RODEO GIRLS Is bikini barrel racing a real thing?

Rodeo Girls bikini barrel racing

A&E’s new reality series Rodeo Girls clearly believes in the motto “If you’ve got it, flaunt it” as its cast of five easy-on-the-eyes barrel racers have clearly “got it” in the form of barrel racing skills and sex appeal — both of which were clearly flaunted in the third episode titled “Bikinis or Bust” featuring a few of the gals participating in a bikini barrel racing event in hopes of taking home a $5,000 custom saddle.

Rodeo Girls Barb West and Darcy LaPier bikini barrel racing
^ Barb West (left) and Darcy LaPier get pumped in ten-gallon hats and quarter-gallon swimsuits on “Bikinis or Bust”

So, is “bikini barrel racing” a real thing? Or was it just some sort of one-time event staged by A&E as a reason to get their sexy stars riding horseback in bikinis? I did some research (blogging ain’t all bad y’all!) and found that bikini barrel racing is indeed a real thing and has been around for years.

As mentioned in the Rodeo Girls episode as the announcer introduces the race, the event was the third annual bikini barrel race hosted by the Red Bluff Round-Up in Red Bluff, California. The event featured on Rodeo Girls took place in April, 2013 and they’re already signing people up for the 2014 bikini barrel racing event!

Red Bluff Rodeo Round-Up Bikini Barrel Race 2014

According to the online program from the event, there were 20 entrants in the 2013 bikini barrel race, but strangely, neither Darcy LaPier, Barb West, or Jessica Holmberg (the three Rodeo Girls cast members shown participating in the episode) were on the list. My guess is that the gals weren’t officially in the competition but did do the race for the sake of the cameras. (You can clearly see there are people in the stands during their runs.)

Rodeo Girls‘ Marvel Murphy, who did not participate in the race, shared the promotional poster for the 2014 bikini barrel race on her and Ty’s Facebook page and wrote, “Personally, not my style!… But PROPS to ALL who DARE enter!!” The post drew a few negative comments and the winner of the 2013 Red Bluff Round-Up Bikini Barrel Race, Jandee Smart, demonstrated that she deserves her surname with this response:

I’m not sure what gives people the liberty to define who a barrel racer is, what she can or can’t do, or even deem them as “not classy,” for a reason as menial as this. This sport has such a variety of participants from young and old, novice to expert and everything in between. As for ‘bikini barrel racing’ it is not like we wake up in the morning saying dang I can’t wait to throw on a bikini in the freezing cold in front of an audience, and this year a television crew. Its not that easy, it takes guts and courage and maybe a beer, or two, beforehand. This race in particular was not to raise money for breast cancer, most are, but rather is put on by the Red Bluff Rodeo Committee to raise money to back into funding for us girls and guys entered. Seems like a pretty dang good event to support. Not to mention, that to win it means money in the pocket. Isn’t that why we enter, to win money. And one more thing, this year’s race was particularly special because we had a friend who just finished battling breast cancer, and she competed that night in a bikini because she is a strong beautiful woman. There is nothing as classy as that folks.

And on a personal note, I entered this race as motivation to lose the weight I gained pregnant, I weighed 210 lbs on June 22 2012, and on April 15, 2013, I looked pretty damn good and I was proud to show the hard work. Again, strong beautiful woman=class.

Rodeo Girls Jessica Holmberg bikini barrel racing
^ Jessica Holmberg looking barrel racy!

In an article about the event on, a commenter named Paula argued against the concept by writing:

What a shame. I know some pretty awesome barrel racing women and their skills would make you watch them. They don’t have to do it naked. This is as sad as back in the 1940s when there were female baseball teams with women who had mad baseball skills but had to dress like floozies (for the period) to draw attention. I was kind of hoping we’d improved by now.

Another commenter named Jessy responded in defense of bikini barrel racing:

i think that if a girl wants to run barrels in a bikini for fun, then good for her. it looks like a good way to spruce things up and get the girls to just have fun. i know plenty of barrel racers that could use a little lightening up in the rodeo ring, and i think that is what they were going for with this idea.

Rodeo Girls Barb West bikini barrel racing

But this post isn’t really about the right or wrong of bikini barrel racing, but the fact (or myth) that they exist. In addition to the Red Bluff bikini barrel race, there are also others including the Las Vegas Hot Summer Night Bikini Barrel Race (that event’s wonderful promotional art is below) and there’s also an annual bikini barrel racing event held in Belen, New Mexico. (Or at least there used to be — click the link to see photos from the 2011 event.) Usually the races are held to raise funds for charity, most often for breast cancer research and awareness.

The earliest example of a bikini barrel race that I could find, although of course this doesn’t mean there weren’t tons prior, is this video from the Barrelnanza 2008 bikini barrel racing event in Waco, Texas:

So yes, barrel racing is a real thing, and my guess is that after the Rodeo Girls episode it is a real thing that we will be seeing a lot more of at rodeos across the country. Now we just need a dedicated masculine body admiring blogger to research the history of topless male bull riding! Perhaps A&E will introduce it to us in their new reality series Rodeo Boys? 😉

Rodeo Girls bikini barrel racing poster

New episodes of Rodeo Girls air Thursday nights at 10/9c on A&E.

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