The History of Road to the Horse
2018 Event – Lexington, KY
Diversity Shines at Road to the Horse 2018
Call her a dreamer but for the last 15 years Road to the Horse Founder/Producer Tootie Bland has dedicated her life to uniting the equine industry. Bland has been a relentless advocate of the horse, sharing her message, that however diverse we may be as equestrians, the success of a young horse stems from a solid foundation.
This diversity has never been more apparent than at Road to the Horse 2018. With Wilson mounted in her English saddle, Dowers in his Western saddle, and James in his Australian saddle, all three Road to the Horse 2018 competitors displayed remarkable horsemanship, staying true to their roots and true to the horse. All different, but all undeniably successful.
“That’s what good horsemanship is” stated Road to the Horse 2018 judge Mike Kevil. “It has no boundaries, it has no gender. A good hand is a good hand, and that’s what you see here at Road to the Horse.”
Show jumping sensation and defending Road to the Horse 2017 World Champion Vicki Wilson proudly brought the Gist Silversmith’s Road to the Horse 2018 World Championship buckle back to her homeland of New Zealand. Wilson secured her place in Road to the Horse history as the only horsewoman to have captured two World Championship of Colt Starting titles.
Australian horseman, Dan James was honored with the Jack Brainard Horsemanship Award for his exceptional horsemanship skills which he portrayed throughout the entire event. A recognition that is hand-selected and awarded by legendary horseman Jack Brainard.
“When the greats of colt starting lay it on the line, any thought that you think you can predict the outcome should be thrown out the window! And so it was on that given Sunday in Lexington, Kentucky” states Road to the Horse Founder/Producer Tootie Bland. “The only thing anyone can predict about Road to the Horse is that it is unpredictable until the last second!”
2017 Event – Lexington, KY
New Zealand Show Jumper Takes the World Title at Road to the Horse 2017
Road to the Horse 2017 was created in dedication of the cowgirl. “We may have started out to celebrate the cowgirl but what we created was the most inspirational and most exciting Road to the Horse fans have ever seen” stated Road to the Horse Owner/Producer Tootie Bland.
In the closest scoring competition in the history of the event, less than approximately 8 points per judge separated each competitor. There was no mistaking, Vicki Wilson was different but there wasn’t any doubting her horsemanship. Wilson was not only the first competitor from New Zealand, she was the first competitor from an English discipline to not only compete but to walk away with the coveted World Championship of Colt Starting title.
“This isn’t about being a cowgirl anymore, it’s all about horsemanship” stated the first lady of Road to the Horse, Stacy Westfall, as the competition moved into the final round on Day 3.
Wilson’s Road to the Horse journey was far from scripted. After dislocating her left shoulder during Round 1, many fans were unsure if she could even continue but she didn’t just continue, she shined. Wilson may have had to alter her strategy with her 6666 Ranch bred colt Boon River Lad, who she fondly named ‘Kentucky’, but she continued with the grace and grit of a champion. This cowgirl may have had a broken wing, but she certainly showed ‘Kentucky’ how to fly.
“My shoulder is sore but when you walk out there, the atmosphere, the people, everything about it, you don’t even think about it. He didn’t quit and I didn’t quit, that’s what being a cowgirl is all about. I believe our job as riders and trainers around the world is to inspire the next generation, to get kids to believe that anything is possible in this life and if we want something bad enough, you have to work hard and be prepared to sacrifice and chase those dreams” Wilson stated as she admired her Gist Silversmith Championship buckle. “Never stop chasing dreams.”
Rachelle Valentine selected the 6666 Ranch horse gelding Playin A Seven, this playful grey gelding soon became a fan favorite. Sarah Dawson selected Smart Hunt and California cutting horse trainer Kate Neubert claimed the prestigious Jack Brainard Horsemanship Award riding Sixes Captain.
It’s almost a tradition that the winner of Road to the Horse chooses to purchase their colt to continue their training, Wilson didn’t break tradition.
