Rhen Richard was 2022’s Head Horse Master at the rope horse futurities, having won $126,044 at the three Royal Crown events alone. He’s been pinging the barrier and getting his rope around the horns fast on horses like Chics Magic Corona, Hankies Version and Rubys Rollin. His horses let him get out front flat and quick, ready to throw when the steer is in range. Plus, he won California Rodeo Salinas in 2022 on one of his futurity horses—home-raised Rubys Rollin by Reys Smokin Dually out of Rollin by Brookstone Bay—proving that this training holds up in the most grueling setups in the sport.
1) I want my horses mentally thinking about me rather than what’s going on in the arena, in the stands, in the chute or anywhere else. I’d like to be able to back in the box and pull on one—I feel like I can rope better when I can pull in the box to help me get to the front. But the futurity horses, I can take ahold of most everything in the box and they’ll get on.
2) I’m trying to see all of the start and make sure they’re blowing when I drop my hand. I don’t want to be pulling across the line. Most of these futurity setups are full-contact enough on a young horse that you need to be catching up to the cow and not floating. Usually a 4- to 6-year-old, the gates bang and they want to go. I try to get them listening to my hand and not the gate.
3) I don’t want my head horses so soft in the face that they’re moving all the time. I want them to take the pull when I take ahold of the bridle reins. When I’m warming up, I’ll put my legs on them and hold them and push them up in the bridle, recreating what I want to feel from them in the corner. I want them mentally thinking it’s okay to lift their shoulders up and get in my hand. I don’t mind a horse tucking his nose, but I want him tucking his chin, not breaking at the withers down. I want his hips under him. The way I want one in the corner is how I want one leaving the box—driving with his hind end and his shoulders up. If I don’t feel him up in my hand, then I’ll put my legs on him, almost like a security blanket. When I put my feet on him, he can let his air out. That was that horse’s first show, so I was making sure he was listening to me.
4) In this picture you can tell I’m holding the horn, and my horse’s ears are forward. That’s a sign to me that, mentally, I’ve got him where I want him. His ears aren’t moving, and he’s not moving his head. He’s thinking about my left hand, and that’s it. Even when I start one at home, I want to have their ears forward with their brains working.
If my horse has his head turned looking at the cow, that’s fine. I don’t want him looking left, because he’s trying to get away. If my horse backs up, I’ll back him up, letting him look at the cow. But, as I hit the box, I’ll take that hold and he’ll straighten up. But, if you see that picture, the way I’m holding the reins and where my shoulders are pointed, that horse is the extension of me, with his body and head pointed the same direction as my shoulders.
5) I don’t love that I’m kicking this hard, but that’s this horse’s first show, and I’ve been riding him at 3/4 speed at home. So, in that particular setup, those steers were strong and I was asking that horse for it because he wasn’t giving it to me. In the picture, I’ve drove my hand up, and his front end is up and his butt is driving. Even the run with my legs in him and my swing out in front of me, he’s in a good frame right there. My shoulders are square with his shoulders, his hips are in line, and he’s driving to the cow.
Most of the time before I ride in the box, I’m going to have everything ready to go unless something is out of the ordinary. I want them to find their release in between the reins and, if I don’t have my reins gathered up before I ride in, that gives them room to look around and not settle. If my horse is finding softness between my legs and the bridle reins, mentally he’s thinking. So I try to get that before I leave the line or the holding pen.