My New Favorite Thing: Draft Horse Barrel Racing

Last weekend I headed up north for the Great Minnesota Get-Together, or for the uninitiated, the Minnesota State Fair. My mom and I spent the whole day at the fairgrounds, and somewhere in the haze of exhibits, vendors, and second-servings of cheese curds, we stumbled across something truly fascinating: draft horse barrel racing.


As far as I could tell, none of the drafts there were primarily riding horses, let alone barrel horses. Most of them came from the six and eight horse wagon teams that do a few exhibitions each year. The majority seemed pretty confused about what they were doing by themselves out in the coliseum. A few swung super wide of the barrels, some went closer, but only at the walk. One horse was doing alright until he was about 3/4 of the way to the first barrel, then did a beautiful turn on the haunches and high tailed it out of there.

As for the riders, it looked like they lent a draft to just about anyone who was already showing horses at the fair. Mini horse handler? Sure thing. Side saddle rider? Why not. The “Clydesdale Queen”? On a Belgian, but won her division anyway. My favorite though, had to be this guy:


Your eyes do not deceive you. That is a man from the forty-five plus age group wearing a pink tutu, tiara, and stockings while running barrels on a Percheron bareback. This is my new favorite class.

The whole event was peppered with “congratulations! Your time was under a minute!” and “he’s making some good eye contact with that barrel!” which somehow made the whole thing even more hilarious than it already was.


I think this is going to have to join the ranks of Sweet Martha’s cookies, Mouse Trap cheese curds, and the baby barn as a State Fair essential.