Lance Graves knows a thing or two about barrel racing. Long before his annual production of the Lance Graves International Barrel Racing Championships, he qualified for his first Old Fort Days Futurity and Super Derby finals before the tender age of 10 and has gone on to amass numerous barrel racing championships over the last four decades. But if you ask Graves what he loves most about his sport—if you ask him what he hopes the industry will say about him someday when he leaves this world behind—it’s not the trophies, the titles or the championships that matter to him the most. He hopes, instead, that his passion for cultivating the next generation of barrel racers will be his legacy.
It was from this desire to inspire, encourage and equip the industry’s next generation that Graves’ LG Legacy Project was born.
“I’ve been around for the whole evolution of this industry,” Graves shared. “What I noticed was that there were no longer people who were taking young people and teaching them how to train a horse. The divisional barrel races have gotten so huge—a lot of people are going out and buying finished horses for their youngsters. I’m not saying anything bad about that, but there isn’t a process of anyone teaching young people how to train. That leaves a big gap, and there’s going to be a problem in about 30 years when we all die of old age.”
The LG Legacy Project seeks to bridge that gap and prepare the industry’s next generation of professionals. The program is open to teenagers and young adults ages 14–19. Enrollment opens annually, and participants are chosen through an application process. Upon acceptance, each participant is paired with a racehorse that has been generously donated by one of Graves’ partnering farms. They receive the support of some of the industry’s best—Mark Bugni, Steve Orth, Liana DeWeese, Cody Hollingsworth and Mary Beth Ogle are among the participating mentors. At the end of the program, each participant gets to keep both their LG Legacy Project horse and the wealth of knowledge they’ve gleaned from their experiences.
“We do in-person training and Zoom meetings,” Graves explained. “We try to touch on everything they’re going to need for their career. We talk to trainers, nutritionists and veterinarians. Everyone is on the same page about what we are trying to accomplish—we want to create young people who are knowledgeable and ethical. We are big on ethics.”
The self-proclaimed girl dad also wants to make sure that young women in the industry never feel limited by their gender.
“The first three years [of the LG Legacy Project], we only had female participants,” Graves said. “We had interviews with female racetrack veterinarians and female racehorse trainers. We really try to show the girls that they’re not limited by anything. We want to tell them, ‘You can do any part of this that you want to do.’”
DaCota Monk Wins LGI Barrel Racing Championships Futurity
When Graves produced the first annual Lance Graves Pro Classic—which later became the Lance Graves International Barrel Racing Championships—in 2006, his goal was to give back to the industry that has given him so much.
“There was a time in our industry when we didn’t have a lot of producers or a lot of events,” Graves shared. “I knew if we didn’t take care of ourselves and our own, there wasn’t going to be anything for us to enjoy in the future.”
Since its inception, the LGI has become a favorite for amateur and professional barrel racers alike. But this year, the event served a dual purpose—100% of the funds raised were invested back into the LG Legacy Project.
As they have in years past, a tough field of futurity competitors gathered at Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma, from June 2–5 to take their shot at an LGI Futurity win. When all the runs had been made, it was Emory, Texas, trainer DaCota Monk and 4-year-old mare Sheza French Streak who emerged at the top. The pair made a solid showing, finishing second in both rounds with a 15.894 and a 16.068, respectively. They also topped the average with a 15.981 for earnings of $4,197.
“The first run, she went in there and worked. She always goes in and does her job, but I felt more confident in her after Fort Smith, so I sent her in pretty hard and she smoked all three barrels—they were really tight. I planned on playing it safe the second run, but then Ryann Pedone was probably the only one who could have taken the average from me, and she ran a 15.833 right before me, so I knew I had to be fast,” Monk said with a laugh. “At that point, I was like, ‘Well, we aren’t going for clean. We’re going for the round.'”
Monk, who has had “Tiny” in training since her 2-year-old year, says the mare always displayed a natural talent for the barrels.
“I knew early she had something special,” Monk said. “She is just one of those horses. She’s not very big, but she’s got a long stride and a long back, and her turns are just wicked.”
Despite the mare’s natural talent, it has taken time for her to develop the confidence at shows that she’s needed to perform to her potential.
“She’s always had heart and grit. That’s something you can just feel if you know a horse,” Monk explained. “But I really had to help her with her confidence throughout the year. Once she got the confidence—about the time we got to Fort Smith—I knew I could call on her.”
Monk thanks owners Josey and Chance Armstrong; his wife, daughter and sister for doing the grunt work at home; and sponsors Equilume, MVP, Double Veterinary Services, Wild Gold Omega 3 Camelina Oil Equine Pet and Human, JW Brooks Custom Hat Company, Longhorn Arena and Event Center, P&P’s Custom, LS Performance Horses, Dunn Ranch, Aaron Lohmann, CJF and Dr. Don Lee, DVM.
Lance Graves International Barrel Racing Championships Futurity Winners
- First Go 1D: David Brown on Kiss My Happy Hips, 15.875, $1,436; 2D: Kendal Makovy on Jesstreakinontherez, 16.909, $378
- Second Go 1D: Ryann Pedone on HP Famous Fiesta, 15.833, $1,450; 2D: Rachel Lenson on Worththewait, 17.447, $392
- Average 1D: DaCota Monk on Sheza French Streak, 15.981, $1,915
For complete results, visit twistedsistersproductions.com.