“Yes, ‘Kentucky’ is coming back to New Zealand. It’s a bit of a trip for him, but he deserves it. He will become a new demo and clinic pony, he loves his jumping, so that is something we will develop. He is going to be a pretty cool kid.”
2016 Event – Lexington, KY
Horse Stays First Priority at Road to the Horse 2016
“It’s an honor. I am so proud of my horsemanship, to win an event like the NRCHA Futurity, then to win Road to the Horse and tie the two together, that’s just huge” stated the emotional Dowers right after his win. When asked what helped him take the title, the answer was easy for Dowers, “Being myself and staying true to what I do.” Equaled in class and charisma, the 6666 ranch colt Seven Attraction carried Dowers to his first World Championship of Colt Starting title.
Winters won Round One displaying outstanding horsemanship and incurred no penalties. Although it was not a popular choice, Anderson did incur a score and time penalty after a Violation of a Rest Period for his colt. This resulted in both a penalty to Anderson’s score in Round Two and a reduced working time in Round Three. Road to the Horse has always placed, and always will place the horse as first priority.
Dowers’ captivating personality and inspiring training philosophies captured the hearts of every horse lover in the stadium. Seven Attraction seemed to collect as many fans along the road as Dowers. This outstanding, intelligent and athletic sorrel colt had something special, the same something special fans saw in Dowers. If fans didn’t know who Nick Dowers was before, they certainly know now.
Not only did Dowers walk away with the World Championship, he was also awarded the Jack Brainard Horsemanship Award. Awarded and presented by Jack Brainard, this award goes to the horseman or horsewoman that excels in their power of observation to correctly analyze the best approach and then apply that method as smoothly as possible for the horse’s best interest.
Brand new in 2016, fans of Road to the Horse also enjoyed a LIVE broadcast by www.bonkotv.com as well as a LIVE play by play radio coverage by www.HorseRadioNetwork.com. Replays are available on both platforms.
In true Road to the Horse style, Road to the Horse Owner/Producer Tootie Bland surprised the crowd by announcing two competitors for Road to the Horse 2017. Both Sarah Dawson and Barbara Cox were named as competitors in a very special ladies only version of Road to the Horse which is scheduled for March 23-26, 2017.
Sarah Dawson, daughter of Road to the Horse 2009 World Champion Richard Winters will return to Road to the Horse in 2017. Dawson is a past competitor to Road to the Horse, having competed in 2013. A seasoned clinician and competitor, fans are excited to welcome Sarah back to the round pen.
Barbara Cox, wife of four time undefeated Road to the Horse World Champion Chris Cox, will enter the Road to the Horse round pen for the very first time in 2017.
2015 Event – Lexington, KY
Unprecedented Fourth World Championship for Chris Cox at Road to the Horse 2015
Road to the Horse was guaranteed to make history and it did not disappoint. Fans travelled from around the world to witness master horseman Chris Cox accumulate his unprecedented fourth Road to the Horse World Championship. A sold out crowd in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park was on the edge of their seats while each competitor piloted two 6666 Ranch bred geldings through the final obstacle course, chasing a record setting $100,000 purse.
“I am so proud of the evolution of Road to the Horse. Now, thirteen years in the making, we have sold out arenas, pushed the boundaries, set records and became the world’s most anticipated equine event” states Road to the Horse Owner and Producer Tootie Bland. “For the very first time, we will take to the air on RFD-TV April 1, 2015. We have the privilege of bringing millions of fans the phenomenal horsemanship of Road to the Horse, as Chris Cox proves on not only one colt, but two, that he is a master of colt starting.”
Barbara Cox served as Cox’s Pen Wrangler throughout the competition and his children, Charley and Case, joined him during his riding demonstration at the event. His young daughter Charley Cox had the privilege of presenting her father with the 2015 World Championship Gist buckle.
