickness all go into what will work best for your particular horse and saddle. Hands down, currently the most popular barrel pads are wool pads. A high quality, compressed wool saddle pad, such as 5 Star saddle pads, can offer up to 3x more compression protection, provide a 4x greater wicking ability, and will hold up for much longer than a synthetic pad.

Barrel Racer 5 Star Saddle Pad (Natural), 1″ – Jeffers (

Blue Horse 100% Pressed Wool Contoured Saddle Pad – Jeffers (


Riding, especially at high speeds, can be dangerous so it’s important to always wear a helmet. A properly fitting helmet can protect your head in case of an accident and is beginning to become a requirement at more and more events. There are many different styles and brands within Western-style helmets. Make sure to choose a helmet that is approved by the ASTM/SEI, which is the organization responsible for setting safety standards for equestrian helmets. The broad range of colors and features will make it easy to find a helmet that fits your style and needs.

Boots & Spurs

Boots are also an important piece of equipment for barrel racing. Sneakers and flip flops are a big no-no for riding, let alone barrel racing. Choose a well-made pair of riding boots that have a distinct heel to help prevent your foot from sliding through or getting stuck in the stirrups. Boots provide the rider with stability and grip in the stirrups, which is crucial when riding at high speeds.

Ariat Womens Anthem Shortie Savannah Boot, Taupe and Turquoise Aztec – Jeffers (

Fatbaby Heritage Western Boot, Turquoise Aztec – Jeffers (

Fatbaby Heritage Western Boot, Distressed Brown Fudge – Jeffers (


Barrel racing would not be barrel racing without the barrels! The standard size for barrels used in rodeos is 21-24 inches in diameter and 30-35 inches in height. For practice, you can use plastic or metal barrels. The Tough-1 Collapsible Barrels are a great option for practice as they can bounce back after being hit and will not bruise your legs.


In order to time your runs, you’ll need a stopwatch. This can be a traditional stopwatch or a digital one, but it’s important to make sure that it is accurate and easy to use. Some rodeo arenas may also have a timing system in place, so be sure to check with the rodeo officials before purchasing your own stopwatch.

Other Equipment

Other than the standard pieces of equipment like horse halters, leads and grooming supplies, there are other pieces of equipment that you need to invest in to get started with barrel racing. These include:

  • Quality Tack: Well-made and well maintained tack is essential for the safety of you and your horse. Though accidents can happen, a quality headstall, reins, breast collar, etc. may be less likely to break and leave you in a dangerous situation while riding. It is important to inspect your tack before every ride.
  • Bit: Much care and patience should be used in picking the right bit for your horse and what you are trying to achieve. If you are unsure what bit that your horse needs, don’t begin with the most aggressive. Remember that sometimes “less is more.”
  • Protective Boots and Bell Boots: Protective boots wrap around your horse’s legs to offer protection and support. Bell boots also help to prevent your horse’s back feet from pulling off the horseshoes when hitting their front feet.
  • Horse Trailer: If you plan on competing in rodeos, you’ll need a way to transport your horse and equipment.. There are a variety of trailering accessories to keep you equipped away from home with your horse.
  • First-Aid Kit: Accidents can happen, so it’s important to have a first aid kit on hand for both you and your horse. This should include basic supplies such as bandages, antiseptic, and a thermometer.

Getting started in barrel racing does require some investment in equipment and gear, but it’s well worth it for the excitement and thrill of competing in rodeos. Make sure to choose high-quality equipment that fits both you and your horse properly and always prioritize safety. It’s always a good idea to take riding lessons from a professional to improve your riding skills and to ensure that you and your horse are riding safely and effectively. With the right equipment and training, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful barrel racer.