Most of the rope horse futurities throughout the year are judged, and I want to take this space this month to talk about how the components in training for rope horse futurities translate into success in any arena, whether it’s at Cheyenne or a US roping. The judged elements of a rope horse futurity should set up a horse for success for the long haul, from the start to the finish of a run.
In the Box
It doesn’t matter where you’re at or what you’re doing—your horse needs to walk in, take step for step back and not allow nerves to get ahold of him. A lot of horses score good, but they might make you nervous backing in the corner for the first time because you can tell they have a lot going on mentally. But I want to be able to walk in there, walk back and, if something happens and I have to reset, ask him to go forward without issue. That’s a big part of the horse shows that differs from a jackpot. That’s stuff that might not make you money, but if you think hard about it, it does because that lets you take a deep breath without worrying about the horse before you nod your head. So that’s something that’s “judged” that you could thumb your nose at, but it’s something that really matters in the end.
To the Steer
I want my horse running all the way to the horns. I don’t want a horse rating out of it too soon. That way, when you do rope, then your horse can get on its butt and work off his hind end—not necessarily slide or anything. When these horses are getting their first outings, the most important thing for any head horse is to not lose the ability and knowledge to run to the cow. If they come straight out of the gates and their first experience is chuck and duck, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime battle that’s tough to win. If you don’t show that solid foundation of running the whole way to the steer away from home, they won’t have the longevity throughout their career. These futurity horses could go faster than you usually see them go, but it’s not in their best interest to do it that early.
In the Corner
I want to see a horse control the steer but not be too strong. I want the horse to to stand up and lead the steer through the corner. You could lose control in a normal jackpot, but they’d dock you for that at the futurities. It helps to keep those horses under control. Even though you could get by with it and still be fast, you won’t make up that much time by not making the horse do it correctly. Fundamentally, it’s about making the horse do the maneuvers correctly even though the stopwatch is going. It doesn’t override doing it correctly.
In the Face
I want everything to be done. I don’t want the horse to keep rolling around. You’ll see ropers get a flag, take it off the horn and their horses will never quit moving their feet. They’re good at the futurities about not dropping the flag until the horses are still. It looks so much better, of course, but it shows that the horse knows when the run begins and ends. In a futurity run, like a jackpot, you can slide rope if your horse doesn’t have good timing facing, where as they should dock you for it in a judged scenario. So you have to actually have a horse reading the timing of the face and knowing that he can’t just roll out there and slide rope until it finally comes together. The judges know when you’re having to babysit a horse facing. It’s important for the future of the horse because that’s one of the factors that makes up so much time in the run. All of these maneuvers that make up time in the run are so important that they get it right and instilled in them at an early age.