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What Is The Cloverleaf Barrel Racing Pattern?

The cloverleaf barrel racing pattern is the pattern, or order, in which a barrel racer must gallop their horse around three 55-gallon barrels during the barrel racing event.

The cloverleaf barrel racing pattern gets is name because the pattern is shaped like a cloverleaf, or triangle.

Note: There is also a straight barrel racing pattern in which three 55-gallon barrels are set in a straight line, not a cloverleaf design.

However, the cloverleaf barrel pattern is more common, and if someone simply refers to a "barrel pattern" - without specifying cloverleaf or straight, they are likely referring to the cloverleaf pattern.

In the cloverleaf barrel racing pattern the rider has the choice of running a right-handed pattern (turning the right barrel first) or a left-handed pattern (turning the left barrel first).

The Right-Handed Barrel Racing Pattern

It is most common for barrel racers to run the right-handed barrel pattern. This is because most horses are naturally more athletic when working to their left. By taking the right barrel first the horse will have one right-hand turn (the first barrel), and two left-hand turns (the second and third barrels).

Below: This illustration shows the barrel racing pattern with the right barrel being turned first. This is the way the barrel racing pattern is most commonly ran.

Barrel racing pattern

The Left-Handed Barrel Racing Pattern

In the left-handed barrel pattern the horse and rider turn the left barrel first. It is less commonly ran than the right-hand pattern, but is still legal and not that unusual.

Below: This illustration shows shows the barrel racing pattern with the left barrel being turned first.

Left-handed barrel racing pattern

Breaking The Barrel Racing Pattern

If a barrel racer does not go around the barrels in the correct order, it is called "breaking the pattern" and results in a no time.

Knocking Over A Barrel

If a barrel racer hits a barrel during their run, but the barrel remains standing, there is no penalty.

However, if a barrel racer knocks a barrel down during their run, they will be assessed a 5 second penalty for each barrel knocked down.

About Barrel Racing

Barrel racing is a competitive event in which a horse and rider run a cloverleaf, aka triangular, pattern around three barrels. It is a timed event in which the fastest time wins.

Though most recognized as a sport competed in by women, depending on what (if any) governing body sanctions a barrel race the rider may be either male or female.

You can shop for barrel racing saddles here.


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