When selecting a barrel racing futurity prospect, the first thing I consider is the horse’s pedigree. Are the bloodlines in the prospect’s pedigree statistically proven to win in futurity competitions? The sire with the most winning futurity horses is Dash Ta Fame. There are horses sired by Dash Ta Fame that have not won and there are horses not sired by him that have won, but statistically his offspring perform better, and I prefer to stack the odds in my favor. Most people are misinformed to think that an average mare can produce an outstanding foal if bred to an outstanding stallion. I disagree. The truly phenomenal horses, come from outstanding mares, therefore, I heavily weigh the dam’s side of the pedigree. I consider whether she was a great performer herself, or if any of her previous foals have performed well. Both sides of the pedigree should be able to stand on the own merit, and should not be used to compensate each other.
Next, I study the prospect’s conformation, how its body is built. There are specific attributes that better equip barrel horses to perform their jobs. I look for a big, round, dark, “soft,” kind-looking eye. An eye with this appearance signifies intelligence. I want a nice slope to the shoulder, a steep shoulder indicates a short stride without much reach. That being said, the angle of the shoulder and the hip should match, indicating the horse will be able to collect effectively in training. Moving down from the hip to the hocks, I prefer a lower hock set to a higher one. This allows a horse to get underneath itself for the turn, and should be powerful pushing off with its hind end. Moving further down to the pasterns, I look for a well-balanced pastern. Too long and the horse will be more prone to injuries, too short and the horse’s stride will be hampered. The overall legs should not be too finely boned, as this will lend the horse towards more injuries. I also study the back and underline. I prefer a short back and long underline. This indicates speed and agility. I do not consider height too much when selecting a prospect. There is not a perfect size for winning. I have seen pro horses winning that are anywhere between 14- 17 hands. I prefer mine to be between 15.0-15.3, but that is a personal preference. Short horses can be just as fast as the tall horses if they have the conformation to do so. That is what is important. Barrel racing, especially futurities, asks a lot of the horses’ bodies. Selecting a prospect that is naturally better equipped to perform the task will only give you an advantage in the arena, as well as aid in preventing injuries.
There are advantages and disadvantages to selecting your prospect from the race track. The disadvantages could be endless if you do not buy from a reputable trainer. The horse could already have soundness issues. It could be mentally pushed too hard, therefore will be unable to adapt to barrel training. They could be infusing the horse with illegal substances. These instances, unfortunately, do happen at race tracks, but can be avoided if you know where you should be purchasing. If you buy from a reputable trainer, the advantages include that the horse has already been taught to run. Some people see babies out in the pasture with their moms frolicking around and assume horses naturally know how to run. This is not the case. Horses have no idea how to run at the speed needed for competition and must be trained to do so. When they come from the track, you do not have to include that in your barrel training. Another advantage is that they have already been exposed to the newness of hauling and travelling to new places. Track horses are well seasoned, whereas horses that have not been to the track must slowly adjust to the experiences of hauling.