A horse-riding futurity phenom whose future is now

Photo Mason Beal fb

Jess Gonzalez

March 16, 2024 – The word “futurity” is pretty much associated with the world of horses. It helps describe different types of competitions for horses in various age groups. The dictionary says it means a future time. . . the quality or state of being in the future.

However, while some horse competitions use the word futurity for horses two years of age, others consider a futurity to be for horses up to five years of age. Thus, each different competition, through its governing association, determines horse eligibility and their rules.

Our futurity story. Welcome to the exciting, difficult, and highly entertaining world of reined cow-horse competition in which a Clovis area horse riding/training phenom is making a name for himself. Meet Mason Beal, a 20-year-old Fresno State student who, taught by his father, started riding horses at 3-4 years of age–16 to 17 years ago. Today, he is a master rider and horse trainer.

Since his mid-teens, Mason has won numerous reined cow horse competitions—including being the 2022 Clovis Ranch Rodeo Cow Horse Champion. In fact, his earnings in the California Reined Cow Horse Association, CRCHA, as well as in the National Reined Cow Horse Competition, NRCHA, competitions have reached $40,000 in prize money! All as an amateur!

Reined cow horse rules allow a rider to win money in competitions and still be an amateur. Training other people’s horses and giving lessons makes him a professional. With his parents’ Ernie and Shauna Beal supporting his career, Mason plans to turn pro when he finishes his Ag Major at Fresno State in in 1926. Older brother Trevor is a businessman.

Preserving the vaquero tradition. Reined cow horse association futurity events are “dedicated to preserving the vaquero tradition of training and exhibiting reined horses.” Such events are geared toward showing the skills and athletic abilities that are necessary for a rider and his trained ranch horse to exhibit in competitions.  Basically, the rider trains his horse to demonstrate his control of cattle, speed, balance, demeanor, and responsiveness to him—the rider.

Horses involved in reined cow-horse competitions do not get the notoriety of racing horses, yet the degree to which a well-trained horse is able to work with the rider to manage cattle can give a horse a value of thousands and thousands of dollars in the horse selling market. It can be as much as $100,000 or even more!

Training a horse to do all such tasks is not easy. “Horse training is grueling. It takes hours and hours to train a horse daily. It must be done slowly; with lots of patience,”  says Mason, whose vast horse training experience is very evident as he speaks. To start to train a horse, it is never ridden in the bronc riding tradition where the rider climbs on the horse and stays on him, as best he can, while the horse bucks repeatedly trying to throw the rider off its back.

“That’s the old way of breaking in a horse, but it can hurt the horse,” Mason says. Of course, the rider is also subject to getting hurt.

The Vaquero way of breaking in a horse uses a type of psychology. It first gets the horse to get used to its surroundings so the trainer can gain its confidence. It’s a one step at a time process that takes patience, lots of skill, and experience. In reined cow horse competitions horses are not just ridden, they also perform a variety the tasks and required nuances. The rider prompts the horse to do the task at hand, but the horse must be very well trained in order to do it.

The reined cow-horse competition. The competition is divided into three separate events with points awarded to the rider and horse team depending on their performance. The judges focus on how the horse conducts himself in carrying out the tasks hand and how well he and the rider work together.

Herd work. The rider and his horse enter the arena where a herd of 30 cattle awaits. The required task is the “cutting”—separate a single cow from the rest of the herd.  The horse and rider must go into the herd and get the cow out without disturbing the herd. In a period of 2 ½ minutes, the rider and his horse must successfully separate two or three cattle from the herd.

Rein work. The rider and his horse perform slow circles, loping fast, flying lead changes, spinning in each direction, and do a sliding stop, which looks spectacular, as well as backing up.

Cow work. The fast-paced event opens with the rider and his horse entering the area as a single cow is pushed out a gate on the opposite side. The cow is first boxed in at the end of the arena. It is then made to run  down the long side of the arena. It must then be turned in each direction as it is run along the fence. Finally, it is maneuvered into the middle of the arena and made to turn and circle in one way and then another.

The cow must be controlled as the horse shows a smooth willingness to work the cow. He needs to respond to light rein pulls as he shows good manners and gestures. It’s man and animal working together toward a single goal—winning!

The time to come. Mason has accomplished much in a few years after learning to ride at the family ranch, Beals Quarter Horses Ranch in Clovis. He competes with his six horses—Willie, Bently, Rocky, etc.—in 18-20 competitions a year in California, Nevada, and Arizona. He is the youngest rider in the rein cow horse competitions. The next youngest rider is 20 years older. He takes all he does in stride. That’s why his competitors appreciate him. “They’re nice to me—giving tips and joking around with me,” he says smiling.

In a matter of time, Mason will turn pro and undoubtedly get even better at his chosen profession. He will also make from $200,000 to $400,00 a year doing what he loves. Good things happen to people who work hard, have goals, know what they’re doing, and are nice to others. Mason Beals and his horses have a great future ahead of them!