Pole bending is an exciting competition in which a horse and rider zig-zags through a line of six poles, racing against the clock. It's a popular event at rodeos, gymkhanas and shows sanctioned by national associations such as the American Paint Horse Association, American Quarter Horse Association, Appaloosa Horse Club, National Barrel Horse Association and 4-H.
The pattern for pole bending is exact. The six poles are 21 feet apart, with the first one 21 feet from the starting line. Poles are six feet high, with a base of 14 inches (or less) in diameter.
As in barrel racing, the sport calls for precise teamwork between horse and rider. Some riders will use an approach like slalom skiers, following an almost straight path that narrowly avoids the poles. Others employ a side-pass maneuver, in which the horse is asked to sidestep while at a full run.
It's not easy to execute this pattern at speed without tipping over a pole, which makes it an entertaining sport for riders and spectators.
For more information, contact the Pole Bending Association.