When I was 12 years old my parents bought me my first nice horse from Maren Luedemann. JJ was an unregistered gelding and we won everything under the sun together. Buckles, money, you name it. He was an awesome horse. I had another really nice mare that another friend, Kelly Neisus, found for me. I set an arena record on her and won a few state titles.
When I got to college it was too hard to keep it all up so I didn’t ride for a few years. On and off I would haul someone’s horse for them or Maren always seemed to have one for me to ride.
About a year ago, my father, Peter Hanssen, and I decided to start a business together. We decided I was going to begin breeding and training my own futurity horses.
He has provided me with this awesome opportunity and I am blown away by his generosity. We really do want to have some of the nicest horses the industry has to offer and we are slowly building our way there. It isn’t an overnight game, which is really hard for me. I kind of want things to happen tomorrow!
This past year was a huge learning curve for me as I bought a few colts and started them on the barrels. I began with three and I am sold out for the year, which I guess is a good thing! It was my first time starting horses on the barrels and being the only one on their back. I placed in three out of the four futurities I entered this year and learned a lot in the process.
I was so new in the industry I didn’t even know you had to have a four year old to go to the big ones like OKC and Ft. Smith. Realizing I had a lot to learn about the futurity world, I called Bo Hill. I asked if she would train one of my horses and let me come to ride a few times a year so I could learn. She said no. We ended up reaching an agreement to let me come and ride with her through the year. I packed up all four of my colts and headed down to Dodge City, Kans.
I had no idea how hard I should be pushing my three year olds, what the timing of the year looked like, when to start exhibitioning them, etc. We rode from early morning until the sun went down every day and it was awesome to just learn. I was and still am so grateful for her help.
I ended up falling in love with one of her horses and bought him in early May. His name is Bobbie Gene. He is a son of Dash Ta Fame and out of a Disco Jerry mare. He has a few full siblings that are doing really well. I will also be hauling Gitaway Little Bit who is out of a son of Merridoc and by a daughter of Okey Dokey Dale. My other mount is Famous Barts Girl. She is by Holy Bart and out of a daughter of Doc Bruce. I am pretty excited about all three!
Being in Minnesota and working full time makes it really hard to get ready for the futurities, too. I am on staff with a church working with student ministries. I get home at 4:30-5:00 each day and head out to the barn until 9:00 or 10:00 during the warm months.
Then comes winter.
I don’t think people understand the weather we get up here. Our ground will freeze in early November, if not earlier. Then there are weeks in January and February when the temperature drops to the negative 20s and 30s. You can open up the door when it is that cold and feel like you’re getting punched in the face. Your eyes freeze, your nose freezes, it is miserable. In college I remember throwing a glass of hot water up in the air and watching it freeze before it hit the ground. It is crazy! You can hardly go outside, much less ride or haul your horses down the road. I tried going to a barrel race last year, but I couldn’t get out of my barn because all my doors were frozen shut. I literally couldn’t get out.
We also don’t have timed exhibitions. I have a friend kind enough to set up stakes and timer at her place, and there is one futurity run by Shawn and Casey Vaprness that will put the barrels on the stakes and give you a time, but that’s about it. This makes it hard to know where your horses stand against each year’s futurity horses. We have really tough horses up here, but everything is so far away that most of them never make it to the big shows to get any attention. I am driving to the Hawki, in Lincoln, Neb. this October to put my horses on the clock with good ground. That’s a lot of work to drive to Nebraska just to exhibition!
I am heading down south this winter, entering all the big futurities and hauling with Bo from OKC Super Stakes, Classic Equine Slot Race, the Greg Olson, Ft. Smith and hopefully, the LG Pro Classic.
It is funny if you look from the outside in. I have a big rig, but I don’t have the confidence to fill it! I really haven’t won much in a long time and this is my first competitive year in the futurity world. I can be a champion all by myself in my own arena and feel really good about my colts, but it is time to take them down the road and see what happens. I may get my butt handed to me, but I will never know unless I try.
Whether I win the Super Stakes or run two seconds off, neither will change my life. I love to train colts and I love to win, but it isn’t who I am. My successes and failures do not define me. I have an incredible family, lots of amazing friends, and the Lord is pleased with me just the way I am.
I always tell people, “it isn’t what you do, it’s who you are that matters.” I am going to try to remember my own advice this year as I dive in and go down the road.