Fans watched Trevor Carter take the 2015 Ram Trucks Wildcard Championship title prior to the main competition. Carter and his 6666 Ranch bred gelding Royal Wall (aka Sailor) were also rewarded Fan Favorite honors after thousands of fans cast their votes over 24 hours. Carter made his way straight to the WW Livestock Systems round pen after only minutes of hearing the results.
Both Trevor Carter and Road to the Horse 2014 World Champion Jim Anderson had colts that challenged their colt starting skills, which treated the fans to an amazing display of horsemanship throughout the weekend.
Chris Cox led the competition after Round 1 and continued to hold that position until the very end, finishing with a total accumulative score of 2600. Jim Anderson finished second with 1689 and Wildcard Champion Trevor Carter was close behind with 1656.
2014 Event – Lexington, KY
Ram Trucks Wild Card Jim Anderson captures Road to the Horse 2014 title
It was a photo finish at the Kentucky Horse Park after a historic showdown, which brought the crowd to their feet as a Cinderella story unfolded. Canadian Wild Card Jim Anderson captured the Ram Trucks Wild Card Championship and ultimately the 2014 World Championship of Colt Starting title.
Fellow competitors Dan Steers (Australia), Antoine Cloux (Switzerland) and Jonathan Field (Canada) were close behind Anderson in a finish that came down to the very last round. Jonathan Field was honored with the Jack Brainard Horsemanship Award for displaying exceptional horsemanship and always acting in the best interests of the horse.
Fans at Road to the Horse witnessed the largest ever American Quarter Horse Association Remuda to run at Road to the Horse, with twenty one iconic horses from the 6666 Ranch. After the 2014 competitors made their selections, the Wild Cards for the 2015 competition were announced and made their picks from the AQHA Remuda from the 6666 Ranch.
Returning Wild Cards for 2015 include Sean Patrick, Mary Kitzmiller, Trevor Carter and James Cooler. They will be joined by newcomers Shamus Haws, Dan Keen and Bobby Knight. The remaining horses that were not selected by the competitors or Wild Cards were offered for sale to the public.
Road to the Horse 2014 Champion Jim Anderson purchased the 6666 ranch colt called Speedy Cream that took him into the winners circle in the main event and already has plans to direct the colt towards competitive obstacle competitions.
2013 Event – Lexington, KY
Australian horseman and clinician Guy McLean struggled to hold back the tears as he thanked Road to the Horse Producer Tootie Bland and all those who had helped him accomplish his dreams of a second World Championship of Colt Starting. Guy McLean was not the only one struggling to hold back the tears. A sold-out crowd in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park was on their feet in applause, doing the exact same thing.
Fellow competitors Dan James, Obbie Schlom and Sarah Winters made it a photo finish as the event made the move from Murfreesboro, TN to Lexington, KY for the very first time. Cowgirls Obbie Schlom and Sarah Winters were placing first and second after the first three rounds of the World Championship of Colt Starting. Winters was the first competitor to tackle the Obstacle Challenge and with style and grace she displayed amazing horsemanship. She set the bar high riding her colt through the Obstacle Challenge in a halter, the first person to do so was her father, 2009 Road to the Horse Champion Richard Winters. Schlom made her mark as a young and talented cowgirl, displaying patience and skill as she guided her 6666 Ranch gelding through each test. Dan James had a gelding that tested his horsemanship skills through the Obstacle Challenge and like a true horseman James always put the best interests of the horse first.
Saturday night the floor of the Alltech Arena opened for a RAM Truck Tailgate Party to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Road to the Horse. Many past competitors of Road to the Horse attended the celebration including Clinton Anderson, Curt Pate, Craig Cameron, Stacy Westfall, Martin Black, Chris Cox, Mike Kevil, Tommy Garland, Ken McNabb, Glenn Stewart and Jonathan Field. Past competitors and sponsors of Road to the Horse donated personal items to be auctioned at the celebration to assist the Equine Services for Heroes Program at the Central Kentucky Riding for Hope with a goal of raising $10,000. Sunday afternoon Event Producer Tootie Bland was honored to present the Central Kentucky Riding for Hope with a check for $97,000 thanks to the generosity and kindness of those at the celebration.
