Do you dream of going pro? The thrill of winning big at a futurity race is more than just the prize, but the process of getting there. Learn futurity tips and advice on training barrel horses from the pros who have been there before and succeeded.

Futurity Tips


This tip goes for exhibitions on the local jackpot the week before, driving to the futurity, your exhibitions at the futurity, check-in, and everything else. Being late, causing you to hurry, will greatly exacerbate your already heightened stress level, as well as your horse’s.

2) Do whatever it takes to make sure your horse is mentally and physically prepared.

This tip starts way before you arrive on the scene. From regular wellness and lameness exams at your vet to chiropractic work, spa time, leg wrapping, you name it, to tuning runs between big futurities, it all adds up. If you felt him make one wrong move around a barrel, or he pulled on the bit a little too much on your last run, address it! Get help from a trainer if you need to, watch videos, change bridles, whatever it takes!

Futurity Tips

3) Get organized, and give your horse the best opportunity to be successful.

Get organized and give your horse the best opportunity to be successful. Think months ahead and plan your futurity schedule according to his needs. What incentives is he eligible for? What type of ground is he fastest on? How big of a pattern does he like? I make a list of all the incentives my horses are eligible for, the dates of the futurities, and get my calendar out. I try to limit to one, sometimes two big events a month, and take at least one whole month off, usually in the summer, for R&R for me and my horses.

~ Jolene Montgomery

4) Ride with Intent

Riding with intent will help you have increased success in less time. It is important to be present and know what you expect out of your horse in every ride. The more you pay attention during a ride the quicker you will notice when the horse needs to be sharpened or corrected on the pattern.

5) Confidence is Key

Consistency helps build confidence. Trust your training. Often times we question ourselves when we are entered; you know you put the work in so trust that the result will be great. Go do your job, and your horse will do his. Know where you are going and how you are getting there. These horses draw some of their confidence from the rider; if you ride timid and unsure, your horse will likely perform that way. Be bold. Be Confident.

6) Smooth is Fast

The barrel race is a timed event, and it is easy to over-try sometimes. A smooth run clocks faster than a wild run with extra steps and unnecessary movements. Sometimes we actually need to slow down to speed up.

7) Mental Game

Perspective is everything. The more positive or neutral you can be in your thinking, the stronger your mental game will be. Take the emotion out of it, do your job regardless of the situation. Some of my favorite books to help with mental game are: With Winning in Mind, Relentless, W1NNING, It Takes What It Takes, Can’t Hurt Me, Mind Gym.

~ Joy Wargo

8) The Importance of Fitness


Fitness and strength are very important to being a competitive barrel racer. This applies to the horse and the rider. Obviously, the horse needs to be strong and fit enough to run for the 20 seconds required on the pattern. It is important to have explosive strength and speed along with enough air to complete a run. The rider also benefits from good cardio health, and strength. If we have good cardio health, it is easier to breathe when stressed, or under pressure, therefore our brains receive more oxygen, and we have better cognitive function. To ride a top-level barrel horse, you need to have strength, stability, and balance in the saddle. It is a challenging job to sit in the middle of a horse that runs that fast and turns that hard. We are performance athletes, just like the horses we ride.