From noodles to calves, Extreme Cowboy Racing tests horses and riders
The only thing Josie Gilbert lost was her hat as she popped through a barrier made of hanging foam noodles, stepped her horse carefully over a large, teeter-totter obstacle, then raced through water and a tunnel. After that, she and Maverick entered a small corral where they quickly selected one numbered calf from a half-dozen and moved the single calf to a separate pen. That was followed by a quick dismount and remount, a gallop over a small jump and an exercise in moving a pole in a circle without dismounting from the horse.
All this activity was done with a time clock running. But Gilbert was also judged on her horsemanship at each of more than a dozen obstacles.
This is Extreme Cowboy Racing, the sport created eight years ago by Texas horseman and clinician Craig Cameron.
This particular event was held in early July at the ranch of Inez and Donald Throm, between De Beque and Parachute. Another Extreme Cowboy Association race was held there Saturday, the final one of the season.
But Inez Throm said they expect to hold more such events next summer, full weekend events instead of single-day races.
In Germany, where Inez Throm grew up, the popular horse activities were dressage, jumping and three-day events, and Throm was involved in all of them. She remained involved in those disciplines when she moved to the United States and to Colorado.
But in the past couple years, she swapped her dressage saddle for a western one, and the formality of European riding attire for cowboy clothes as she competes in Extreme Cowboy Association races after attending a Craig Cameron clinic in Kiowa.
“They always have a little (Extreme Cowboy) race after the clinic,” she added, and that was her introduction to the sport.
“What I like about it is that it really concentrates on horsemanship,” Throm said.
“It’s nice because it’s a diverse, friendly community. Everybody helps everybody else, even though it’s a competition,” added Melissa Wisehart of Calhan, east of Colorado Springs.
She traveled to Parachute so her two daughters could compete in the race at Throm’s ranch, along with several other competitors from the Colorado Springs area. Most are members of the Kit Carson Riding Club, which has also hosted Extreme Cowboy Racing for a number of years, Wisehart said.
Throm has traveled to their side of the mountains to participate in races, as well.
In addition to the amiability of the competitors, the sport is popular because it doesn’t require a special breed of horse or intensive training.
“We’ve seen people riding mules, ponies, Clydesdales — you name it,” said Wisehart. “You can use any breed you want.”
According to the Extreme Cowboy Association website, “Horses of all breeds with little or no specialized training are encouraged to participate. Two of the primary purposes of this sport are to have fun with your horse and improve your horsemanship at the same time.”
For her part, Throm rides primarily mustangs. She is a member of the Friends of the Mustangs group in Grand Junction, and she has adopted five mustangs.
Newcomers to the sport shouldn’t be too worried about the word “extreme” in the name of the association and its races. Again, from the Extreme Cowboy Association website: “The vast majority of the obstacles that you will encounter in a sanctioned EXCA event are things you will routinely encounter while on a trail ride or daily work at a ranch.”
As with most horse disciplines, the EXCA has different divisions for young riders, adult amateurs, professionals and seniors.
Both the competitions near Parachute and the ones by Colorado Springs are sanctioned through the Mid-Mountain Region of the EXCA, which includes Colorado and Utah. The EXCA World Championship will be Oct. 31 to Nov. 3 in Hamilton, Texas.
Or go to the EXCA website: http://www.extremecowboy association.com.