How Does Brandon Cullins Keep Barrels Standing on MJ Segers Fast Lane?

It's the question all the barrel racers have been asking about that little black mare.
Brandon Cullins on MJ Segers Fast Lane
Brandon Cullins and MJ Segers Fast Lane won The American Rodeo Contender Finals. Click Thompson photography.

It’s the question all barrel racers have been thinking as they’ve watched the Rayel Little-trained, Brandon Cullins-jockeyed black mare MJ Segers Fast Lane rocket to over $300,000 in barely over two years of barrel racing: How hard is she to make smooth runs aboard, and how the heck does Cullins do it?

The Maryland native Cullins, who now resides in Texas with his fiancé, barrel horse trainer and former WPRA Resistol Rookie of the Year Emily Efurd, isn’t one for many words right off the bat. His initial answer was simple.

“I think she’s just getting more forgiving now,” Cullins said, laughing. “I just keep her light, soft and broke.”

Don’t worry, we had him break it down a little more. (By the way, Seger is a 2017 mare by The Goodbye Lane and out of SKS Running Faucet by Diamond Faucet)

MJ Segers Fast Lane pedigree

First thing’s first: Rayel Little knows how to train one.

Although it’s widely believed that Cullins gave Seger her start on the barrels, he’s very clear that Rayel Little— Seger’s owner and no stranger to starting and campaigning powerhouse mares— set Seger up for success from the start. This means that her aggressive turning style was given proper nurturing from day one.

Rayel trained her,” Cullins said. “She told me that she never put her tight on a barrel. She always kept her big and open. She taught her to naturally come back to her.”

Seger’s always had the foot speed and pure athleticism to be great, but it’s a combination of little efforts that set her up to win at every level of competition when the clock’s running. Since Cullins has had the mare, she’s grown and evolved as an athlete, and his training stays flexible to support her.

Brandon Cullins barrel racing
Brandon Cullins and MJ Segers Fast Lane win the 2023 Pink Buckle Derby Round 2 | Lexi Smith Media

Your warm-up matters.

Seger’s latest win came in Abilene, Texas, at The American Contender Finals in Abilene on Feb. 10, when she blitzed a 15.352 inside the Taylor Telecom Arena to notch $15,000, after winning The American Eastern Regional and $10,000 en route to Abilene.

Cullins chose not to ride Seger at practice the night before the competition, but worked a prospect of his own on the barrels for the horse’s experience and to familiarize himself with the pattern and feel of the arena.

“I’ll pull my inside rein a little bit sometimes to open her ribs up, move her shoulders and kind of get it broke loose when (Seger’s) feeling stuck.”

Brandon Cullins

Cullins shared that outside of the arena, Seger is a sensitive horse. She notices changes in her environment, but Cullins’ calm demeanor keeps her focused on the task at hand. He adjusts his warm-up as needed depending on Seger’s feel each day, but has a pretty consistent system overall that involves switching up geometry partway through the ride.

“I keep her round when I’m riding her in circles,” Cullins said. “But right before I run, I square her back off. So, instead of open circles with her nose tucked, I’d say I kind of take my outside rein and put her straight betweenm my hands—almost like a racehorse would ride. I tuck her face a little, open my inside hand and put my outside leg on her. That pushes her outside shoulder around inside leg.

Don’t think it’s just the front end Cullins is thinking about. Cullins has spent years perfecting a training style that works for making speedy futurity runs, but also allows horses to preserve themselves and stand up on various types of footing.

“The whole time, I’m trying to make sure her hips stay tucked up underneath her,” Cullins said. “That’s so she doesn’t get stuck in the front end. I want the front end pulling while she’s driving (with her hind end). I square my hips and try to just keep her driving forward. This helps her not hit a point during her round turn in a run so she doesn’t come back (and knock over a barrel).”

Accelerate quietly.

There’s a lot more energy brewing under the surface than one might suspect by Cullins’ calm demeanor and quiet riding style.

“I actually kind of try to get myself a little bit wound up to run,” Cullins said. “I have to make sure I hit the gas, because you have to send her hard.”

Wait….Brandon Cullins is keyed up when he runs MJ Segers Fast Lane? To the naked eye, his legs aren’t kicking aggressively and he barely picks up his over-and-under, so how does he do it?

“I’ve never had much luck kicking and doing all that movement,” Cullins said. “I try to drive from the back end and propel forward. But Seger wants to run hard, I don’t have to make her run. I just send her and ride her all the way to the backside, because as soon as you quit, she’s going to fully commit to that turn.”


MJ Segers Fast Lane and Brandon Cullins are becoming one of the most iconic teams of the past several years in barrel racing, and they’re just getting started. Last night, Seger earned $15,000 with Cullins at @The American Rodeo Contender Finals in Abilene, Texas, and in just one month, they’ll run down the alleyway in Globe Life Field for $1 million. Seger is by The Goodbye Lane and out of SKS Running Faucet by Diamond Faucet. Stay up with all things Road to The American 2024 thanks to @Equinety at the link in bio. #BarrelRacing #BrandonCullins #TheAmericanRodeo

♬ Headstrong – Trapt

Take the path less traveled.

On Saturday night, Segers calmly slinked down the alleyway until Cullins let her take off, then she nailed her first barrel. This wasn’t by accident.

“I start on the right side of the alley, sucked up to the wall,” Cullins said. “Then I skip over to the left side. It helps set the horse up so they don’t suck into the first barrel so hard. It kind of shoots them out in the middle of the arena so I can bring them to it instead of trying to hold them off of it.”

Seger and Cullins haven’t slowed down since Abilene. They lheaded to Buckeye, Arizona, for the Royal Crown Race this week, where Seger topped the first round of the derby and broke the 17-second mark on the standard pattern at the event. We’ll be following their journey over the next month as they prepare for the 2024 The American Rodeo for a maximum payday of $1 million on the line thanks to our friends at Equinety’s support to the Road to the American across, The Team Roping Journal, The Breakaway Roping Journal and Visit for more information on Equinety’s products.