Those who follow the barrel futurity industry are no stranger to the name Molly Otto. The Grand Forks, North Dakota-based horse trainer is a multiple futurity champion, and has had great success in the open divisional races, and recently has made herself known in the rodeo world. She worked into the No. 15 spot of the 2021 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world standings and is now preparing for her first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Read more —> How Molly Otto Became a Professional Barrel Racer
She’s got two standout horses on the trailer owned by her friend and longtime client, Katie Lindahl. Teasin Dat Guy (“Chewy”), a 5-year-old mare by Frenchmans Guy and out of Teasin Jetolena by Blazin Jetolena, won the 2020 OKC Futurity with Otto and did the lion’s share of winning for her on the pro rodeo trail. Otto also has 8-year-old gelding Sixappeal (More Nachos x Sit It Up x Tres Seis) back in business after the gelding had kissing spine surgery this summer, and it’s a good thing because “Jimmy” has been very successful in small pens as the 2020 Better Barrel Races World Finals champion and multiple round-winner on the 13-second pattern of The American Semifinals.
Barrel Horse News visited with Otto about her 2021 season and this pivotal first NFR qualification.
Barrel Horse News: So the last couple times I talked to you was right after you won the OKC Futurity in December and then the Better Barrel Races World Finals this spring. Tell me what happened after that with your plans and what you and Katie decided for this year.
Molly Otto: “Katie had asked me if I wanted to rodeo, and I said that I would ‘go to some rodeos,’ ha. I have colts for next year and I’m not going to send everything home and just go out there and rodeo, because there’s zero guarantees in any of that and I’m on a young horse. So I said I’ll enter some rodeos and just see how it goes, and if it’s going alright, I’ll keep going and if it’s not working out, I’m not going to go broke trying to make something happen. We figured by July we would have an idea if anything was going to happen. So basically after Oklahoma City in December, I went down to Texas for the winter to ride my colts and haul them, and I entered some rodeos while I was down there and got my horses ready for The American. I decided last-minute to go out to the Florida rodeos right after The American. When I entered those, I just thought I was probably going to turn out. I didn’t think I would actually drive there! So I went out there, and Chewy placed at rodeos out there and on our way back to Texas, and that’s when I thought she actually could make a rodeo horse. She showed up, did her job, was able to clock. There’s still a lot of tough girls that went out that way and she won checks, and so we were excited and thought we’ll keep entering more.”
At what point in the year did the Finals truly become a reality for you guys?
Otto: “I just remember saying, ‘If I don’t win anything over the Fourth, it’s probably not going to happen.’ I think I was sitting in the top 30 right before the Fourth. I actually couldn’t run her the whole month of May, because I had someone shoe her when I was down in Texas. It got her angles off, and she wasn’t turning the first. It was right before BBR World Finals. Once I realized it was her feet, we decided after BBR Finals to send her home. She went swimming and had some time off, let her feet grow so we could fix them up and get her feeling better again. I dropped down in the standings, because I didn’t go. She won a bunch over the Fourth and I jumped up into the top 20 I think, and I thought I might have a shot at this. I’m not that far out of it, and I’ve just got to keep going.”
What about Chewy made her excel at the rodeos?
Otto: “For the most part, she got stronger every run. I felt like every weekend, she would just get stronger and better. She handled pretty much every type of setup, as far as big pens, little pens, indoors, outdoors, any type of setups. I think she likes the crowd. She did really handle a lot of pressure. If anybody cracked under pressure, it was me!”
As someone who trains and futurities a lot, was the NFR ever a dream for you, or did it become one as you went along?
Otto: “Ultimately, it was probably my one life dream was to make the Finals, but I constantly thought it was never going to happen because I’m always riding colts, or I sell all my good horses whenever they’re seasoned and ready. I didn’t really think it would happen, especially on a 5-year-old. I thought maybe later in life one day when my kids were older. Everybody always was like, ‘Oh, you’ve got to have so much money saved up to go rodeo and you’ve got to have all this stuff,’ and I’m thinking like, I am a poor horse trainer, how do people save up money, then take that money and spend it on RODEO?! It sounded insane. I thought I’ll go if I can win enough to pay my way. I’m not going to go broke doing this, because I still have regular bills and a family.”
Now that you have accomplished that goal and you said it was your life dream, what are some things you would tell your your younger self who is wanting to make the NFR someday?
Otto: “The one thing I’ve learned along the way, in my whole life, is that when it’s your time, there’s nothing that’s going to stop it from happening, and if that’s God’s plan for you, it’s going to happen and there’s nothing you can do to make it happen. God has perfect timing. All you have to do is just show up and do your best.”
Did you have a favorite win this year?
Otto: “Well, probably the first rodeo I won. That was really exciting for me; I couldn’t believe that I actually won a rodeo, which was in Cortez, Colorado. And then I won Eagle Mountain the next day, so that was really exciting too. And probably Deadwood, because that was one of our biggest rodeos in our circuit, and it’s an exciting rodeo to be at, to win. Chewy won 11 rodeos this year, and they were all exciting!”
What was the hardest part about rodeoing?
Otto: “I feel like missing my family and being alone most of the time, and the guilt of missing out on a lot of things with my kids was probably the hardest thing to deal with on the road, especially when things weren’t going great. It just magnified all of that. Being on the road was mentally and physically exhausting, trying to make the best decisions for my horse and trying to stay positive when things weren’t going good. I think the only reason I was able to make it through was my faith and the support and constant pushing of my husband to keep going. Everyone sees all of the good things and winning runs on Facebook, which makes it look like a walk in the park, but they don’t see all the other runs that didn’t win anything, or all of the things that went wrong. Living on the road wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. There were things that were amazing but also this lifestyle is incredibly hard.”
What means the most to you about having this qualification?
Otto: “I feel like the horses that I have right now that I’m running; it’s not about me, it feels like they deserve to be there. I’m excited to show everybody these horses. I feel like God gave this platform to me, so I’m just going to use it the best that I can.”