Competition attracts riders, benefits 4-H

Tom Sharpe works with young riders at his arena near Loma last month in preparation for the Spring Gather Open Ranch Horse Show this month.

Katelyn Hansen and her horse, Storm, chose a steer from the small herd in the corral, and cut it carefully away from the rest of the cattle. For the next few minutes, the pair moved swiftly back and forth across the width of the corral, blocking the steer’s pathway each time it tried to return to the herd.

This was just an exercise, a training effort conducted last month at Tom Sharpe’s arena near Loma. But it was important for Hansen and others preparing for the Spring Gather, Open Ranch Horse Show and Clinic scheduled for May 17 and May 18 at the Mesa County Fairgrounds. The clinic is May 17 and the show is May 18. The entry deadline is May 10.

The Spring Gather is a 4-H Horse Show fundraiser for 4-H horse clubs in Mesa County and the 4-H Horse Show that occurs in July just prior to the Mesa County Fair.

But the Spring Gather is not limited to 4-H members. There are open and adult categories, as well as categories for different age groups of youngsters. There will be five classes: ranch cutting, individual cow work, ranch trail, ranch horsemanship and ranch halter.

Hansen, a member of the High Desert 4-H Club in Fruita, started riding when she was 5 and has been competing in ranch work shows since she was 10.

“I really love it,” she said. “I ride horses because it is calming to me, and pushing cows gives you goals. You have to put this cow in this place.”

Sharpe, who gives lessons to Hansen and many other youngsters, as well as to interested adults, is also the show manager for the Spring Gather. He’s a resource leader for 4-H.

He’s spent a lifetime in the saddle, beginning when he was growing up in Trinidad. “I broke my first horse for pay when I was 11,” he said. He’s worked cows on ranches and stockyards in 11 states. Despite that lifetime of experience, Sharpe said, “I learned so much when I started competing in ranch work shows.”

Each of the classes in the ranch competition offers gives horses and riders opportunities to demonstrate skills or attributes that are important for real ranch work, he said.

For instance, the halter classes allow people to learn from judges what they like about the confirmation of a particular horse, and what they don’t. Ranch horsemanship allows riders to demonstrate basic riding skills, but in a manner that is more ranch-related than traditional Western Pleasure classes. Ranch trail courses involve a variety of obstacles, and require horse and rider to drag an obstacle with a rope.

Individual cow work requires horse and rider to work a single steer or cow without any assistance from others. The cutting class — which Hansen was working on — demands that horse and rider quietly cut a single animal from a herd and hold it away from the herd while other riders help hold the herd in one part of the arena.

“It’s important to teach the kids they’re not working with cows, they’re working with their horse,” Sharpe said. “What the cow does is immaterial.” The focus is on getting horse and rider to respond quickly and appropriately to whatever the cow does.     

Sharpe rode with the legendary horse trainer Ray Hunt several times and, he said, “I still take lessons” to help him, both when he competes and when he gives instruction to others.

Sharpe has open riding and ranch work practice at his arena most Sundays at no cost. He also offers individual and group lessons at other times.

The fee for the May 17 clinic is $50 per person. Entry fees for the May 18 ranch horse show for all five classes vary by category. They are $75 for open and adults, $50 for youngsters age 11 to 18 and $35 for those 10 and under. There is a $25 late fee for entries received after May 10.

For more information and for entry forms, contact Sharpe at 261-3528 or by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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