A barrel racer is a person who participates in the sport of barrel racing, which is an equestrian event in which the rider and horse try to complete a clover-shaped course in the shortest amount of time. The course is marked by large barrels, and the barrel racer will often attempt to guide the horse very close to the barrels during the turns to cut down on time. The sport was developed primarily for women, though young boys and girls may participate in the event as well; it is less common for men.
While not always the case, a barrel racer may be responsible for raising and training the horse he or she rides during the event. The rider will often develop a relationship with the horse in order to aid in responsiveness during the race, and the horse must be strong and well trained in order to participate in barrel racing. The barrel racer must therefore spend a significant amount of time riding the horse both on the course and off it; a horse that is well trained is less likely to injure itself or the rider, and less likely to be slow around the barrels.
A barrel racer must also be familiar with the proper equipment used for the event. Special bits, saddles, and reins may be used, though such equipment is determined by the preference of the racer and, in some cases, the type of horse. Before a race, the barrel racer will often do several dry runs around the course to prepare herself for the race and to prepare the horse for the rigors of the course. Some racers will have coaches that will help figure out the best plan of attack for a particular course.
Certain rules and regulations apply to the barrel racer and horse. The racer must wear a long sleeve, western-style shirt that is tucked in, and he or she must adhere to the specific rules of the course. Contact cannot be made with the barrel, or a time penalty will be assessed. If the rider and horse go off course, the rider will be disqualified or given a "no time" ranking. The goal of the race is to complete the course as quickly as possible without coming in contact with any of the barrels or leaving the course during the official race time. The course must be completed within 60 seconds.