2012 International Teams
It was the shout heard around the world as Guy McLean, covering his face with his hands, threw his arms in the air and grabbed teammate Dan James after hearing Team Australia announced as winners of Road to the Horse International March 11 in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
In an intense and close race over three days filled with excellent horsemanship and a few moments of high drama, Team Australia made what will now become a prolonged visit to the United States even more worthwhile with the win.
James of North Arm Cove, New South Wales and McLean of Hervey Bay, Queensland, went into the final round of competition, the challenging obstacle course, in a close race with Team USA, made up of veteran clinicians Craig Cameron of Bluff Dale, Texas, and Pat Parelli of Pagosa Springs, Colo. Team Canada, consisting of British Columbia horsemen Glenn Stewart of Baldonnel and Jonathan Field of Abbotsford, were no slackers, either, having taken on two challenging horses to make it to the obstacle course.
Producer Tootie Bland threw the first twist into the event before the competition even started, offering a total of 40 points to the team willing to switch horses selected from the remuda of well-bred American Quarter Horse geldings provided by the Four Sixes Ranch of Guthrie, Texas. After a brief conference, the only team to take the bait was Team Canada.
Even so, Team USA took the first round of competition from inside the W-W Livestock round pens with a combined score of 691 from head judge Mike Kevil of Arizona and judges Jack Brainard of Texas, Dr. Robert Miller of California, Cody Lambert of Texas, Hugh McLennan of British Columbia and Australian Wayne Robinson of Texas.
Going into the second round, Bland didn’t have to add any new twists because Mother Nature added her own, hitting the guts of both horse and man. Pat Parelli’s original remuda selection was replaced for its protection while Dan James suddenly fell ill during the morning demonstrations. Judges and contestants met to determine a fair solution, agreeing that Parelli would receive a new horse and begin again at 5:30 a.m. the final day, while James’s business partner, Dan Steers, would be allowed to serve as wrangler for Guy McLean during the morning training session. James, in the meantime, received prompt attention from the production crew who provided fluids and medication and ensured that he received IV fluids to combat dehydration. James did return for the afternoon session to continue training with his horse. At the end of the second round, Team Australia had the slight upper hand with a score of 715 to Team USA’s 699. Team Canada followed with a score of 673.
The final round, the challenging obstacle course, has always been the game changer, and Bland, true to form, made it even more so, coming back with an offer to award 60 extra points to the team who would switch horses again. So, after a quick conferral, Teams USA and Canada stuck to their original mounts, and Team Australia made the switch, saying they would never be able to live it down at home if they didn’t.
McLean was the first to take on the course aboard Remember Sunset, a gray gelding trained initially by James. After a bit of “getting to know you,” McLean established the partnership and started off on his declared moves, which required a walk, trot and canter both ways of the ring, a 180 degree turn each way, mount and dismount, stop and back. Then onto the obstacle course where the gray seemed to grow in its acceptance of McLean with every step, taking on both mystery obstacles (a bell suspended over a bridge, which was required, and a water obstacle, which was optional). McLean then ended his performance standing on the back of the horse, snapping two whips simultaneously.
James, on the other hand, took Valliant Paddy, a sorrel trained and purchased by McLean, confidently, but carefully through the course, with moves that were somewhat cleaner. He hit a snag when crossing the ground tarp, but once he showed the horse resistance was futile it was smooth sailing from that point forward.
Team Canada had strong performances as well, with Jonathan Field completing the course in solid fashion on Fletches Stoli and Glenn Stewart making a nail-biter of a performance, spending a great deal of time in the round pen saddling and working Sixes Peg prior to starting the obstacle course and bringing the house down with his own exuberant finish.
