Barrel Racing:  All the things I love.
By Holly Heidemann

Barrel racing is my passion. It involves all the things I love...Speed, Horses, Traveling, and Reaching for Big Dreams.

The textbook definition of barrel racing is that it is a rodeo event where a horse and rider team run a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels, competing to be the fastest time. Knocked down barrels come at a cost of an added 5 seconds to the time. Times vary according to the size of the pattern.

The unabridged definition of barrel racing is to be on the edge between control and chaos...and dance there for 15 or so seconds. It tests riding skill, a horse's athletic agility, and is a complicated mental game of grace under fire. A rider must be able to focus on minute detail in their riding through turns while running their horse at top speeds seen on the racetrack. A seemingly small mistake can equal the difference between winning and coming in last.

There is no room for error when thousandths of a second normally separate first and second place. The horse must be able to reach top speed quickly, then be able to shut down enough to execute a tight turn, then be up to top speed again in one jump. The best horses in this business maintain a cool demeanor while running. They are able to listen to the riders' quiet cues that ask for a change in direction.

Getting people started in barrel racing is my business. Along with training and competing, I give barrel racing lessons for a living. Most of my students come for the first time thinking they'll be strapped on a fast horse and turned loose to run. Even though that sounds like an exciting way to do things, it's not safe, nor does it work.

There is so much more to barrel racing than speed. The horses are mostly not automatic and you must know all the buttons they have and how to push them to get the best performance from them. The G force alone in a turn will unseat even the best of riders if they are not taught how to properly balance through that turn.

Novices should always start out under a good trainer with an experienced barrel lesson horse and be taught at slow speeds. Whether teaching a horse or a rider to run barrels, we start at a walk. When everything
is perfect at a walk, we go to a trot, and on and on until each new speed is
mastered flawlessly. When it's time to run at full speed, both horse and rider are confident and able to focus and do their jobs well.

To be a successful barrel racer you must
a. learn to ride impeccably well.
b. be fearless and able to turn loose of complete control.
c. be willing to take risks.
d. have or develop confidence in both yourself and your horse.
e. constantly refine your skills to improve and beat your previous times.

There are many opportunities to travel and compete. There are barrel racers who make their living traveling from barrel race to barrel race. In my younger years, I was a gypsy myself and enjoyed living in that moment to moment excitement. Many barrel racers continue to compete in their golden years, with barrel racing grannies being common. By the way they ride, you'd think they were 17 with their hair on fire!

For more information, feel free to contact us at 512-308-2129 or by email at Our website is

Holly Heidemann works and resides Southeast of Austin in the heart of Texas.
She raises, trains, and competes on American Quarter Horses in the sports of
Barrel Racing and Ranch Sorting. Along with daily instruction, she conducts
barrel racing clinics for both beginners and winners in barrel racing.