Thursday, March 23, 2017

Colt Starting Challenge USA

Earlier this month, I watched the final day of the Colt Starting Challenge USA at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo in Denver Colorado. 

This is a three day competition in which eight trainers are asked to gentle and ride an unbroken horse using natural horsemanship methods. The horses used are mares and geldings between three and five years of age, all of whom are halter broke but have not been saddled or ridden. At this particular event, there were five Quarter Horses, one Paint, one gaited horse and one Arabian.
Each trainer is allowed to use their own tack and equipment. Horses may not be blindfolded, hobbled or tired for saddling. Spurs and tie downs are prohibited. The horse can be ridden in a halter,
bosal...
or snaffle bit.
On the first day of the competition, the trainers spend two hours working their horse in their round pen. This time is split into two sessions with a half hour break in between. This takes place in front of an audience, and the trainers are encouraged to explain what they are doing as the do it.
Day two is comprised of two forty five minute round pen sessions, again with a half hour break in between. Trainers are allowed to leave the round pen during the second session, to better prepare the horse for the final event: the obstacle course.

This is the part of the event I watched.
Each horse and rider combination is given twelve minutes to complete a basic obstacle course. The elements may be ridden in any order, and the trainers wear microphones so they can talk directly to the audience throughout their round.
Each horse should also weave through a row of standards,
steer...
through... 
a zig zag... 
obstacle, 
walk (or trot) over poles,
cross a tarp,
rope a barrel,
and...  
drag a pole with a rope.
Additionally, each horse is required to walk, trot...
 and canter in both directions of the arena,
back three steps...
and pick up all four feet.
This is a judged event. Each obstacle is scored separately on a zero to three scale, with zero being "not completed" and three being "completed, excellent." Five points are deducted for each involuntary dismount.
This particular competition was won by the trainer with the Paint mare.
Buck off notwithstanding, the buckskin's trainer came in second...
and the chestnut's rider was third.
Despite some initial misgivings, I enjoyed this event.  Most of the horses did very well, and I especially liked listening to each trainer talk his or her way through the course. I hope the Colt Starting Challenge USA will become a permanent fixture on the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo's schedule!

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