Craig Cameron of Team USA brought his usual humorous perspective to the obstacle course, as well, while Pat Parelli, allowed to go last due to the late start with Bucks Attraction, gave one of the best performances of the day, working his palomino horse sans bit throughout the AQHA-sponsored obstacle course without a hitch and completing it to the roar of the crowd.
Scores were displayed to the crowd at the close of each round and before the mental math was complete, Team Australia was crowned the winner with a total score, including the bonus points, of 2,780, with Team USA in second with a score of 2,687 followed by Team Canada with a score of 2,471.
“This was truly a great birthday,” said McLean, celebrating March 11. “I have so much admiration for the other horsemen who were here today and am so thankful to everyone who supported us. I just can’t believe it.”
James, who also purchased his horse following the event, said he was shocked. “It was so close,” he said. “I really didn’t know how it would go, but this was an amazing competition.” Both trainers were awarded with the AQHA Traveler award for their win and the purchase of their horses.
McLean will continue with his tour of the United States and said he will likely travel back and forth between Australia and the U.S. for an undetermined amount of time, while James is taking up residence at Taylor Made Farms in Lexington, Ky., which will serve as a base while he travels the U.S. and works with Taylor Made Sales operations.
“I am so proud of all the horsemen who took part in this competition,” said Road to the Horse producer Tootie Bland. “Making it a team competition brought out the best in all of these great horsemen as they worked together for a common goal. It was so gratifying to hear them encourage and advise one another throughout the event and I believe our sold-out audience really appreciated their comradery.”
In addition to a $10,000 cash prize awarded to the charity of their choice, Team Australia took home Martin Saddles with custom Gist conchos memorializing Road to the Horse co-founder Steven “Dooky” Bland, custom headstalls from Daryl Davis and Flying D Enterprises, custom saddle pads from CSI Saddle Pads, hats from J.W. Brooks and custom braided romal reins from elite US braider Kyanna Fejes.
James, in a follow up message to Tootie Bland, summed his feelings up best. “Did this weekend really happen?,” he said. Road to the Horse will follow the progress of James and Remember Sunset and McLean and Valliant Paddy throughout the year.
Chris Cox Captures His Third Road to the Horse Title and Is Named the First Legends Champion
It was, without a shadow of a doubt the most electrifying event in the eight-year history of Road to the Horse – The World Championship of Colt Starting. The nation’s three largest equine clinicians shared the dirt for the first time February 25-27 in front of sold-out crowds at the Tennessee Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, TN. Pat Parelli brought his horsemanship Savvy. Clinton Anderson displayed his Downunder thunder. But in the end, it was the earnest determination of Texas cowboy Chris Cox that won the judges’ favor and earned him his third Road to the Horse championship title and the first Legends title granted by the event.
“We thought it looked like [Cox] had the long-range plans of the horse in mind,” judge Bill Enk said. “It looked like he was preparing his horse for the next step in training the whole time.”
In a little more than three hours spread out over the course of the weekend, Parelli, Anderson and Cox were asked to select a young horse from a remuda provided by the famed 6666 Ranch of Texas, and then gentle that horse under saddle.
As the competition phase of the event started, owner/producer Tootie Bland told the crowd “I truly believe we are the luckiest people alive to be able to see these amazing men work with these fabulous horses.”
During the first day of competition, the clinicians each chose a horse with a different sire. Cox chose a gray gelding, Perfect Performance (sired by Sixes Pick and out of Best Performance by Special Effort), while Anderson chose a chestnut gelding Fletches Career (sired by Royal Fletch by Jae Bar Fletch and out of Career Model by Eddie Eighty), and Parelli chose a sorrel gelding Hey Whiskey (sired by Paddys Irish Whiskey and out of Hey Doll Baby by Juno Dat Cash). All of the colts were born in 2008.
