Horse Care and Nutrition with Futurity Champion Brandon Cullins

2017 Barrel Futurities of America Futurity, Juvenile and Derby World Champion and multiple RFD-TV's The American Rodeo qualifier Brandon Cullins shares his winning recipes for keeping his horses in top health.

By Blanche Schaefer 2017American BCullinscandid KS webCompeting at the highest level requires an incredibly healthy and fit horse. Brandon Cullins and VQ Sucker Punch won the BFA Derby World Champion title twice and made it through the rigorous qualification process to the final four Shootout Round at RFD-TV's The American Rodeo in February 2017 (pictured). Photo by Kailey Sullins.

Brandon Cullins knows what it takes to win at the highest levels of competition. The Clements, Maryland, trainer won more than $215,800 in 2017—he made it all the way to the final four Shootout Round at RFD-TV's The American Rodeo and ended his year with an unprecedented Triple Crown sweep at the BFA World Championships, all aboard horses owned by Robin Weaver. The two work together to make sure their horses are in the best health and fitness possible.

Cullins knows horses that feel good will perform at their best. Regular trips to the vet for physical exams thwart problems before they begin and give Cullins and Weaver peace of mind that their horses aren't dealing with any underlying issues.

"We keep them vetted regularly. When I’m home, I use a place in Pennsylvania that Robin uses, Brown Equine, and we use ESMS [in Weatherford, Texas] a lot, we’ve also used Outlaw Equine [in Decatur, Texas]," Cullins said. "I think keeping them feeling good is the main thing."

Feeding and Nutrition

Good-quality alfalfa hay plays a huge role in Cullins' feeding program.

"The biggest thing I think is the feed store down here has got some really good alfalfa, and I think that makes such a huge difference," Cullins said. "I don’t know if it matters too much what you feed grain-wise if you can get some really good alfalfa."

For grain, Cullins creates his own oat mix but tailors his feeding program to each horse.

2017BFA CullinsFuturity webGood nutrition, especially alfalfa, and alternative therapies such as ice and the saltwater spa keep 2017 BFA Futurity World Champion Folsom Prisoner running at the top of his game. Photo by Kenneth Springer."With feeding, some of them are different," Cullins said. "I separate the 3-year-olds, so I started feeding oats, alfalfa pellets, black oil sunflower seeds and a little bit of soybean oil, and I just get a feed mill to mix that up. I feed a lot of them that."

Two-time BFA Derby World Champion and multiple American Rodeo qualifer VQ Sucker Punch ("Rocko") and 2017 BFA Futurity World Champion Folsom Prisoner ("Sid") eat a different type of feed because Cullins didn't want to change their winning routine.

"Rocko and Sid, they’re on Ultium and Renew Gold," Cullins said. "They are doing really good on it, so I didn’t want to change something that was working."

 Alternative Therapies

Hydrotherapy and cold therapy, including saltwater and icing, help keep the horses ready to run and recover with minimal soreness.

"Therapy-wise, when I was there in Oklahoma City for the BFA, most all of them but the stud (Juvenile World Champion RR Mistakelly), went in the saltwater spa," Cullins said. "We’ll ice their legs, and back home we have those Jacks big rubber boots that we put ice in, and air compress too, so we use that some."

Blanche Schaefer is associate editor of Barrel Horse News. Email comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Be sure to grab a copy of the February 2018 issue of BHN for complete coverage of the 2017 Barrel Futurities of America World Championships.

Tags: health, horse health, legs, feeding, your horse's health, Feeding hay, Feeding forage, Proper feeding, Brandon Cullins, Robin Weaver, VQ Sucker Punch, Alfalfa, Barrel horse health, Leg health, Leg care, feeding alfalfa, Folsom Prisoner