10 Best Horse Breeds for Barrel Racing

Barrel racing has got to be one of the most heart-racing horse sports. It is exciting for the horse, the rider, and everyone who is watching. 

But, the question is, what is the best kind of horse for barrel racing? Today, in this article, you’ll find an in-depth answer to this question. Not only have we put together a list of the 10 best horse breeds for this sport, but we also have suggestions on how to choose the perfect animal.

So, if you’re interested in finding the right horse partner to accompany you on barrel rides, read till the end to learn something worthwhile!

Top 10 Horse Breeds for Barrel Riding 

Here is a list of all the best breeds blessed by nature with the skills of barrel racing. Not all the horses from the mentioned breeds will be outstanding performers. However, all of them do possess the basics that you can groom to perfection!

1. American Quarter Horse


Let’s talk a little bit about the origin of Quarter Horses to understand what makes them the top recommended breed for barrel racing.

This breed was the horse of choice of the English, who initially settled in New England. They used these horses to commute within the village. Now, the villages had narrow wooden paths no longer than a quarter-mile.

If you compare this scenario to a modern-day barrel race pattern, there are a lot of similarities. Basically, this breed has always had it in them to walk on challenging routes. They excel in short-distance racing to date.

Moreover, the Quarter Horse breed has remarkable personality traits. Calm nature with a cool temperament helps train them along with building a friendly relationship. Also, the size of an American Quarter Horse is perfect for barrel racing as they can easily run around sharp turns at a whopping speed of up to 55mph!

2. Arabian 


Although speed alone isn’t a determining factor to guarantee a winning horse, it is one of the most important qualities a barrel race horse should have. Arabian horses check this requirement.

Besides speed, this breed is naturally blessed with a lighter body, which can be credited to their skeletal structure, which has one less bone each in the rib, tail, and lumbar vertebrae, as compared to other horses. A well-trained Arabian horse is definitely among the best horses to use for barrel racing.

On average, an Arabian horse is 15 hands tall. They come in various colors and any solid ones are allowed to take part in the race.

One downside of this breed is that some horses tend to lose their temper rather quickly. So, make sure you test the horse’s temper before finalizing it for the race.

3. Paint Horse


Paint Horses share their lineage with Quarter Horses so they’re basically the same, but with more coat color options. The Paint Horses are great racers ideal for barrel races, as they are capable of turning around barrels swiftly, without losing their balance.

They are extremely understanding and obedient horses. Beginner riders can also control a Paint Horse without any hassle. In fact, this breed is ideal for kids.

You get both, looks and qualities in this breed. You’ll fall in love with their elegant body structure when they prove their athleticism in a race.

4. Thoroughbred


The Thoroughbred breed was initially developed for the purpose of having specialized race horses, so you can imagine the number of racing traits these horses must have.

Even the ‘bad’ horse in this breed possesses remarkable speed. These horses can race a mile with a speed of 40mph to 64mph. In addition, they have a stable body that won’t lose balance when they turn quickly. Their intelligence is of great use in an adrenaline-rushing game like barrel racing.

However, the speed and thrill of barrel races can usually trigger a Thoroughbred’s bad temper. But, this isn’t something that good training can’t fix. Do keep in mind though that this breed is not for the faint hearted. Even after months of training, only an expert rider can handle a Thoroughbred.

5. Australian Stock Horse


It won’t be wrong to say that Australian Stock Horses are one of the most versatile breeds. Their intuitive thinking, gentle temperament, and athleticism give them the skills to excel in multiple activities. Luckily, all these qualities work great together in a barrel race as well.

If you look back in the ancestry of this breed, you’ll find similarities with the Quarter Horse. That is why this breed is also referred to as the Australian Quarter Horse.

They are usually 14 hands to 16.2 hands tall. These horses can quickly adapt to new environments and they don’t panic in unexpected circumstances.

6. Mustang


If you’re looking for a truly hard and strong horse to be by your side in a tough barrel race, go for a Mustang. These horses have the endurance to outperform in any Western discipline.