The different breedings seemed to come out in the horse’s very different personalities. Parelli’s sensitive sorrel looked like an easy pick at first, but a defiant streak lurked just below the surface and was reticent of anything above him on his right hand side, and he bucked the trainer off during an early round of competition. Anderson’s chestnut, on the other hand, was fractious and reactive from the beginning. His explosive attitude was shown by way of an occasional bucking-bronc-worthy kick as he was being worked under saddle.
Cox’s gray stood out from the crowd as being sensitive and insecure. The horse seemed to be looking for leadership, which allowed Cox to play the role of confidence builder – a job the trainer took very seriously.
“This is the first contact these colts have had with people,” Cox said during the competition. “It’s very important to me if someone buys him or if he goes home to the 6666 Ranch, I want him to have a future. I’m not going to use him up just to win a competition.”
Indeed, each trainer seemed to take the time needed to get to know their horses in their own unique ways. Although they used different methods to get there, by the time round three rolled around, they had all had good rides on their horses, and there was no clear leader.
The final round, however, required the trainers to take their colts through their gaits on the rail of the arena and then complete an obstacle course with such challenges as weaving in and out of poles, walking over a tarp, jumping low rails and dragging a log by a rope.
Anderson drew the honor of being the first to go. His sorrel stayed true to form and didn’t make it easy for him. The gelding bucked a bit during rail work and refused to walk over the tarp, but in signature style, the Aussie trainer ended on a good note. Once finished with the required obstacles, Anderson took off his horse’s bridle off and rode him in a no-holds barred freestyle at a gallop around the arena to a standing ovation from the crowd.
“He’s a very reactive horse,” Anderson said of his 3-year-old colt, “but overall I think he is a good horse. He’s going to make a good horse for somebody. He may be challenging at times, but sometimes the best ones are.”
Cox was the second trainer to make his ride during the final round. A glitch in his hands-free microphone threatened to complicate his chances before he’d even set foot on the horse, but the technical crew replaced his headset quickly, and he went on to a successful ride on his grey gelding.
The cowboy from Mineral Wells, TX easily took his horse from a walk to a lope in each direction and made it through every obstacle in the course. He even chose to dally his rope during the log-dragging portion of the event even though it wasn’t required.
“I’m going to dally because I’m a cowboy,” he told the audience. “Cowboys can still be horseman.”
The energy in the arena built during Cox’s routine, and by the time his “theme” song, “I am Just a Cowboy,” was played during the freestyle portion of his turn, the audience was on its feet.
Cox then stood on the back of his horse in what has become the signature maneuver of the famed event, jumped off his horse and made a victory lap on foot, high-fiving fans. His gelding waited patiently, showing the connection that Cox had desired. Cox then removed the horse’s saddle and led him from the arena.
Finally, it was Pat Parelli’s turn. Parelli began his routine by announcing that he and his wife, Linda, had purchased the colt he was working with from the 6666 earlier in the day.
“When I started this project, I thought about the cowboy who would be messing with him,” he said of the horse, “not thinking it would be me.”
Parelli was slow, light and deliberate while building a relationship with his new colt. Before he got in the saddle, he pointed out that he would be using a hackamore for head control instead of a bit. The decision seemed to sit well with the sorrel, who carried Parelli quietly through the rail work and through each obstacle on the course. The pair culminated their weekend together with several celebratory cantering laps around the arena before stopping and asking for a prop – a large green ball. Parelli bounced the 4-foot diameter ball 10 feet above the horse’s head on it’s sensitive right side while the colt stood calmly. They exited the arena to a standing ovation and the strains of “Troubadour,” by George Strait.
As it had been in the first rounds, there was no clear-cut favorite to win after the final round was completed. When the suspense was finally broken, there was a cheer from the audience as presenting sponsor Western Horseman publisher Darrell Dodds announced that the most points had been awarded to Chris Cox.
