In barrel racing, the contestant and her horse enter the arena at full speed. As they start the pre-set pattern of three barrels, the horse and rider trigger an electronic eye that starts the clock ticking… dirt flies and hearts pound as rider and horse race against the clock. The racer rides a cloverleaf pattern around the three barrels strategically positioned in the arena, and then the pair sprint back out of the arena at full speed, once again tripping the electronic eye and stopping the clock as the Barrel Racer leaves.
The contestant and her horse can touch or even move the barrels, but the racer receives a five second penalty for each barrel that is actually overturned. With the margin of victory measured in hundredths of seconds, knocking over one barrel spells disaster.