By Abigail Boatwright

Barrel racing has its own lingo. Even if you’ve been in the sport for a while, some terms might carry a bit of confusion. The legendary four-time National Finals Rodeo competitor Sharon Camarillo has dedicated her life to educating barrel racers. She sat down with Barrel Horse News to explain a few words often heard in the barrel racing community.

The 4D System. Developed by the National Barrel Horse Association, the divisional system is a self-handicapping system. All riders run the same race, and according to the NBHA, results are categorized as follows: The fastest time sets the time brackets, and wins the first division. the second division is won by a time 1/2-second behind the overall fastest pace. The third division is won by a time a full second behind the fastest time, and the fourth is two seconds behind the fastest time, Check the rules of the race you’re entering to find out how many places receive prize money. Some producers modify the division splits to full second splits or a combination of half second and full second splits, so under- stand the chosen format when you enter.

Before the current system, Camarillo says entry numbers could be limited, as the same 30-50 barrel racers competed, and the same four or five competitors won the majority of the time. When the divisional system was developed, it encouraged more entries and fueled competition.

“It was self-handicapping, fairly complicated to understand, but it opened up a second division competitor, a third, fourth and fifth division competitor that had a chance to compete and get a check,” Camarillo said. “It sounds so complicated, but once you understand it, it’s amazingly easy.”

EquiStat. Developed by Quarter Horse News more than 30 years ago, EquiStat is a comprehensive database of competition results and earnings from events such as cutting, reining, reined cow horse and barrel racing. According to, “EquiStat has become a popular and accepted source for statistical information, making it an important part of the horse industry. Based solely on monetary winnings, the service adequately tracks the earnings of the industry’s top riders, horses, breeders, owners, sires and dams. Known for its accuracy, EquiStat strives to maintain a complete and fair database.”

Camarillo says EquiStat is a useful tool to research a horse you’re considering buying, or breeding to.

“EquiStat really gives you verification of a horse’s accomplishments,” Camarillo said. “It’s a record-keeping resource for statistics on horses and helps substantiate horse values.”

Futurities and Derbies. Competitions designed for horses of the same age group with either limited or no prior competition experience. The most well known futurity events are governed by the Barrel Futurities of America (The BFA). While organizations may classify the age categories differently, a futurity is traditionally for horses 4-years-old and younger, but many organizations allow for a 5-year-old futurity horse, and some competitions designate a “juvenile” as a 3-year-old competitor. The 5-year-old year is often the maturity division, and 6 year olds compete in derbies. Age divisions vary regionally do it is always wise to check with producers in your region, or ask seasoned futurity competitors about events you are interested in attending.

The NFR. The Wrangler National Finals rodeo is truly the pinnacle of rodeo competition. With a long history of revealing the best rodeo competitors in the nation, the NFR encompasses a long road to qualify for the finals, and each December in las Vegas, Nevada, the finals consist of 10 go-rounds that test the mettle of finalists in their quest for a world champion title.

“Those competitors compete at 40, 50, 60 rodeos throughout the year to climb the national standings,” Camarillo said.

“There is so much that goes into becoming one of the top-earning 15 riders in the country to qualify for the NFR. And once you get to the National Finals Rodeo, then you have to keep your horse sound and ready for 10 straight days of competition against the best horses and riders in the country. There’s a deep level of commitment that goes into making a run for the National Finals, qualifying for the event and then competing.”

Perf and Slack. Short for “performance,” “perf ” refers to a scheduled rodeo performance/show where spectators pay an admittance fee; traditionally includes a grand Entry, presentation of colors, national anthem and additional acts aside from the regular rodeo events. Camarillo says slack is held before or after the paid performance for the contestants who do not draw during a performance; or can be designated as an elimination go-round to designate who will be featured during the rodeo performance.

Producer. A producer oversees an event, which can include acquiring a facility, advertising the contest, acquiring insurance, soliciting added money and awards, and organizing co-sanctions with competing organizations so contestants can record their winnings with other associations where they may hold memberships. Camarillo produces the Sharon Camarillo Eastern and Western Barrel racing Classics.

RFD-TV’s The American. The most significant one-day cash payout rodeo in the world. Camarillo says the event, held in February each year, is fantastic not only because the prestigious facility— AT&T Stadium—in Arlington, Texas, but also for its significant payout and unique format which allows both professional and amateur competitors to compete in the same venue.

“The top 10 rodeo professionals in each event qualify following the NFR to compete at the American,” Camarillo said. “Ten additional contestants in each event have the chance to qualify at sanctioned events [held around the country]. Additional contestants, for an example, past World Champions and significant celebrities from the competitive world of rodeo can also be invited to compete.”

The winner of each event takes home $100,000, second place receives $25,000. There are added incentives for rookies.

“If you’re a rookie and you beat the pros, you are in contention for the million-dollar bonus on top of your $100,000 prize money,” Camarillo said. “If two or three rookies win events at The American, that million dollars is then split between them.”

SabraOQUINN NBHAWorldThe NBHA pioneered the divisional system of barrel racing. Photo by James Phifer

Rookie. In the Women’s Professional rodeo Association, a rookie is a competitor in her first year of professional competition. First, a rookie applies for a permit to enter professional contests. Once a contestant has won $1,000 on their permit, they have earned the right to purchase an official WPRA card; at that point dollars earned can go toward national standings.

Camarillo says the term “rookie” also refers to first time or new to barrel racing contestants.

Season. To “season” a horse refers to taking a young horse with a solid training foundation out to new environments to expose it to the world of competition. Camarillo says once a young horse has a good handle on barrel racing fundamentals at home, she’ll take it to a nearby arena, and low-key jackpots, before eventually taking it to bigger competitions and eventually, rodeos, if that is the career goal for the horse.

“The time and consideration invested in the seasoning process is a critical time in preparing for the successful future of a green horse,” Camarillo said. “It is very difficult for some horses and riders to make the transition from the training, and is often compacted with unrealistic expectations under the stress of competition. Not all horses have the athletic or mental ability to make a competition horse and these weaknesses are areas that should be addressed during this seasoning period. Attention should also be placed on the quality of the horses’ foundation. Being wise enough to give the horse the time he needs to accept the changes in environment, knowing when to return to the training pen and learning to become consistent in your reactions and expectations are critical concepts crucial for the longevity of the horse’s career.”

Side pot. Some competitions offer “side pots” for additional opportunities to recognize competitors like juniors or seniors. Contestants can pay an addition- al fee to enter their designated “side pot.” This means that in addition to the main competition, times will be “carried over” into the designated pot adding an additional chance for the contestant to win a check against what is often a smaller pool of competitors.

Abigail Boatwright is an award-winning journalist and BHN field editor based out of Texas. This article was originally written and published in the March 2017 issue of Barrel Horse News.


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