5 Best Breed Of Horse For Barrel Racing

Last Updated on March 8, 2022 by Urska

Every breed of horse has qualities that make it suitable for specific disciplines, but here we’ll look at the best breed of horse for barrel racing. When asking this question, the most obvious answer is the American Quarter Horse. However, the breed isn’t the only factor that goes into making a good barrel horse.

What Is Barrel Racing

Barrel racing is a western riding event where riders gallop a pattern around strategically placed barrels. It is an event often held at western shows and rodeos. Barrel racing follows a pre-set route around a triangle pattern of barrels in an arena.

To win, the rider and horse must produce the fastest time without knocking over a barrel. Riders enter the arena from the in-gate, otherwise called the alleyway at speed. They follow a clover pattern around the barrels and gallop back out of the arena.

Qualities A Barrel Racing Horse Must Have

The breed is only one part of a good barrel racing horse. More importantly, are the qualities the individual horse possesses. The first quality is speed, you want a fast horse. The horse must have athleticism, agility, and explosive acceleration.

It also needs the ability to turn quickly and use as little space as possible to make this turn. Because barrel racing requires intense athletic performance, the horse must have good confirmation. It must be sound as this event puts a lot of stress on the joints in the legs.

Best Barrel Racing Horses

1. American Quarter Horse

It is easy to say that the best breed of horse for barrel racing is the Quarter Horse. When you look at the top levels of barrel racing competitions, the majority of horses here are Quarter Horses that come from lines bred for this event.

Despite more commonly found in midwestern and western states, the Quarter Horse actually originated from the eastern United States. The early Quarter Horses were bred for racing, and the breed is still known for its ability to cover a quarter-mile at incredible speed; hence the name! The Quarter Horse is the fastest horse over a straight, sprint distance. It can reach speeds of up to 55 miles per hour. 

American Quarter Horse - Barrel Racing

While the breed still races, it is now more commonly associated with ranching activities. Today there are over 3-million Quarter Horses around the world, most located in the United States. The American Quarter Horse Association recognizes 16 colors in its registry.

The bred is popular for its good temperament, trainability, and its ability to turn its hoof at just about any job. Most Quarter Horses stand between 14 to 16 hands tall. This and the breed’s ability for speed are why it is considered the best breed of horses for barrel racing.

2. Appendix Quarter Horse

The Appendix Quarter Horse is an offshoot of the pure Quarter Horse. This horse is a cross between a Thoroughbred and a Quarter Horse. The breed registry began accepting this cross in 1949

Just like a pure Quarter Horse, the Appendix is very versatile. It combines the speed and athletic abilities of both breeds. These horses can reach over 16-hands, making them a good option for a taller barrel racing rider.

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3. Thoroughbred Barrel Racing Horse Breed

Another obvious choice for barrel racing is the Thoroughbred. The Thoroughbred can galloping long distances at speed. They are athletic and have a good work ethic.

However, their achievements are often overlooked outside of racing. The confirmation of the thoroughbred is not always suitable for barrel racing, since they are bred for distance running. However, if they have the right physical and mental characteristics, they can keep up with their Quarter Horse counterparts.

4. Paint Horse 

ThePaint Horse shares some of its lineages with the Quarter Horse. In fact, many Paints join both the American Quarter Horse Association and the American Paint Horse Association registries.

The bred has an excellent temperament and intelligence. It is strong, athletic, and fast. Confirmation and size-wise, the Paint is similar to a Quarter Horse. The Paint horse was first developed by the Native Americans, who felt their distinctive colored markings possessed magical powers.

Paint Horse - Barrel Racing

5. Appaloosa For Barrel Racing Horse

In addition to their unique and beautiful coats, the Appaloosa is a versatile horse that excels in many disciplines. Appaloosas have friendly personalities and range in height from 14.2 to 17-hands. The breed developed from the Russian Don and Spanish Conquistadors.

During the 19th-century, the breed was at risk of disappearing. To save the breed, the breeders used Quarter Horses. This gave the Appaloosa more speed and versatility. It is this blood that makes the Appaloosa one of the best breeds of horse for barrel racing.

Barrel Race Horses- Conclusion

While the clear winner for the best barrel racing breed is the Quarter Horse, it doesn’t exclude any horse. Look at the horse in front of you, if it has the right qualities to complete the job well, then it is good for barrel racing. Every breed has exceptions, and it is surprising where you see some breeds turn up.

Read more about What Breed Of Horse Should I Get?

How do you pick a good barrel horse?

The qualities a good barrel horse need to posses are being athletic, intelligent, and fast. Sound conformation and good temperament is also very important and can make a difference between an average barrel horse and a winner.
Barrel racing has been around for a long time, but its popularity and influence have increased over the last few decades. The horses selected to race in the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Championships, for instance, have become famous for their athleticism and the competition is now an important part of horse breeding.

Do Arabian horses make good barrel horses?

Arabian horses can be used to compete in a barrel racing although they might not be the first choice. Barrel racing is a sport where the riders race horses in a circle of barrels in which they must negotiate several obstacles. The Arabian horses are light in build, quick and able to turn quickly, which gives them some advantage over traditional horse breeds.
However, the most popular breed for barrel racing is a Quarter horse. It’s not surprising that a Quarter horse is so popular for barrel racing because they have good balance and excellent maneuverability. A Quarter horse is a hardy breed that can handle the rough and tumble of the barrel racing arena and is extremely agile in tight corners. 

Is barrel racing hard?

Riding a barrel race well requires careful preparation and planning. In the beginning, your barrel must be cleaned thoroughly and the barrel-to-ground contact must be perfect. However, once you’ve prepared your horse and made sure all of your equipment is ready to go, it’s time to start riding your pattern!
The most important thing to keep in mind is not to rush it. Riding barrel races fast and accurately is not an easy task. Going slow and clean will often give you a better time than going faster. When you slow down you can pay closer attention to what you’re doing, and your focus can become more precise.

How many hands should a barrel horse be?

Barrel horses have a range of sizes; anything from a bit under 14 hands to more than 16 hands is fine. These horses can have different conformation, for example, they can have either long or short backs, they can be either high-headed or low-headed. The conformation of a horse is important for the type of training and riding you want to do with your horse as well as whether that horse fits you as a rider.
A horse that is not suited to your particular needs will frustrate you and your horse will not give you the best performance possible. To find out what your horse’s conformation is, you can look at his hooves, legs, back and neck. If you are looking at his back, it is important to notice the length of the spine from the withers to the tailbone. The longer the horse’s back is, the better it will be for jumping, dressage and any other equestrian activities.

Are Mustangs good for barrel racing?

Many Mustangs make great mounts for Western horse sports including barrel racing. Though they are on the smaller side, Mustangs are powerful, agile, and even-tempered horses. Most Mustangs are easy to train, can be ridden in any discipline, and are surefooted enough to handle most obstacles. They are hardy and will not flinch at a jump or obstacle. A well-trained Mustang is a pleasure to ride, and will have fun doing it!