3 Buttons Every Breakaway Futurity Horse Needs

Futurity trainer Beau Peterson explains the three things every breakaway futurity horse needs to score big points in competition.

Beau Peterson stops CR Pepto Tuff Lena at the Royal Crown
Beau Peterson stops CR Pepto Tuff Lena, a 2019 gelding by Woody Be Tuff out of CR Catalena Cat by High Brow Cat. Photo by Lexi Smith Media

Beau Peterson has a passion for breakaway that spans from winning in the ProRodeo arena to developing young horses into breakaway futurity contenders.

She may only have a few futurities under her belt, but the tens of thousands of dollars she has in winnings speak for themselves. Recently, she swept the podium in the 6-and-Under Breakaway in August 2023 at the Royal Crown Futurity in Rocksprings, Wyoming.

“I really enjoy the showing,” Peterson told BRJ following her Royal Crown win. “It’s not as much pressure on me as the rodeoing. You can be a little off the barrier, run in the middle of the calf and still show your horse off. It’s a lot more fun and relaxed.”

Without further ado, here are the three buttons Peterson wants installed when developing a winning breakaway horse.

No. 1: Scoring and leaving off your hand

Rodeo scores range in distance from a short “the-calf-so-leaves-you-leave” distance to the longer “wait-till-you-see-shoulder” distance. When it comes to futurities, however, it’s advantageous for ropers to make their horse score longer to show off their equine athlete’s patience and training.

“At the futurities, you have to sit there and score them out,” Peterson said. “I really want that horse to be responsive on the hand and calm in the box. Ideally, a horse will walk in there, head down, back right into the corner and be quiet. No prancing around. They mark you high when a horse backs in and says ‘Alright, you tell me when to leave.’”

Peterson says she walks into the box with her rope already tucked under her arm and ready, regardless of whether she walks in from the back or the front. This minimizes extra motion and stress for both horse and rider. She keeps her hand down on their neck with a loose rein if the horse can handle it.

“I keep myself relaxed and as calm as possible,” Peterson said. “I don’t make any sudden movements because they feed off you. When it’s time to go, your horse has to leave off your hand and immediately be running and seeking that calf.”

No. 2: Running to and tracking the calf

“We usually rope them a little further down the pen at futurities, so your horses have to give you their guts a little bit getting to that calf,” Peterson said. “Your horse needs to be making the same moves that calf is making. If your horse is locked on, it makes them look and score so much better.”

Peterson explained she likes her horses to track the calf on the right lead and get to the left hip of the calf. This pushes the calf to the right and under her loop.

“I am not a huge fan of a horse that goes to the right hip—that makes it a little harder for me,” she said.

No. 3: The horse has to have a big stop

One of the most recognizable parts of breakaway is the stop. While opinions vary on the most efficient way to stop horses in rodeo, where time is of the essence, futurities favor deeper stops where horses use their hindquarters.

“I like to rope the calf and sit down with my slack,” Peterson said. “That’s my cue for the horse to start stopping. At the futurities, I try to be big with my slack. I draw my slack down, sit down and help the horse get in their stop with my left hand. But once they start to get in it, I like to give their head back and let them finish the stop themselves.”

Peterson believes her horses finish their stops better when she’s not pulling them into the ground. Any mouth gapping is minimized, too, which makes a prettier picture for the judges.

The roping futurity game is growing at a rapid pace and gives young horses a solid foundation to become anything from a ProRodeo horse to a jackpot horse to a high school rodeo horse. With Peterson’s three must-have skills down, a breakaway horse can then learn the finer parts of breakaway including different scores, variable cattle and arena conditions.

This coverage is supported by ADM Animal Nutrition’s Forage First Equine Nutrition. Peterson works with ADM to keep her rodeo horses and prospects in good condition. Her favorite products are the SENIORGLO® grain and GROSTRONG® Pro-Vita-Min (20-5) tub.

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