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.