Pole Bending: An Exciting Rodeo Sport

Pole bending is a really intense and exciting sport that is most commonly seen at gymkhanas and rodeos. Women and girls are the ones to mainly compete in this sport, but some men and boys do pole bending at a lower level of competition. These horses and riders learn to turn through and weave around poles at really fast speeds.

What Is Pole Bending?

Pole bending is a fast intense rodeo sport that is competed in at all different levels. In this sport, horses and riders are required to weave in between poles at a fast speed as this is a timed sport. The fastest horse and rider to complete the pattern without knocking over any of the poles is the winner!

Where Did This Sport Originate?

Pole Bending is a sport that likely started in the United States of America. The Nez Perce Native Americans are the first people to create a sport that is similar to that of pole bending. Their version of this sport is called a stake race. Two lines of poles are put into the ground and two horses and riders are required to race through them in a weaving snake-like pattern.

It is believed that children and teenagers also would do these races for fun.

What Is Expected Of The Horse?

In pole bending, horses are required to travel at fast speeds and weave quickly in between poles without knocking any of them over.

Horses need to be incredibly agile, stable, and aware of their movements to be able to perform such turns at such a fast speed. This means that not only do pole bending horses need to be fast, but they also need to be flexible and light on their feet.

Do These Horses Like Their Job?

Yes! Most pole bending horses really like their job. The high intensity of their work and the quick manuvers and turns that the horse is expeted to do is really fun and exciting to both the horse and their rider.

Horses like to have jobs and having a job as quick, intense, and exciting as this makes pole bending really fun for most horses who run this sport.

Is Pole Bending Dangerous?

Yes! Pole bending is an incredibly dangerous sport. This is because the horse is turning and weaving so quickly at top speed, the riders rarely wear any protective gear, and accidents are nor a rare occurence.

Horses are known to fall, roll over, trip, and stumble when performing the crazy footwoork needed to weave between poles at top speed. Because the center of balance on the horse is changing so much, some riders have been known to lose their stirrups or their seat and come out of the saddle.

The pressure put on the horse’s legs can cause injuries such as torn suspensory ligaments and bowed tendons. This intense sport is dangerous for both horses and riders.

Pole Bending Pattern

The pole bending pattern is actually quite a simple pattern. For the most part it is just a weaving stake-like pattern that goes aorund 6 poles.

The pattern for pole bending is the same no matter where you go. This way times can easily be compared with each other and records are easier to keep track of.

The pole bending pattern consists of 6 poles all spaced evenly at 21 feet apart. Riders will guide their horses through this pattern as fast as possible without knocking over any poles.

Below is a diagram of the pattern for pole bending seen at every single pole bending event:

World Record Pole Bending Time

The world record holder for the fastest time to complete the pole bending pattern was done by a girl named Emily Miller in 2009. She and her horse reorded a remarkable time of 19.579 seconds.

Are There Penalties In This Sport?

Yes there are penalties in pole bending just as there is in most other sports. Penalties are given to riders and horses if they dfo things like knock over a pole, or do something else considered illegan in the sport of pole bending.

If you knock over a pole in pole bending, five additional seconds are added to your time, if you miss a pole and don’t weave in between one of the poles, ten soconds are added to your time.

What Do The Riders In This Sport Wear?


Because pole bending is a western sport, most pole bending competitors are seen wearing cowboy hats before, during, and after their runs.


Boots with a good heel are a must when bending poles. The last thing you want to happen is to have your foot stuck in the stirrup, fall, and get dragged through the arena. Wearing a good sturdy pair of western cowboy boots with a heel will keep this from happening.


Not all riders in pole bending will wear spurs at it depends on the horse. If a horse requires spurs, then spurs will be used when strapped to the rider’s boots. Some horses need the rider to use spurs to drive the horse forward faster, while other horses don;t require the extra encouragement to run.


Any shirt is acceptable to wear when pole bending. T-shirts and button up flannels are the most common shirts to see being worn by a rider in this competition.


Boot cut jeans are a pole bending competitors best friend when it comes to clothing. Boot cut jeans cover the top part of the rider’s boot and are relatively comfortable to wear.

Tack Used In Pole Bending

Barrel Saddle

A barrel saddle is a western saddle that is specifically designed for the barrel racer. A barrel saddle will have a high pommel and high cantle to help keep the rider in the saddle when rounding such tight bends. The reson these sadd;es are the most commonly used in this sport is because the high cantle and pommel will helo to hold the rider in place when they are weaving and turning so quickly.

Saddle Pads

Sometimes colorful western saddle pads are used in pole bending to give the horse a more bright colorful appearance. Sometimes, riders will intentionally match their tack with their other riding equipment and tack for the soul purpose of catching the eye of the crodn and put on a show.

Flashy Breast Collar

It is common to see a rider having a flashy breast color on their horse in rodeo competitions such as these. Flashy breast colors can come in nearly any color and can be adorned by tassels or siiver.

Flashy Bridle

Sometimes a rider’s bridle will match their breast color. Other times, it is possible that the bridle might have the same pattern as certain equipment used on the horse such as on the saddle, but more commonly the breast collar. I actually own a matching breast color and bridle that are adorned both with the same silver studs. The two go great together.

Hailey Sipila

Horses have been my passion ever since I can remember. At school, I was known as that weird horse girl, and I would read horse encyclopedias for fun. Over the years since those days, I have only learned more. My experiences with horses of a variety of breeds have taught me a lot. Now I want to share what I know with you!

Recent Posts