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All Horses | Gymkhana | Indiana Flag Race

Updated on August 30, 2017

Grab and go.

The flag race is a fun event for all ages. Combining horse speed and rider skill, it is a popular gymkhana (also called contesting or speed show) class.

In this region, we run a pattern known as the Indiana Flag Race. More information below.

Check out "jweeks7" and Max flying through a great run!

Indiana Flag Race pattern

In our area, we run a variation of the gymkhana (also called contesting, or speed show) class known as the flag race. To properly complete the Indiana Flag Race pattern, you indicate to the ring steward which side (right or left) you want to start on, and the steward places the "flag" (generally just a wooden dowel with orange tape on one end) in the bucket for you.

Each bucket contains a small amount of sand in the bottom, and it is placed on top of a barrel. There are three barrels in all, and the triangular pattern looks like the typical cloverleaf barrel racing form. However, you must pass each barrel on the "outside" of the triangle, picking up the flag at the first barrel and depositing it into a bucket at the third barrel.

Any stopping, leaving the course pattern, striking your horse with the flag, dropping the flag or the failure to pick up the flag on the first try or properly deposit the flag into the third barrel, is cause for disqualification.

Indiana Flag Race video

This is my old, fat, gaited trail horse who loves to chase barrels on the weekends. We just run for fun. :)

A flag race by any other name

The pattern followed by the Indiana Flag Race guidelines is not the same as the Flag Race in other regions of the USA and the world.

At least one reply references this popular version: A flag is placed in a gallon can of sand and centered on a barrel on the turn line. Contestants race around barrel, pick up the flag and race to the finish line with the flag in hand.

Another pattern: Two barrels are set near each side of the arena, 20+ feet from fence. Contestants run to the left barrel and put a baton into a bucket, then run to the right barrel and grab baton from a bucket, and run back across the line.

This one too: First barrel is centered in the lane 30 feet from start/finish line, second barrel on the turn line. A colored flag is placed in each barrel. Contestant runs to first barrel, picks up flag and runs to the second barrel, deposits the first flag and picks up the second flag while turning the barrel. Rider then deposits second flag in the first barrel on the way to the finish line. Rider must keep barrels to either right or left at all times.

Be sure to check with the judge before you compete so you know exactly what to do!


Which one is the most tricky?

Looks so easy ...

Time and time again, I've rewatched my videos and wondered,


There are several reasons why a flag might not stay put.

The amount of sand in the bottom of the bucket can affect whether or not it stays. The amount of force you use when placing the flag in the bucket can make it stick OR make it bounce out. Not enough force, and the flag might bump the edge of the bucket and teeter then fall to the ground.

Knowing how much sand is in that bucket is key to knowing whether to simply drop the flag in or to try to thrust it deep into the sand, and you usually don't find out until it's too late.

More flag racing videos

Flag Race: Fun for everyone!

When it comes to the flag race, you don't always have to be on the fastest horse to win.

Many times people who slowly cantered the course, or even trotted, and took time to ensure that the flag didn't bounce out, have placed in the ribbons due to faster contestants disqualifying.

Check it out at your next open show, even if you're used to only showing in pleasure classes. You'll be glad you did!


Where you compete, is the flag race pattern totally different? I'd like to hear about it!

Do your local speed shows include the Indiana Flag Race?

scratching an itchy spot between runs

scratching an itchy spot between runs
scratching an itchy spot between runs

Read up on training the speed horse

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