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Horse Care and Nutrition with Brandon Cullins

Brandon Cullins knows what it takes to win at the highest levels of competition. The Clements, Maryland, trainer has won multiple National Barrel Horse Association open 1D titles, qualified two years in a row to the final four Shootout Round at RFD-TV’s The American Rodeo, swept the 2017 BFA World Championship Futurity, Derby and Juvenile Futurity, and trained and rode the highest-earning futurity stallion of all time RR Mistakelly—most of those feats accomplished aboard horses owned by Robin Weaver. The two work together to make sure their horses are in the best health and fitness possible.

Competing 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.

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.

“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 (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.”

By taking a simple, hands-on approach to his horses’ nutrition and care, Cullins is able to keep his horses in peak fitness and stay ahead of any potential soundness issues.

Article by Blanche Schaefer