Surge in AQHA Roping Futurities Benefits Owners and Industry

Th Sun Circuit Rope Horse Futurity paid out more than $36,000 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Edited Press Release From the Arizona Quarter Horse Association

The top scoring head horse was Ranching Heritage-bred Bets Gin ridden by Clay Logan for owner Mary Margaret Richter. (Photos courtesy of Arizona Sun Circuit)

The American Rope Horse Futurity Association (ARHFA) started producing small roping futurities for American Quarter Horses about 13 years ago. Jay Wadhams always believed there would be a time when they could add a lot of money and make it a truly spectacular event. Wadhams teamed up with Dean Tuftin, a former NFR heeler and owner of DT Horses, to put on the World Championship Rope Horse Futurity in October 2017. The richest rope horse futurity in history ran in conjunction with the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity in Fort Worth, Texas. The futurity’s $100,000 added purse dramatically changed the landscape for young, talented rope horses as it paid out a total of more than $292,000 in one day. After that, other shows took notice and were eager to add a high dollar futurity to their schedules.

Arizona Sun Circuit was one show that was enthusiastic to promote the concept. Sun Circuit had already seen a couple years of great success hosting the DT Horses Roping Futurity with $10,000 added. This past March in Scottsdale, $10,000 was added to the debut Sun Circuit Rope Horse Futurity. More than 60 entries lined up to chase the prize money. The futurity had a total payout of more than $36,000. After two go-rounds and a short go, the top scoring head horse was the Ranching Heritage-bred Bets Gin ridden by Clay Logan for owner Mary Margaret Richter. Bets Gin is by Bet Hesa Cat and out of the Tanquery Gin mare Valliant Gin, and was bred by Burnett Ranches LLC. Because the mare is Ranching Heritage-bred, she is also eligible to compete in the Zoetis AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge program. On the heeler’s side, J.D. Yates rode Lincoln Figueiredo’s horse DT Shine Blue Brandy (Shiners Lena Chex-Nu Bay Be Blue by Nu Cash) to accumulate the best score. 

The ARHFA futurities are open to 4-, 5- and 6-year-old horses. The format differs from an open or jackpot roping in that it incorporates both a timed and judged component to determine the winners. The two judges scores are added to the time off of 80 to yield a composite score. The judging portion starts with a 70 and has 4 boxes for plusses or minuses to that score. Horses are judged on their time in the box, the barrier, the run, rate, how they handle the steer and finally facing the steer.

“Judges are looking for a good, quiet, nice horse that anyone would want to ride,” offered Wadhams. “The futurities are designed to showcase those high-end jackpot horses while they are young.” 

The timing seems right for this type of futurity. The show horse industry and the roping industry both needed a jolt of excitement and opportunity. Wadhams explained, “it used to be that you could take a young rope horse and go to some jackpots to season them. Now you have to put up so much money at any roping you go to and you are up against these really great horses. It gets so expensive, you can’t afford to risk it on a young horse; you want to ride your best, most experienced horse.” At the futurities, the horses are more equally matched in age and experience. It gives young horses a place to compete and hone their skills while owners have a chance at a nice payout along the way. The end result is a more valuable horse. Wadhams is certain that the futurities will benefit the overall horse industry. 

The futurities showcase the young talent to a watchful crowd of potential buyers as well. Wadhams has seen more and more of the top rodeo and jackpot guys in the stands searching for a their next prospect. They can evaluate a lot of really good horses in one day, and talk to owners and trainers to see what is for sale.

Holding an ARHFA event Sun Circuit was good for the overall growth of the series and ultimately the $100,000 World Championship that will be held in Fort Worth again in October. It gave western states ropers the opportunity to experience the format and get a handle on the kind of competition they face. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive with most exhibitors vowing to enter the Championship. Wadhams commented after the event, “It’s also wonderful to see all the people who came up to me afterwards wanting to promote what we have going on. Its really caught on.”

With the support shown thus far, he is confident that the 2019 Sun Circuit Roping Futurity will be able to add $20,000 or more. He predicts that entries will also swell with the bigger expected payout and the growing momentum of roping futurities in general. The success of the Sun Circuit Futurity has spurred interest from show producers in California and Utah looking to add a big money event to their schedules.

AQHA show producers recognize that more exhibitors are hunting big payouts in many disciplines from halter to reining to rail classes. Futurities increase the over all number of entries in the AQHA portion of shows too. It's a natural fit to add a roping futurity to any show that already has a full slate of cattle classes. Wadhams shared the key is finding the sponsors to support the futurities. He is both humble and grateful for the support that has made his long-term dream a reality. ARHFA events, information and results are listed on their website,

Do you have news to share from your AQHA affiliate? Send it to Tara Matsler at

On the heeler’s side, J.D. Yates rode Lincoln Figueiredo’s horse DT Shine Blue Brandy to accumulate the best score.

On the heading side, Clay Logan and Ranching Heritage-bred Bets Gin turn one to win the Sun Circuit Rope Horse Futurity.