The only true race in the rodeo, cowgirl barrel racing, requires and outstanding horse and an expert horsewoman. The cowgirl races her mount around three 55-gallon regulation size barrels which are set in a triangle in the arena. She runs her horse around the barrel, forming a cloverleaf pattern on the arena floor. There is no penalty for touching a barrel, however, she is penalized five seconds for each barrel knocked over.
The only way a contestant is disqualified is by crossing the score line before she completed the cloverleaf pattern or by breaking the standard pattern. a cowgirl may choose to run the right barrel first or go to the left one first.
The contest is fast and generates the excitement of a horse race, however, weight limits and handicaps are not required. More and more younger cowgirls are competing in the contest, but the veterans of the event have the experience of travel and competition and continue to do well.