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Barrel racing pairs horse and rider in a race against the clock. Three barrels are set up in a cloverleaf pattern in the arena, and the rider must cleanly negotiate the pattern.

The rider enters the arena at a gallop and runs toward the first barrel. A rider can choose between starting at the left-most or right-most barrel and turns a complete circle around the barrel. The rider then steers her horse toward barrel two, circles is, and charges toward barrel three. After rounding barrel three, the rider pushes her horse toward the finish line at top speed.