Flat is Fast for Emily Efurd and Hyper By Design on $36,000 Ruby Buckle Day

Efurd's adapting her game all the time—here's how she prepared Hyper By Design for a big win at the Ruby Buckle West race in South Jordan, Utah.
Emily Efurd barrel racing
Emily Efurd and Hyper By Design won the second round and aggregate at the 2023 Ruby Buckle West Race. Image by Lexi Smith Media.

Emily Efurd and Hyper By Design have been making quiet waves in the futurity world recently, but rose to the surface to win the Ruby Buckle West Futurity aggregate in South Jordan, Utah.

The pair banked over $36,000 in the first two rounds and aggregate of the futurity on June 21-22 by winning the aggregate on two with a time of 31.172 on two runs, second go-round win and third-place finish in round one.

For times and payout breakdown, click here.

Hyper By Design, or “Sturgil,” is owned by one of Efurd’s close friends, Florida’s Michele Allison. Sturgil’s dam, On A Hyper Lady is Allison’s that she ran at ProRodeos alongside Efurd’s Fantasia Fame en route to Efurd’s 2012 Resistol Rookie of the Year title, so Efurd was thrilled when Allison sent the horse to her home in Texas last summer as a 4-year-old. She called upon her fiance, multi-time BFA world champion and The American Rodeo final-four qualifier, Brandon Cullins for an assist since she was on the injured list at the time.

“We got him in August and I had just broken my foot, so Brandon actually rode him for the first two months,” Efurd said. “He didn’t get entered until March. This is only his fourth futurity.”

Sturgil picked up on the futurity game in a hurry. Efurd decided at the last minute to run him at the Ruby Buckle Central race in Guthrie, and the gelding smoked a 16.8-second time on the standard pattern inside the Lazy E Arena on his second-round run. Efurd noted that after that run, the gelding came on and has been consistent in nearly almost every setup.

Just one weekend prior to the Ruby Buckle, Sturgil boasted a third-place finish at the Colorado Classic in Montrose, and kept that momentum straight into South Jordan. Efurd shared exactly what she has been working on in her riding and with Sturgil to help him get on top and stay there.

Hyper By Design pedigree

Emily Efurd’s Pro Tips

Schooling the “literal” horse

Emily Efurd: Sturgil was a little tough to start. He’s very literal. If you school him with a round turn, he’ll run rounded out. He’s going to do exactly what you show him. I can school him sometimes, but before I run I have to just trot him through, drop to one hand and let him go through. If I exaggerate, he’ll exaggerate more. He’s almost so easy that it makes it hard— I can’t do much while I’m running him. I’ve had to learn patience and I can’t ride him aggressively.

Flatten out the turn

Efurd: It’s really nice having Brandon and knowing other people who can help. For example, (barrel horse trainer) Cody Bauserman stopped by our house a few weeks ago, when I was struggling a little bit with Sturgil. He was clocking and winning, but I felt like he was going to fall apart and he was getting elevated, not wanting to leave his turns.

I saw Cody riding a colt and thought what he was doing could help, so I asked him to show me. I was getting tight on my turns and felt like Sturgil would lay on that pressure and I was losing control of his body, he would just bail or bounce.

I just really worked on it off the barrels. I’d pick my inside rein up and make him drive through that move, instead of letting him fall back on the back side or move out when I apply that pressure. Where he’d lose his form before and lay on me and get off in the wrong direction before, now I feel like I’ve got him collecting, rounding out his body while holding his frame and moving his feet through that turn. I feel like he’s staying low, which helps him clock up.

Efurd has focused on Sturgil’s response to her inside rein to stay level and collected through the turns. Lexi Smith Photography.

Trust your training

Efurd: I think what makes me feel confident in my horses, when I school them and prepare them at home I get them riding and working good, so when I go to the futurities I feel like I already have them prepared and set up to win. I’m not training and schooling on them right before I run and stressing out if it isn’t going right. We’ve already done that work to get ready. I didn’t work Sturgil on the barrels at all at Colorado Classic because I felt really confident in him. That’s right after I worked things out and Cody showed me some tricks. Then, when I came up (to Ruby Buckle) there was a few things I wanted to work on and fix. Brandon told me ‘Don’t pick on him, he’s a good horse and you’ll be fine on him,’ and that helped me a lot, too. If he wouldn’t have said that I would have started picking on Sturgil and maybe unwound him a little bit or got him flustered. Having somebody to remind you of that, and give you confidence in yourself and your training is so important.

Efurd took advantage of the chance to roll to the Open 4D at the Ruby Buckle West race and is headed back to Texas. She’s hopeful that she’ll have another check in the mail at the end of the week, and noted that she’s been a huge fan of the payouts at Ruby and Pink Buckle, plus the opportunity to roll to multiple classes and take advantage of “bonus,” money, while only making two runs on the week.

Click here for more information on Ruby Buckle.