In My Boots: Head to head

This week our in-house cowgirl Kristen Kovatch shines a light on two speed events that not only pit competitors against the clock, but against one another as well.

From Kristen:

Western speed events are some of the most fun you can have on a horse: roping, barrel racing, team sorting, pole bending, all the various genres of stake races and so on.

The only thing more fun is what these creative folks have come up with: pit two competitors head-to-head in those speed events. Now you’re not just racing the clock, but another horse and rider.

“Black River Rodeo – 5 drum barrel race”

Instead of running the basic cloverleaf pattern with the fastest time winning, the Black River Rodeo has turned it into a race, as well as making the most of a single arena. The middle barrel in the first row is turned by both riders, allowing them to race every stride of the way without any fear of colliding with each other on pattern.

As far as I can tell, 5-drum barrel racing is not an official sanctioned event—yet. For now, it’s an exhibition and fun bragging-rights sort of event. Regardless, it looks like a good time.

“Speed Penning”

This particular match race requires a lot more in the way of equipment—parallel running chutes and two herds of cattle rather than one. However, being one-on-one, ultimately the same number of cattle are being used as a two-on-two or three-on-three. One rider hits the herd, sorts out the number given by the announcer and then races it back to the pen. Riders need to be swift and accurate to sort out the right cow, and then have enough cow sense to herd it into a pen rather than run it back to the herd. This is challenging even under “normal” penning circumstances with two or three riders working together on two or three cows—with just one, it’s quite the challenge. Add another rider racing at the same time and you’ve got a heck of a contest on your hands. This event does seem to be gaining a foothold as an actual competition across the continent rather than exhibition-only.

Go ride western!

About Kristen: Kristen was an English major at Alfred University and was then hired on after graduation as the western teacher and trainer at the university’s Bromeley-Daggett Equestrian Center. She would joke on that irony but her students don’t find it very funny any more. Kristen coaches the varsity western team, teaches classes in western riding and draft horse driving, and keeps several of her own horses in training on the side. She shows reined cow horse and also shows western pleasure and horsemanship for fun. Between her horses and her students, Kristen is never short on stories to tell. Some of these stories can be read at her blog at She has also been published in Today’s Equestrian, Take the Reins, and most recently Ranch & Reata.

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