Why a Clover Leaf Pattern?

Where did the famous barrel racing of the modern day today come from and why has it become so popular? For how long I’ve know about barrel racing I never really knew the history behind how it all started. I wanted to dig into the rich history of rodeo and the infamous clover pattern. It all started in the 1930’s when Faye Blackstone from Parrish, Florida as she was in her trick riding career, but it seemed to become replaced she started her horsemanship to the barrels. She began the barrel racing event with a couple other cowgirls in 1950 in Florida.

Faye Blackstone
Faye Blackstone, the 1st of many

Dixie Mosley began her rodeo career when she was 5 ½ years old. As she grew through her rodeo family she was able to see the sport of barrel racing take off through the Girl’s Rodeo Association (GRA) when it started in 1948 as it progressed evolving to the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) in 1948. Wanda Bush won her first Barrel Racing Championship in 1952 and continued to accel through the WPRA winning multiple world championships.

Barrel Racing did technically start in 1931 in Stamford Texas, but was only a figure eight pattern and wasn’t changed to the clover pattern until 1935. Although as it seemed to start in 1935, it wasn’t strictly starting to judge it until 1949. Even as the cloverleaf pattern has continued to be a favor with most women in the rodeo industry there still aren’t any specific measurements to rule by but only certain ranges between each barrel.

The largest barrel racing pattern takes place at the Pendleton Roundup as it has grass in the infield making it more difficult for horses to get sturdy footing as they increase speed between each barrel. With the safety of the horses in mind they kept the barrels on the racetrack around the grass infield in 1999.

Barrel racing
Barrel Racing

Now coming away from the history this even is made for the horse and rider to work together as a team to maintain balance and speed throughout the event.  When it comes down to the horses they have to have the agility and speed to perform the best in this event. When thinking about the pattern many have to be able to have a good seat through the sharp turns around each barrel to keep the horse in balance. When you run at your best performance you are able to achieve the best of the best. The current record holder for the best time is Carlee Pierce with a time of 13.46 seconds on her twelve year old buckskin gelding, Dillon. She broke a twenty-seven year record within seconds as she is competing in her first finals.

Barrel racing has come a long way through the years as it has purses equal to other rodeo events within the last 60 years of the sport. Do you think you could get down and dirty along with all the other barrel racers of the WPRA. Would you ever consider trying to barrel race to see how fast and efficient you and your horse can work together?


The report is a project for ANS 216 Equine Science.


  1. “Faye Blackstone” https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjp4svMkLLmAhXSKM0KHZH2BFsQjhx6BAgBEAI&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pinterest.com%2Fpin%2F59180182576164307%2F&psig=AOvVaw2FdiXxDpqtb0x0lY1a0dU1&ust=1576309469533785
  2. “The History of Barrel Racing” https://wranglernetwork.com/news/the-history-of-barrel-racing/
  3. “Carlee Pierce” https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjQ78btlbLmAhX2B50JHXK5D1oQjRx6BAgBEAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pinterest.com%2Fpin%2F82331499409638977%2F&psig=AOvVaw08M5QCPVaYYcHV-XLm8DMW&ust=1576310833446931