Physically, these horses don’t look the fiercest. With a height of 12 to 14 hands and weight under 1000 pounds, Mustangs look rather soft, just like their temperament. However, don’t be fooled because, in the arena, they’ll surprise you with their speed and stamina.

Your Mustang can be the best kind of horse for barrel racing since this breed is easily trainable. This is what makes them an ideal choice for first-time barrel race participants.

7. Appaloosa


The horses that come to mind when you think of a beautifully spotted coat are Appaloosas. They are the epitome of beauty with brains. Moreover, they are skilled with fast speeds that they can use in versatile situations. Appaloosas have been cross-bred with Quarter Horses so you get a lot of the amazing barrel racing traits from this well-loved breed.

As a bonus, these horses have high endurance. Although this doesn’t directly have any impact on the horse’s performance, it does benefit in keeping the horse calm after a tough race. This, along with their friendly personality, makes them great family horses. Your kids will make some of their best memories with an Appaloosa when it’s not racing.

8. Pony of the Americas


Pony of the Americas has the blood of some of the best horse breeds in its bloodline. Shetland Pony, Appaloosa, Arabian, Welsh Pony, Quarter Horse, and Thoroughbred have all come together to produce this small yet talented pony.

You get the combined speed and agility of all these breeds in a tiny package. On top of that, their athleticism is paired with a friendly nature. There is no compromise on looks either. A muscular body under the spotted coat will stand out in the competition.

Altogether, the Pony of the Americas makes a fast and strong option for barrel racing.

9. Grade Horses


This might be the first time you’ve heard of Grade Horses, especially in the context of horse sports. That’s because Grade Horses have an unknown lineage. We don’t know who the parents are or which crossbreeds resulted in these horses. However, since barrel racing doesn’t restrict only purebreds to take part in the sport, Grade Horses get a chance to shine.

Due to the unknown ancestry, you really have to research hard to find a great horse. Since a lot of breeds have probably mixed in to create Grade Horses, certain horses will have all the must-have qualities while some will be a total miss.

Everything depends on the individual horse in the case of this particular breed. But, once you find a good stallion, the effort will all be worth it!

10. Clydesdale 


Clydesdale horses are intelligent and quick-witted. At the same time, they are gentle and loving. Together, these qualities make a Clydesdale easy to train for a sport like barrel racing.

This breed was imported from Scotland and bred with local horses. The results were an evolved version that could handle more workload than ever before. Somewhere in all the years of the breed’s evolution, these horses learned to carry maximum weight on their upper legs. So, their feet don’t drag across the floor as they run. This friction-free pace adds to their speed in a race.

The easy-going nature of this breed is proven by the fact that even children can handle them. In terms of size, these horses are huge. On average, a Clydesdale horse is 16 to 18 hands tall, and weighs almost a ton!

How to Pick a Good Barrel Horse

If you look at some of the most famous barrel racing horses, you’ll notice that there is no single breed that can be awarded for being the best in barrel races. This is because barrel racing is more about the individual horse instead of the breed’s genetics.

While certain breeds have natural traits to support the horse, you still need to look for the following qualities to achieve the best outcomes.


The physical conformation of a horse is undoubtedly the most important checkmark to fulfill. The horse’s height isn’t significant as long as the rest of the body fits the ideal requirements.

First and foremost, the horse needs straight legs that are neither too long nor too short. The best horse to use for barrel racing is the one with a long underline, short topline, low hocks, and short cannon bones. Strong and stable feet are equally important.

Looks, in terms of how pretty the horse is, are useless. But, how athletic the horse looks is somewhat important. This too only matters if the looks are coherent with the actual strength of the horse.
Alongside conformation, the health and mind of the horse should be in perfect condition. The ability to quickly move around obstacles is necessary. Similarly, only a healthy horse can utilize its maximum stamina to run at the speed of light.

Test Before the Purchase

Before you finalize the deal on a horse, test the animal. Your horse will only prove to be the best horse to use for barrel racing if it races on your level. A horse that is trained to race faster than you can control is a downside and vice versa.

