You’ve spent all year training, planning and hauling, and now the checks are signed, entry forms completed and envelopes stamped and in the mail. Making the decision to enter a horse in the big year-end barrel futurities can seem both exciting and daunting, especially if you’re new to the futurity world. Whether you’re preparing to head to Guthrie for the Barrel Futurities of America World Championships, the Oklahoma City Futurity in December, or just already thinking about nominating a hopeful for next year, these four top futurity trainers share their barrel futurity prep tips to help you avoid common pitfalls at the events and provide some insight for the process of training and campaigning your futurity horse.

Don’t Ask for Too Much at the Futurity

DaCota Monk and Famous Lemon Drop
DaCota Monk is a futurity trainer based in Point, Texas. He’s trained multiple winners, including 2021 standout BS Born Ta Cash and 2020 star Famous Lemon Drop (pictured), who is now heading to the 2021 Wrangler NFR with Stevi Hillman. Photo by Kenneth Springer

“I think the mistake people make with the juvenile [at the Barrel Futurities of America, eligible to 3-year-olds beginning their 4-year-old futurity year] is watching the top horses and then getting there and going to the practice pen or exhibitions and changing your program up as far as getting those babies prepared to do that. You either have the horse that’s going to go in there and place in the 1D, or you don’t. And if you don’t, don’t try to make it that weekend. Don’t make that horse try to go out of its comfort zone just because you’re watching other horses go so fast. To me, you just go in there and make your own run— whatever that horse is comfortable making.”

-DaCota Monk

Don’t Overthink It, and Get a Tack Stall!

Kelsey Lutjen-Treharne headshot
Kelsey Treharne is a multiple futurity champion and $1 million rider. She’s trained champions such as Ivy Saebens’ KN Fabs Gift Of Fame (“J-Lo”) and won major titles such as the Old Fort Days Futurity Championship. Photo by Kailey Sullins

“I used to get super nervous going to big stuff, but we are all there trying to accomplish the same thing with colts. Just be prepared, trust in your training and don’t overthink it, because that’s easy to do. When I go to exhibition at the futurities, I don’t like to go slow. I’ll let them cruise through, because when I do go slow, that gives horses a lot to look at, and I feel like they’re spookier when I go to make a run because maybe they saw this person or that banner in the stands when they went slow in exhibitions. Especially at Oklahoma City, I will always run my horses hard out of the gate in exhibitions, because I’ve had so many that don’t want to run back out that alleyway and then they quit running at the timer. Also, definitely get a tack stall. At the BFA when I went for the first time, I was like well I only have a horse or two, so I’ll just pack it over. OK well, I found out you should buy a tack stall!”

Kelsey Lutjen-Treharne

Put in the Work and Success Will Come Naturally

Craig Brooks turning a barrel
Craig Brooks is a Georgia-based futurity trainer and multiple American qualifier with stars such as Grandiose Guy (pictured). He’s won more than $1 million and multiple futurity and open championships. Photo by Kenneth Springer

“Work—I really think it’s what you put in and what you put out. You have to catch breaks for sure, but the only way to catch breaks is working. You have to want it and you have to put the work in. It doesn’t always work out, but I think if you put the work in eventually the odds have to be in your favor. Then, you just have to get horsepower underneath of you. There’s no way around it, but you have to make the best of what you have until you get horsepower. As time goes on and you build knowledge from screwing up plenty, which I did and then some, then you get better owners and you get better pedigrees.”

-Craig Brooks

Stick With It and Ask Questions

Brandon Cullins standing with horse
Brandon Cullins is a $1 million rider and the only person to win the Juvenile, Derby and Futurity the same year at the BFA World Championships, doing so in 2017. He’s trained horses such as all-time leading futurity stallion RR Mistakelly and multiple American qualifer and NFR mount VQ Sucker Punch. Photo by Kailey Sullins

“I started going to Oklahoma City [for the BFA] in 2007, and the first year I got a check was 2012. I went a long time without making money. Keep going as much as you can, get exposed to as much as you can and talk to as many people as you can. When I first started going, I did a lot of watching the warmup pens. That was a good and bad thing—I was shy and didn’t want to talk to anybody or bother anybody, but I’d watch what they were doing and had no clue why there were doing it, so then I’d try it myself. It worked here and there, but a lot of times it got me into trouble. If you see somebody doing something interesting, ask them why they’re doing it and find the theories behind it, because that’ll help you develop a style.”

Brandon Cullins

Blanche Schaefer is an avid barrel racer and managing editor of Barrel Horse News. Email comments or questions to [email protected]

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