O'Donnell Quarter Horses, is not only comprised of a family with a common goal of raising quality barrel horses, but take pride in their training program that goes hand in hand with their breeding program. Both Cody and Amber have made a team effort of introducing each colt the program raises to a dedicated training regimen that focuses on a good foundation and the training approach of their most valued mentor and friend, Judy Myllymaki.

"Judy's methods have been developed over decades of experience and success. We want to represent our program not only with results, but with success beyond a horse's futurity age. We want to ultimately develop a string of top notch rodeo horses that will continue to excel clear into their teens and Judy's approach is indicative of this goal."

The O'Donnell foals are all halter broke as soon as they are weaned. They continue to be handled as yearlings, getting their feet trimmed and learning to stand tied. Cody starts all the horses they raise as 2 yr olds beginning in the spring, along with a select few outside 2 and 3 yr old client horses.

"My colt starting approach is based on the concept of a "soft feel". Whether it is on a lunge line or on the end of a rein, I need my colts to yield to tension in the line, without hesitation. The concept behind my motive for this exercise is lateral flexion, which will ultimately lead to shoulder control and lead control."

This "soft feel" approach allows Cody to challenge his colts, while still maintaining control and building confidence.

"While training, I am constantly reminding myself of the main demographic I am training this colt for: women. As a man in this sport, I want my sister and other women to be able to ride behind me. I can't rely on brute strength in the way I train. And ultimately, I want my horses to like what they do and I want to fuel their desire to please."

Cody takes his 2 yr olds out in open country as soon as possible (within the first 5 rides). He has found positive results by starting his colts in the round corral, and accomplishing a full revolution at a walk, trot and then lope (each direction). Following this, he begins riding in the ranch's 240" x 300" foot arena, followed by riding in open country.

"I want them to "think" not just react to their environment. I really like to get my colts moving off their shoulders by backing them up a step and beginning to rock their shoulders from side to side. After establishing freedom in the horse's shoulders, I can begin double tracking and counter arcing. In order to get their pivot leg up underneath them while loping a circle, I need to have control of their shoulder, while maintaining forward movement. Judy calls this concept "opening and closing the door".

Once this idea has been established, Cody begins applying it into several different stations, which his mentor, Judy Myllymaki, has derived throughout her career as a barrel horse trainer. Upon mastering these stations, a horse can confidently and naturally take to the cloverleaf pattern. These stations are evident in the training repertoire of the 2 yr olds to finished barrel horses. However, the age and experience level of the horse is dependent on the degree of how much is asked of a horse on each station.

Each station focuses on a specific idea that applies to the barrel pattern. For instance the baseball diamond initiates rate and speed control, while the quad allows consistent and necessary placement of a horses inside pivot leg.

Amber begins lending her talents and taking over the training process when the colts are long into their three year old year. At this time, they have already been introduced to the barrel pattern and they can begin to be challenged. Both Amber and Cody begin hauling the colts to local jackpots to begin introducing them to time-onlys (or exhibitions), along with allowing them to adapt to the changes in their environments and the overall hauling process.

"Throughout our experiences with Judy's barrel training program, she has constantly reminded us of the job description of both a trainer and a jockey. Both individuals play a vital role in the success of a barrel horse and few are masters of both. However, the difference lies in that a "jockey" can ride a horse through a mistake, where a "trainer" will stop and attempt to fix it. Amber has a much bigger platform and natural quick reaction time than I, to excel as a jockey in this sport and I am much more confident and comfortable being a trainer. Together, we make up the perfect team!"

Given their location and the long term goals Amber and Cody place on each horse, they are both advocates of the 5 yr old futurity age. Both are newcomers to the futurity game, but are excited to become involved with this growing sector of the barrel horse industry.

"2014 and every year thereafter will become a key learning curve to our approach in developing barrel horses."

O'Donnell Quarter Horses will debut their first O'Donnell bred and trained futurity colt in 2014. The 2009 chestnut mare, TM Frosted Blurr, will begin making her open barrel racing appearance starting the 7th of December. From there, Amber aspires to hit the local Montana futurities with the mare and entertains potentially branching out into some of the futurities surrounding the state.

"It is very gratifying to finally be in a position with a ladder of colts, where we can represent our program with a few colts from each foal crop every year. We have a lot to learn and experience, but it is just an honor to be mounted on the horse flesh that our family has worked so hard to produce. I have no doubt the genetic potential is there, it is just a matter of showcasing it to the best of our abilities."

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