Rope Horse Futurity challenges the elite

Virden organizer says it's a win-win event


The long drive across the prairie provinces paid off for at least two Alberta cowboys, as they each took home top honours at the sixth annual Manitoba Rope Horse Futurity (MRHF) held in Brandon, Manitoba on Sunday, Oct. 14.

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Tel Flewelling of Lacombe, Alta. and his five-year-old registered Quarter Horse, put up consistent scores in each round on the head horse side, to edge out the competition by only 12 points overall. The flashy palomino gelding earned a $2,340 pay cheque.

Heel horse Lenas Dazzling Chic, a four-year-old registered Quarter Horse, topped the field of 20. The sharp grey mare, owned by Dawson Graham and Roger Fletcher, narrowly secured the win and collected $2,720. 

One of only three rope horse futurities in Western Canada, the Manitoba Rope Horse Futurity is open to any four or five-year-old registered horse. Each horse/rider combination competes in a total of five live steer runs with an allotted 30 second time limit per run. 

Ropers can take up to three chances per run to catch, and must rope their steer to put up a score. Unlike a team roping jackpot, the winner is not necessarily the team with the best time.

Two judges score the event based on the horse’s overall willingness and compliance, a relaxed approach and entry into the box, the attitude in the box, their departure from the box and ability to run with the steer.

Other criteria differ for the head and heel horse, but, the ability to settle once the run is complete, and the overall sharpness of the run are taken into account.  

“The quality of horses and level of competition gets better and better [each year],” commented competitor Kenton Fawcett of Ponoka, Alta., who helped organize a similar event held in Lacombe, earlier this year.

Fawcett missed his dally on the final run to give up a sweep in the head horse division, dropping him three holes to a fourth place finish overall.

The Alberta horse trainer and farrier attends the futurity each year in support of the Manitoba event. “It’s great for the horse industry.”

Organizer Shane Brown said that is one of the reasons that they started the event six years ago. It creates a niche market and networking opportunity for breeders, positive exposure for sponsors of the event, and an opportunity for team ropers to do what they love while promoting their training program and showcasing their skills. It also challenges them by giving them an opportunity to compete against an elite group of team ropers with the chance to pocket some cash at the end of the day.

“It’s a great way to promote young horses,” echoed Alistair Hagan, a QH breeder and competitor in the past, who, along with his wife Erin, co-sponsored the Champion Head Horse this year.

Plans are already underway for next year’s event.

Will Fawcett be back to redeem himself?  “Yes, definitely!”

© Virden Empire-Advance