When you’ve found a horse that you love, ride it. Test it with some moving obstacles to figure out how spontaneously the animal can respond. Moreover, run your hand over the horse’s body to check if it’s sore or hurting. Try putting on a bit to see the horse’s reaction.

Lastly, do ask some questions. Figure out the bloodline, prior training, experiences, and health history.

Training Tips

Don’t overburden your horse with excessive training. Opt for only 4 days of the week for training. For the other 3, plan fun, relationship-building activities.

Focus solely on walking on the pattern of the track for the first month. After that, give a month’s break before you move to a month of trotting.

Then, give another month’s break and get on with cantering. This may take more than a month but whenever you feel satisfied, be ready for another month’s break. Lastly, you’ll have to train the horse for galloping.

The month-long breaks are important so that the horse doesn’t get fed up with barrel racing.

People Also Asked

People looking for the best kind of horse for barrel racing usually have the following questions in mind. If you too have some queries, these FAQs will help.

What is the cost of a good barrel racing horse?

A good horse for barrel racing can cost anything from $2,000 to $40,000. However, a top-class barrel racing horse is upwards of $50,000.
Even if you’re going for a fairly decent horse that isn’t too extraordinary, do not expect a price point below $25,000. The horses you will find at a lower price may not be the ideal age, may have no training or experience, or have an unimpressive bloodline.

What is the fastest barrel horse?

Rare Dillon is the fastest barrel horse. This Quarter Horse is a 12-year-old buckskin gelding owned by Carlee Pierce.
Together, they set a record-breaking time of 13.46 seconds to complete the course; the best time recorded in 27 years! This record was set at the National Finals Rodeo held at Thomas & Mack Center.

Are Thoroughbreds good for barrel racing?

Thoroughbreds are a good breed for barrel racing. They have always been racehorses, hence the speed. Paired with the right barrel race training, they can outperform other breeds in a barrel race.
But, bear in mind that Thoroughbreds have long legs. This keeps the horse from getting close to the barrels. Thoroughbreds will not be suitable if the design of the race track requires getting too close to the obstacles.

What is the best barrel horse bloodline?

The best barrel horse bloodlines trace back to the horses named Leo, Sugar Bars, and Otoe. Later, a mare of Leo called Flit had a son with Sugar Bars. This horse was called Flit Bar and became the new shining star in the barrel horse bloodline.
Some other prominent bloodlines are Cuatro Fame, Babe on the Chase, Royal Blue Fame, and Frenchman Fire Fly. These horses are among the top contestants of barrel races.

Are Arabian horses good for barrel racing?

Arabian Horses are a naturally good breed for barrel racing. They have fast speeds, a lightweight body, and stamina. Together, these qualities help them quickly turn around the barrels to finish the race in record time.
Although Arabian Horses aren’t the first option you’ll be offered when looking for a barrel horse, they make great companions for this race. With training and some bonding time, you can polish your Arabian horse to become a top contender!

What is the most expensive barrel horse?

Guys Famous Girl is the most expensive horse sold for the purpose of barrel racing. It went out for a whopping $68,000. To date, no other barrel horse has been priced this high. The average price range of good a barrel horse is $25,000 to $30,000.
This price is not surprising if you compare it to some famous racing horses. Fusaichi Pegasus is a Thoroughbred that was sold for 70 million dollars and is the most expensive horse sold till now.

What is the cheapest horse breed?

The cheapest horse breeds in the market are Mustang, Paint Horse, Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred, and Standardbred. You can get a horse of these breeds at a price between $100 to $10,000.
However, a cheaper horse will not be pedigree. Similarly, a horse available at a lower price will not be experienced or trained. Also, if a horse is unexpectedly cheaper, make sure to run a background check along with a health check to ensure there are no serious issues.


With everything that has been discussed so far in mind, we can conclude that barrel racing is an even mix of luck, technique, and horse skills. You don’t need the fastest horse to win. You also don’t need the smartest rider. Instead, you need both along with a lot of other requirements. 

With the aforementioned top 10 breeds for barrel racing and tips to find the perfect horse companion, you will surely get what you need. So, without further ado, move on with your search for the ideal barrel racing horse!