So, You Want to be a Barrel Racing Producer?

Here's some things to consider before becoming a barrel racing producer—or sharing your opinion as a barrel racer about an event.
Taylor Hildreth barrel racing
Taylor Hildreth and Dashin French Belle ran the fastest time of Day one at the 2023 Colorado Classic, earning both the Maturity and Open wins.

It’s no secret that Facebook has been on fire with accusations, conversations and cross-examinations of producers in all aspects of the sport, and although there’s surely bad apples in every bunch, here’s what you should know as a barrel racer about what it takes to put on a barrel race according to Colorado Classic Futurity & Derby producer and host of The Money Barrel podcast, Kayla Jones.

(Or, you can just listen to the full episode here. It’s pretty awesome.)

The volunteers turn the wheels.

In the vast landscape of barrel racing production, the role of volunteers emerges as a cornerstone, as emphasized by Jones. Her stories echo the sentiment that producing these events is no easy feat. Volunteers are usually the first ones in, last ones out in the offices, setting barrels, keeping the holding pens and outgates safe for all, hanging banners, announcing and often other tasks.

It’s a labor of love.

“The reason I feel like a lot of people produce barrel races is because they truly do care about the industry. You’re not gonna get rich off of it.”

Kayla Jones

Despite the misconceptions that linger around the simplicity of organizing a barrel race, Jones sheds light on the truth—it’s an intricate web of details that make events sing. She also emphasizes that producers do deserve to make money for their efforts, and there’s a balance that keeps it fair for most.

“I do believe that producers deserve to make money,” Jones said. “And the bigger the race, the more work it takes. So, the more money they’re paying out, hopefully the more money they’re making too.”

The dirt talk can get…dirty.

The podcast delves into the perpetual challenge of managing the ground—a factor that can make or break a competitor’s performance. Jones, drawing from her own experience as a barrel racer, places a premium on creating optimal ground conditions.

Weather emerges as an unpredictable adversary in the world of barrel racing production. Jones recounts instances where rapid decision-making was required to address the impact of weather on the ground. From indoor arenas affected by humidity to outdoor venues facing unexpected moisture, producers must adeptly navigate these challenges.

You can do everything right, and everything can still go wrong.

Beyond the visible aspects of barrel racing, Kayla sheds light on the less conspicuous yet critical element – safety considerations. Producers, in her view, must meticulously plan for potential hazards, ensuring a secure environment for both participants and spectators.

“Producers have to think about any possible way somebody could get hurt and get that taken care of,” Kayla emphasizes, sharing stories of swift decision-making to address safety concerns.

Social media can be your best friend, or your worst enemy.

The impact of social media on barrel racing events is another dimension explored in the podcast. Jones highlights the dual nature of social media, where positive experiences can boost an event’s reputation, while negative comments may have repercussions. Constructive communication, she stresses, is key to fostering improvement.

At the end of the day, we’re all fans of barrel racing.

Amidst the challenges and complexities, Kayla’s reflections bring forth a profound truth – the core reason many producers, herself included, endure the stress and time commitment is a genuine love for the industry.

She dives into a particular instance that reminded her why she works for most of the year to produce a single event.

“One year, it was our first year giving out youth buckles, and it was at the very end of the whole event. I didn’t want to deal with all the results. I figured I’d post them later. At the end of the event, a producer has to clean; their crew is tired, they have to take down banners. A lot of times, they have to clean up the facility. You know, they’re not necessarily gonna do all results right away because, for the most part, people aren’t sticking around. I looked outside and there were a couple of people waiting, and they said were waiting on the youth results. And at this point, this was like the last thing I wanted to do. But I was like, okay, I’ll get them done. I did the youth results quickly, and I went to go post them.

It turns out, it was this girl’s first buckle that she had ever won. It was in her hometown. Her dad, her grandma, her siblings, her mom had all come to watch her and they were all there. So they were waiting to see the results so they could see where she placed to get the buckle. And it was a big deal for them.”

Kayla Jones

So, what have we learned today?

Producing barrel races isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, but there are many hardworking individuals and groups that make this sport amazing—from your favorite Tuesday night jackpot down the road, to the biggest races of the year. They’re out there grinding all year long to give athletes somewhere to run, and most genuinely want to make it an enjoyable experience.

As for the producers that don’t fall into that category…well, that’s another article for another day.