Trainer Samantha Flannery noticed an untapped well in the futurity industry—the options for quality help for the average person training their own futurity horse. She combined her passion for helping people and training horses to create her unique Understanding the Feel clinics in 2020.

“They’re designed to help people train their own futurity horses, and they’re very basic clinics of teaching horses and riders simple drills to learn the footwork of going around the barrel,” Flannery said. “They’re not problem-solving clinics at all. We never even lope the pattern. While we’re teaching the horse, we are teaching the rider how to feel for the correct foot placement and the correct feel of what we want.”

The goal of Flannery’s clinics are to help riders grasp a deeper understanding of horsemanship and lay the foundation for correct footwork around the barrel. She sees many problems with the horse improve simply by educating the rider on how to feel for the correct response.

“I love when I’m watching somebody and it starts to look really good to me, like that’s right where you want your horse, and I always ask ‘OK how did that feel?’ And they’re so happy, like ‘Oh my gosh, that felt great!’” Flannery said. “I love when it really looks good to me and when it really feels good to them. Feel is hard to teach—a person has to feel it before they ever understand it. I love the little tweaking we can do with somebody, just little horsemanship things that can change so much.”

Flannery says most traditional barrel racing clinics aren’t set up to help people navigate through the struggles riders experience when working with colts.

“A lot of people are clinic junkies, and I am not one of those people,” Flannery said. “A lot of them will show up and try to tell everybody their problems and then make a run and have their problems pointed out to them and fixed—we don’t do that. There’s no running. We’re working with fresh horses that have zero problems.”

Sam Flannery turns the second barrel
Samantha Flannery is a multiple futurity champion and trainer based out of South Dakota. She’s pictured here winning the 2021 VGBRA Barrel Daze Futurity and Breeders Challenge qualifier futurity aboard Promise Me Fame Guys (“Levee”), a 2016 gelding by Aint Seen Nothin Yet and out of Bar Blue Lass by FC Aboo. Photo by Bill Lawless

She hopes that opening up these learning opportunities will encourage more amateur riders to try futurities, help grow the futurity industry and promote the benefits of putting young horses on the futurity track.

“I enjoy training my own—I don’t necessarily love training for others, so I have no problem teaching others. You guys can all do it yourself. For getting started, there’s excellent amateur side-pots and most futurities have a 2D sidepot,” Flannery said.

“I’m all for promoting the futurity horse or training your own horse. Everybody should do it anyway; it teaches you to be a better rider in the long run. I really think the futurity horse, no matter where or who it comes from, has been given such a background. You’ve taught them how to haul, stand in stalls for several days, eat and drink on the road, run against the toughest competition out there. These futurity horses have had it all thrown at them. They go on to be great horses.”

Information on Samantha Flannery’s clinics can be found on Flannery Barrel Horses Facebook page.

This article was originally published in the November 2020 issue of Barrel Horse News as part of the Expanded Futurity Round-Up. Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.


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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