Get Ready for Jackpot Barrel Racing Events

“It’s great to see this facility being used,” was a common statement expressed at the first event for Varian Equestrian Center in Arroyo Grande, CA. CCBRA (Central Coast Barrel Racing Association) hosted a barrel racing “time only” event in the new sandlot arena on Sunday, February 11, 2024. A new era has opened at Varian Equestrian Center.


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Barrel Racing Events at Varian Equestrian Center – The First One

The day was perfect: Sunshine lit up the green hills surrounding the new Varian Equestrian Center arena off Corbett Canyon in Arroyo Grande. Horses warmed up next to the arena while bands of young horses grazed the nearby hill sides. Yellow flowers bursting from the roadside foliage added a hint of spring to the warm temperature, the clear sky and the horse activity. Country Western music added ambiance to the fresh new beginning of a new era at Varian Equestrian Center.

Horse and rider pairs were using the opportunity to school new horses, calm excited horses, get experience for new pairs, and get the engines revving on seasoned horses. All this was accomplished while enjoying the camaraderie of the barrel racing community.

Varian Equestrian Center was bustling in a way it never has before.

The New Sandlot Arena – Great for Barrel Racing

The new sandlot arena is one of the many upgrades made to the boarding facility. After breaking ground in October 2023 to grade the area, the arena pipe railings were up for the November 12, 2023 Grand Opening open house. Since then, more work has gone into the footing including de-rocking it and a Blackwidow Arena Groomer is used to make those beautiful furrows.

The sandlot arena has been designed with barrel racing events in mind. “The arena will hold a standard pattern,” relates Sophie Arkell, the resident barrel racer. A pattern is based on the distance between the barrels.

Central Coast Barrel Racing Association

Sophie, in answer to a lack of barrel racing events in SLO South County, started Central Coast Barrel Racing Association. The planned barrel racing events at Varian Equestrian Center will be run through this club. “Anyone can come to a “time only” and do a run,” Sophie explains. At a time only, as the name implies, all a horse rider team gets is – a time. However, Sophie plans on running “Jackpots” once or twice a month. Jackpot Barrel Racing events pay out based on a horse/rider pairs time going around the barrels.

“It’s great to have a barrel racing event location in South County,” expressed a participant in the first “time only” event held at Varian Equestrian Center in Arroyo Grande.

Jackpot Barrel Racing Events at Varian Equestrian Center

A jackpot is a divisional race with more added money. In a divisional race the payout goes to four or six divisions.

How to Enter the Jackpot

Jackpot events entries will be managed by Saddlebook, an on-line horse event manager.  Each entrant will receive a draw number. This determines the order of the entrant’s run. The Saddlebook program keeps tabs on the standings throughout the day. This allows an entrant to track his or her standing on the leaderboard.

Sometimes entrants come just for the one run in the Jackpot and head home. For more riding fun, there will also be time in the morning, before the first run of the Jackpot, to do some “time only” runs for a minimal fee per run.

To stay informed of upcoming Jackpot events at Varian Equestrian Center follow the CCBRA Facebook CCBRA or Instagram CCBRA_SLO  pages.

Any Other Uses for the New Sandlot Arena?

After getting a few “time only” events under the belt, VEC will start Jackpots. Eventually, these could lead to a series. Perhaps this could open up the opportunity to host Gymkhana events as the footing needs are similar. For now, however, the focus is on barrel racing events.


Photo credit: Sharon Jantzen Photos

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