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Top 5 Horse Breeds for Barrel Racing

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The author was raised around horses her entire life. She works with rescued horses and horses that just need a refresher.

Rider making a turn around a barrel

Rider making a turn around a barrel

The Best Horses for Barrel Racing

Preparation and training are key to winning a barrel race. The horse breed you choose to race can have a significant influence on how well the preparation goes. So here, I present my top five barrel-racing horse breeds based on how easily trainable they are.

  1. Thoroughbred
  2. Paint Horse
  3. Quarter Horse
  4. Appaloosa
  5. Grade Horses

1. Thoroughbred

Thoroughbreds are tall horses typically known for running races. They are bred for speed and are easily able to take the turns of a barrel race. Their colors can vary from bays to dapple grays and all the way to the rare whites. Sometimes they do not have toes, which can make things easier or harder. Rasping once a month is easier, but needing a wedge for shoes is harder. Thoroughbreds run wonderfully but are hot-tempered. Working with a thoroughbred takes a lot of effort.

2. Paint Horse

The Paint Horse's flashy colors and markings bring tons of attention to the arena no matter what class or road they are on. They are fast runners and great turners. They are mostly low-maintenance, even-tempered horses. Paint Horses are the easiest to train and a good breed for any rider.

3. Quarter Horse

Much like Paints, Quarter Horses are an even-tempered breed, which makes training relatively easy. They vary in color and can have paint markings sometimes. Quarter Horses often have their own shows that include speed events.

Barrel racing on an Appaloosa

Barrel racing on an Appaloosa

4. Appaloosa

The Appaloosa is a lovely breed of horse that has its own racing events. This is a good breed for kids.

5. Grade Horses

Grade Horses are horses of unknown or mixed ancestry. Backyard-bred horses are the ones who can often surprise you the most. They can have any colors or markings, and their tempers can be a bit out there. Grade horses are the ones who can be your best hope for any event you want.

Barrel-Racing Sisters


Caleigh Buffkin on July 25, 2020:

Im 10 and barrel racing with a paint horse and I yet agree that paints are a good barrel racing breed.

Georgie on June 09, 2020:

I am only 12 and I own my own pony who I am teaching to barrel race but he is just not really getting the hang of it. Does anyone have any tips

georgie on May 27, 2020:

I really want to be a barrel racer and I also want to do pole bending because I really do not like horse shows when it includes showmanship because everyone is so uptight and judgy

Lailah Freeland on May 16, 2020:

Hi I want to be a Barrel Racer even I'am only 12

cassy on April 02, 2020:

i have plenty of horses to have fun whith

minda on February 28, 2020:

I have a Quarter Horse and he is fats. I love them. I love horses in general

Mia on February 17, 2020:

I love all these horse but one bread you guys forgot is appendix thats what i barrel race with

Emeri on February 12, 2020:

Quarter Horses are the best

hailey on February 10, 2020:

thoroughbreds would be better for pole bending than barrel racing

Prca barrel racer on January 20, 2020:

In the real rodeo world you won’t see hardly ANY thoroughbred writer is misinformed. Thouroughbreds run longer faster Quarterhorses are sprinters. I will not by a thoroughbred for a serious barrel racing prospect none have gone to the NFR. I love thoroughbreds too! Gorgeous, smart, and talented! They are NOT going to be the top barrel breed ever. Not as fast as QH on a small pattern and don’t stop as well which is needed to go into a turn. Appendix is great though.

gracie on September 23, 2019:

i have all of these horses

Resea Rae on July 26, 2019:

can a tennesse walker be a barral horse

Breanna on May 18, 2019:

in my opinion Quarter horses and Morgan horses are the top barrel racing horses

Ellie on February 08, 2019:

In my opinion Quarter Horses are the best because you rarely see a thoroughbred winning the NFR.But Not saying Thoroughbred are bad.

kay on February 04, 2019:

In my opinion, any horse can barrel race (ETC) if it is trained to do so. My TWH has proven to be really good at barrels and poles, she even jumps a little for trail riding.

sydney on January 03, 2019:

OK Grade is not a breed it is a term. A full bred QH can be considered grade because its parents are not registered any breed of horse can be grade it is just a term used to say the horse cannot be registered

Donald on June 22, 2018:

APHA, is a breed registry, It was originally started to register, quarter horses that did not meet inspection requirements. They have evolved through the years, to include, thoroughbred, guarter horse and Arabian blood, but they must have certain color paterns to qualify, or can be registered as breeding stock, if they have at least one regestered paint parent. Look on the APHA weeb site for requirements.