Cox received a $10,000 winner’s check, a custom-made Martin Saddle, a giclee by artist Susan Edison, spurs by bit maker Daryl Davis and Road to the Horse Legends World Champion gold and sterling silver Gist Silversmiths belt buckle from Road to the Horse founder/producer Tootie Bland.
“It feels pretty good,” Cox said of the win. “I feel honored to be here and go up against these great horsemen.
“What I really appreciated was that the horse connected with me and that means more to me than the win.”
AQHA, the official remuda sponsor, presented the Traveler Award to the esteemed 6666 Ranch to honor them for breeding Cox’s colt, Perfect Performance. The award is named for the AQHA foundation sire who was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 1994.
The sheer talent of the trainers and quality of the 6666s horses made Road to the Horse 2011 a special experience for all involved. Judge Jack Brainard seemed to speak for everyone when he called the event “impressive”.
“One of the things about it, no one knew who was going to win it until the last hour,” Brainard said. “Which made it more interesting, more thrilling for the crowd. It was just fantastic. Fantastic trainers, fantastic horses. I really enjoyed it.”
Craig Cameron Captures 2010 World Championship of Colt-Starting
Craig Cameron of Bluff Dale, TX was crowned the 2010 World Champion of Colt-Starting in Murfreesboro, TN March 7, 2010. Richard Winters, Cameron and Ken McNabb competed for the coveted title in a display of supreme horsemanship and at the end of the day, Cameron, known as the original cowboy clinician, came out the winner of the seven year old event which gives three top clinicians a little over three hours over two days to gentle three unbroken colts using their own styles of natural horsemanship.
When clinicians were allowed to pick their horses on Saturday, Cameron surprised everyone by picking a small 2007 AQHA palomino gelding, WR Shining Alamo.
“He was the little ragamuffin of the remuda, but he was low-headed, curious and brave and I was lucky to have him. I didn’t think the first day he was such a good choice in the first half hour, but in the end, he made me use all of my skills and gave me a lot,” said Cameron.
In announcing the winner, Darrell Dodds publisher of Western Horseman (who is a presenting sponsor of the event), joked that as in so many things, at Road to the Horse, the third time was the charm. Cameron, who has competed at Road to the Horse twice before says his victory couldn’t taste any sweeter.
“Every time I’ve competed at Road to the Horse, I’ve left a piece of my heart in the arena. Now I’m getting a little bit of that back. I truly believe winning Road to the Horse is going to change my life. I am 61 years old and now I am a world champion and no-one can ever take that away from me. This may be the best day of my life,” said Cameron.
Road to the Horse producer Tootie Bland said that Cameron’s win carried special meaning for her. “Craig and my late husband Steven were very close and it would just mean the world to him to see Craig win this,” she said tearfully.
The colts gave nothing for free and all three clinicians experienced road blocks along the way, but each competitor said they were pleased with the heart and effort their colts put forth.
Cameron and his colt, who he had nicknamed Troubadour after his favorite George Strait song entered the obstacle course with the goal to “make a little music together”. The pair accomplished that goal in spades. As the equine champion of the 2010 event, this AQHA registered colt received The Traveler award from the American Quarter Horse Association, honoring his willing nature.
The second to choose his colt after Cameron, McNabb chose a gray colt WR Turning Diamonds, which he would later nickname Jerry on the suggestion of a fan. “A lady walked up to me and said you need to name that colt Jericho, because he’s going to see the light in the end,” said McNabb, chuckling. Though the colt was nervous and had head-shyness issues, McNabb was pleased with his progress enough to purchase the colt and said he will use him for ranch work and travel with him over the next year and then sell him at the annual Diamond-McNabb 2011 ranch gelding sale in Douglas, WY.
Winters chose a sorrel colt, WR Shiners Flashback. In a surprise move, Winters’ wife bought the gelding for him during the second round pen session – ironically right before the colt started a two-lap-around-the-round-pen bucking spree, which Winters quickly brought under control.
