In this race against the clock event, a horse and rider attempt to complete a “cloveleaf” pattern around preset barrels (usually 55 gallon metal or plastic drums set up in a triangle). The rider with the fastest time is the winner. The sport combines the horse’s and rider’s athleticism and the rider’s skill to safely maneuver her horse around the three barrels to complete the “cloverleaf” pattern.
Barrel racing is one of the most common rodeo sports, but it is a relatively new event as compared to roping, and bull and bronco riding. It is also the only women’s rodeo event on the national rodeo circuit.
The first competitive barrel races are believed to held in Texas when the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) was developed in 1948 by a group of Texas women trying to find a place for women in rodeo. Today, barrel racing is the most popular event competition and has spread across the country. Even in areas where the other rodeo events are not common, like my home state of Pennsylvania, there are still barrel racing competitions held at the county fairs.
Here’s a scene from Heartsong where my heroine, Micki, is training while the hero, country music star Gabe McKenna, watches from the shadow:
* * * *
“Whoa.” Gabe gently pulled on the reins of his father’s horse, bringing him to a stop at the corner of the barn as horse and woman shot out of the frame constructed of two-by-fours in the corral. His heart skipped a beat in awe as Michaela and her big gelding raced at a breakneck speed around the first barrel, then looped the second. Going around the third barrel, Beau leaned over so far, Gabe feared Michaela would pitch right out of the saddle, but the worry was short lived. Horse and rider were too in-tune with each other and worked too well together for that to happen. Beau’s thundering hooves grabbed at the dusty ground and straightened up as he came out of the curve, finishing the cloverleaf pattern. He shot like a rocket back to the gate, tripping the timer to stop.
She grabbed her hat and waved it in the air with a whoop. “Yes! That’s what I want to see. Thirteen point twenty-five!” Setting the Stetson on her head, she leaned over her mount and patted the horse’s sweaty neck. “Good job, boy!”
His heart galloped like a horse. Damn, that time was only 0.5 seconds off her NFR record. “That was some fancy riding.”
She turned in the saddle. “You saw it?”
“Yeah. Too bad you’re retired.”
Michaela Finn is no stranger to heartache. Years ago she was engaged to Gabe McKenna, but two days before their wedding he ran off to Nashville with a female talent scout. Now Gabe is back in her life with an insane plan. Marry him, so he can get custody of his younger brother. Michaela can’t bear to think of any child being hurt, but she’s just not sure her heart can carry a happy tune when Gabe is playing lead…
Although Sara Walter Ellwood has long ago left the farm for the glamour of the big town, she draws on her experiences growing up on a small hobby farm in West Central Pennsylvania to write her contemporary westerns. She’s been married to her college sweetheart for over 20 years, and they have two teenagers and one very spoiled rescue cat named Penny. She longs to visit the places she writes about and jokes she’s a cowgirl at heart stuck in Pennsylvania suburbia. Sara Walter Ellwood is a multi-published and international Amazon bestselling author of the anthology set Cowboy Up. She also publishes paranormal romantic suspense under the pen name Cera duBois.