Dani on January 30, 2018:

I have an Arabian and he flies around the barrels even if he is short

Macey on December 10, 2017:

I have a paint horse but my grandpa owns a huge horse racing farm but personally i think that the best barrel horse is the paint mine is black and white.

eliot on March 10, 2017:

thoroughbreds can make great barrel horses if you have the patients to train them right. and paint horses are a breed not just quarter horses with spots so if your going to right a comment make sure you have the facts and not just saying what you think.

Jean on July 15, 2016:

I have a QH he's really fast but I don't know if he's good on turns and I don't have any barrels is it ok to use other circular items to replace for the barrels???

Kelle on December 08, 2015:

Different strokes for different folks. I had a thoroughbred i used for barrel racing for many years. She was a lean,mean running machine. She made time going from the third barrel on home. I won buckles and all sorts of tack off of her. I cant say i would use another thoroughbred for the barrels, she had her pros and cons,but i am enjoying my quarter horse.

Jackie on August 25, 2015:

I'm not sure what I should pick . If you know what I should have comment back

Audrey on August 22, 2015:

Paint horses are a breed. Pinto and Palomino are colors. Paints are different from quarters. They have different tempers. I have never met a paint the didn't try your skills as a rider, unless hey we're lesson horses of course.

Cody on July 09, 2015:

Thoroughbreds make great barrel horses i own one and trained her myself. People doubted me and Dream but swe proved them wrong shes running times at the 1D level.

Toni on June 28, 2015:

The American Paint Horse is a breed of horse that combines both the conformational characteristics of a western stock horse with a pinto spotting pattern of white and dark coat colors. It is often confused with pinto which is only a color...

big e on May 21, 2015:

A paint is not a breed--its a color! The "paint" color can show up in virtually any breed.

I disagree that paints and QHs are easily trained. I have worked with several and find them to be very stubborn and obstinate. My choice is Appaloosa all the way!

Cass on April 26, 2015:

Same with everyone else

natalie on April 23, 2015:

Actually I had a thoroughbred and she was a great barrel horse. She was 17.3 h and would come as close to barrels as any QH. If you haven't actually ridden a thoroughbred as a barrel horse then I wouldn't say they make bad barrel horses.

kensy on March 18, 2015:

ummm actually thoroughbreds are great barrel racers because not all thoroughbreds are tall and even the tall one can do it. It matters how u train them. My trainer rides one and she is coming along really well! and the horse had been on the racetrack first and then my trainer got her!

SammyLine4444 on November 23, 2014:

Actually, Rae, I disagree with you on the Paints are actually Quarter Horses. They are not. If they were, they would be called Quarter Horses, not Paints. Quarter Horses can be brown, black, grey, whatever color, that doesn't matter. The point is, Paints are not Quarter Horses, and Quarter Horses are not Paints.

Colorado_Equestrain on November 23, 2014:

Definitely Quarter Horses, they are just built for Barrel Racing

Lauren on October 12, 2014:

Thoroughbreds can make a good barrel horse. It just depends on how much time and patience you have to work with them. I have a abused off the track racehorse. He's a lot of power and he will be great so the haters should just be quite all you have to do is train but some people are just lazy or don't have time to see how good they are.

Rae on June 24, 2014:

I think instead of thoroughbreds you should have listed appendix. For those that don't know what an appendix is it is a mix of thoroughbred and quarter horse. Also, a paint is just a quarter horse with color. They are the same horse one just has more white than the other.

Lexi Gonzalez on June 22, 2014:

Thoroughbreds are not good barrel racing horses at all. My uncles and my cousins and I ride and we know that they are not good barrel racers unless you like not being close to the barrels and getting a worse time.

bri on August 05, 2013:

Thoroughbreds are NOT good barrel racers. Their legs are far to long and they'll have trouble getting close to the barrels. They're okay for barrel racing if you don't want to get close to the barrels. But they're mostly better for english riding. Quarter horses are the top breed for barrel racing. That's a fact.