Barrel racing originated in the 1930s as a rodeo event for women and has grown in popularity ever since! Horse and rider run around three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern as fast as possible without knocking down any barrels. There is a penalty added to their time for each barrel that is tipped. Of course, speed, skill, and precision are all key not to mention a ton of practice, dedication and communication between horse and rider.
Even though these days the sport is popular for both genders, the females still dominate the event! With that being said, it brings us to the topic of this post: “The 8 Most Famous Barrel Racers in History”! These women have broken records, beat insurmountable odds, and developed the sport into what it is today. Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are (in our opinion) the most famous barrel racers:
#1 Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi
Brittany hails from Victoria, Texas. Her first horse, Leroy, wasn’t even supposed to be hers. Brittany’s parents bought the horse for her sister. When her sister wasn’t interested, Brittany grabbed the reins and never looked back!
She is a two-time World Champion. She’s been a Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Qualifier 15 times. And so far, she has won over $2,697,501 in career earnings through 2021. Not too shabby for starting out on a borrowed horse!
#2 Sherry Cervi
Sherry was born with rodeo blood in her veins. The Tucson, Arizona native competed in her first rodeo at age 6.
Sherry has 4 World Championships and 19 NFR finals qualifications to her name. She is barrel racing’s highest earner in history- over $3,000,000!
But don’t be fooled by this cowgirl’s pleasant demeanor and easy conversation. Her tough training and the bond she has with her horses sealed her spot in barrel racing history. She earned more at the 1999 finals than Fred Whitfield. He was that year’s PRCA All-Around Cowboy. That’s showing ‘em what you’re made of!
#3 Charmayne James
No list of the most famous barrel racers would be complete without mentioning Charmayne James. This Texas gal comes from a long line of cowfolk. So it was no surprise when Charmayne started running barrels at age 6.
She dominated barrel racing with her bay gelding, Scamper, from 1984 until he retired in 1993. She made history after she won 10 world titles in 1984. She was only 14 years old.
The duo became embedded into NFR Rodeo history the next year. It was Friday, the thirteenth. As the pair entered the arena, Scamper’s bridle caught on the side of the gate. The crowd knew exactly what happened when they saw the broken bridle at the first barrel. The pair elevated to legend status when Scamper spit the bridle from his mouth at the third barrel. They won the round and earned a following for life.
James was the first barrel racer to win $1,000,000 for her career earnings. And fittingly, both Charmayne and Scamper are in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.
#4 Martha Josey
Talk about a famous barrel racer. Martha Josey is a legend and has been on a horse for as long as she can remember. After she went to a rodeo as a teenager, the barrel-racing bug bit her. She won an unbelievable 52 competitions in a row with her first barrel horse: Cebe Reed.
Martha went on to compete at the top of her sport for over 40 years. She even won a gold medal at the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games. She has won every barrel racing title there is to win. She has taught and mentored over 200,000 students, spanning nearly fifty years. At 84 years old, this cowgirl shows no sign of slowing down. She still rides everyday.
#5 Lisa Lockhart
Lisa Lockhart’s barrel racing accomplishments read like a rodeo pedigree. She has 15 consecutive NFR Qualifiers and 2 NFR Average Championships. She also has 2 American Rodeo Barrel Racing Championships. Her career earnings through 2021 are already $2,913,123. Not too shabby for a cowgirl!
When she’s not on the circuit, she can be found at home with her husband and 3 kids, working the ranch and training horses.
She has qualified to the NFR 13 times, making her second only to Charmayne James and Sherry Cervi. As far as famous barrel racers go, that’s pretty good company.
#6 Fallon Taylor
Fallon didn’t grow up riding the range. She did it in Tampa, Florida, instead! Her career started at 7 years old when she took up training with Martha Josey. The decision came after she watched her first rodeo.
She joined the WPRA at age 8 and qualified for her first NFR at 13. Later, in a horrific riding accident, her skull was fractured and she was paralyzed for three days. It took a long time before her confidence was high enough to ride.
Together with her horse Babyflo, she won the 2014 WPRA Barrel Racing World Championship. They also won the 2018 AQHA Barrel Racing World Championship.
#7 Hailey Kinsel
Up and comer Hailey Kinsel hails from Cotulla, Texas. She may be younger than many on our list of most famous barrel racers, but she already has three world titles under her belt! She won the coveted title of World Barrel Racing Champion in 2018, 2019, and 2020 at the National Finals Rodeo. Not to mention achieving numerous accolades and arena records across the country. She’s also topped 1.4 million dollars in earnings throughout her young career. We think it’s safe to say, she’s one to keep tabs on!
In her spare time, Hailey enjoys spending time with her horses and embracing ranch life in Stephenville, Texas. She comes from a rodeo family and is passionate about training young horses, alongside her mother Leslie.
#8 Amberley Snyder
Amberley’s barrel racing career began when she was 7 years old. She won the All-Around Cowgirl World Championship in 2009.
At 18, she’d recently won a world championship and set her sights on furthering her career. That dream shattered along with her body on January 10, 2010.
Snyder was driving herself to a stock show and looked down at her map. When she looked back at the road, her truck was drifting. She overcorrected and rolled the truck. An upset stomach had caused her to remove her seatbelt minutes before. She was ejected and slammed against a fence post where she was found conscious, but paralyzed. She sustained a complete T-12 injury to her spine.
Amberley and her father let the doctors and rehab team know that she had a goal. Without a doubt, she was going to ride and compete again. And ride she did. She competed eighteen months after her crash.
She authored a book about her experience, Get Back On The Horse. Snyder shares her motivational story during speaking engagements across the country. Both her courage and skill-set have made her one of the most famous barrel racers of our time.
A New Respect
To an outsider, barrel racing may look like a fast horse racing around barrels. But it’s so much more than that. After reading about 7 of the most famous barrel racers, we think you’ll agree. There’s a whole lot of grit, determination, balance, and bravery involved with this sport. And that’s before they even get on the horse.