Being a barrel horse trainer isn’t for the faint of heart, but Pete Oen of Maysville, OK thought he knew what he was getting into. In a much more real sense though, he never expected the level of success that he works so hard for.
“I’m a little bit of a workaholic, said Oen. “Anybody who knows me, has been around me, worked for me, friend or family, they will say I’m not afraid to put in the time.”
The time has been fairly short though. Pete grew up showing pleasure horses, and at the age of 32 in 2010, he decided it was time to be a barrel horse trainer. In just seven short years, he became an Equistat million dollar rider, and in 2022 became the BFA Highest Money Winning Rider at a single event.
What does it take to be a successful barrel trainer and achieve feats such as these? Oen has some suggestions.
“I always tell people if you put your mind to it, you know it’s not saying you’re going to be that person but with hard work, determination, and undying will, there’s a chance you’re going to succeed if you have any kind of talent or ability,” Pete said.
As a futurity trainer, one big question Oen is asked about is how young to start horses on the pattern.
“I’m not a big believer in starting 2 year olds on the barrels,” Oen said. “But everybody has their own way of doing it and everybody’s end goal is the same.”
With young horses, he does make a bigger pocket around the barrel, and doesn’t pressure them into high speeds. His focus is having them be in the right spot each time they exit the barrel.
Oen’s goal for his future horses is to have them ready to run by October before their futurity year. To achieve this, he focuses on consistency during his downtime between traveling to big races.
“The summertime is kind of like our key ingredient to really advancing those colts and hauling them and seasoning them and really getting them advanced and stepped up and getting closer to the competition stage,” Pete said.
As far as picking futurity horses goes, Oen looks towards bloodlines that are not just racehorses, but proven producers of barrel horses.
Just like any other top level sport, not everyone makes the cut. Pete knows not every prospect that shows up at his barn is going to make a 1D champion. He hopes they all will, but if one is showing more promise in another division or career path, Oen hopes to train them to be successful no matter where they end up.
In 2022 Oen hauled six horses with him to the BFA and came out on top twice. On Streak Gypsy Streak he won the juvenile for owner Angela Richardson, and on DR Famous Legacy he won the Futurity for owners Travis and Johnna Dobbs.
With about 50 horses on his property, and 11 foals on the way, Oen has enough work to keep busy, plus some tough choices to make.
“The more incentives, the more it’s worth,” Pete said.
Although he has to pick and choose which races to attend and which horses to take to each race, Oen encourages his clients and friends to enroll their horses in incentives while they are young. His thinking is that if horses are enrolled before fees rise due to their age, you can enroll them to more programs at a lower cost, thus adding value to your foal.
Oen has had early success this futurity season with the BFA and OKC Futurity as well as some derby success at the Golden Buckle. His upcoming events include the Select Stallion Stakes, the Classic Equine Futurity, the Ruby Buckle and possibly the Elite Futurity.
As the number of stallion incentives grows, the value of horses will as well.
Oen raised a buckskin colt out of Hip Swingin Gypsy by The Kandyman that sold for $101,000 at the 2022 Ruby Buckle sale as a 2-year-old.
Although he usually only raises 3 or 4 babies, Oen tries to keep one of his own per year and said he usually ends up with none of his own.
“When you raise that colt, I’m just saying from a trainer standpoint and when you have $15,000 into a two year old and at an auction they value him for $101,000 it’s a no brainer from my standpoint,” Pete said.
Although he never thought he’d be a million dollar rider, Oen’s season earnings were about $370,000 by the end of 2022. By the end of 2023 he hopes to be nearing the $2 million LTE mark.
“I know it’s not the biggest thing in the world, but I built my little empire in 12 years,” Pete said.
His little empire is something he is very proud of and is working hard to continue its growth. The ever growing futurity and incentive world should allow for Pete and many others to prosper in the barrel futurity world.
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