Though all the horses made slow progress on day one, the clinicians made progress with their colts in leaps and bounds in round two on Sunday and it was clear going into the freestyle competition the race would be close.
Each competitor showcased their colt adeptly through the required rail work and obstacle course. Adding to the “you-never-know-what-they’ll-come-up-with-next” nature of the event, the clinicians had to navigate a surprise obstacle which turned out to be a person sitting in a chair wearing a gorilla costume. Surprisingly, all three colts felt pretty comfortable with the fake ape and breezed through the unusual obstacle without drama.
After completing the required rail work and obstacles, each clinician had time to present a freestyle that they felt best encompassed their colt’s unique talents and accomplishments over the two short days. Cameron rode to his colt’s namesake song, and at one point purposefully dropped the reins at a canter and did his own king of the world move horseback with arms outstretched. McNabb emphasized their colt’s ability to move out in the large arena – hitting a dead run with his colt and bringing him back calmly at the end. Winters once again tracked a calf during his freestyle to, as he said “to give his horse a job”.
Jody Wood, owner of Wood Ranch in Heber Springs, Arkansas said he was honored to have provided the remuda for the second time and that he was pleased with how all three clinicians worked with the horses. Likewise, the clinicians were ebullient in their praise for the job Wood and the AQHA had done in providing the remuda.
“Mr. Wood really has something to be proud of. These are feely horses that can move out and do a job,” said McNabb.
Judging the event for themselves the first time at the 2010 event, Road to the Horse fans had the opportunity to cast their vote for who they thought should win the event. Combined with the expert opinion of judges Jack Brainard, Toni Warvell, Marian Buehler, James Gholson and Eitan Beth-Halachmy, the text message votes compiled from attendees determined Cameron as the 2010 champion.
Besides the coveted title of Road to the Horse 2010 Champion, Cameron received a check for $10,000 from Road to the Horse producer Tootie Bland, a memorial Steven “Dookie” Bland trophy saddle provided by Martin Saddlery featuring conchos by Gist Silversmiths, a handcrafted Road to the Horse buckle by Gist Silversmiths, a CSI saddle pad, and an original “Blue Horse” painting by artist Henry Patton which was featured as the cover image of the event’s souvenir program.
In the end however, aside from the title, prizes and attention, Cameron was quick to say that all of the men were leaving the event with strong bonds, not only with the horses, but also with the fans and one another.
“You won’t find a bigger gentleman that Richard Winters and you won’t find someone with a bigger heart than Ken McNabb. They impressed me with not only their horsemanship but also their demeanor. I would do anything for these guys and will always be close to them, it’s a cowboy brotherhood that we’ll always carry with us,” said Cameron.
Richard Winters Captures Road to the Horse Title and Fort Dodge Charity Challenge
Richard Winters of Ojai, California was crowned Road to the Horse Champion in Franklin , TN March 15, 2009. Winters, John Lyons and Tommy Garland competed for the coveted title in front of a sold-out crowd of 6,000 spectators including guests from as far away as Finland , France and Paraguay . The one-of-a-kind event, which matches three top clinicians with three unbroken colts, gives each competitor three hours over two days to start their colt using their own unique natural horsemanship training techniques.
Winter’s explained to the live crowd at the event that his training approach was to train his chosen 2006 AQHA bay colt, Plenty Brown Hancock, just like he would in any other setting on any other day. For Winters this included riding his colt in the obstacle course and freestyle performance in a halter rather than a bridle and bit, making him the first champion to ride his colt to victory bitless.
“I start all my colts in just a halter and not a snaffle. I decided right away to ride him in a halter during the obstacle course because you don’t need to be pulling on their mouth at this stage,” says Winters.
In another Road to the Horse first, Winters asked for a calf to be let into the arena during his freestyle. He explained it is important to him to cultivate curiosity and confidence in his young horses by introducing them to new experiences such as tracking cattle.
“When they kicked that calf out into the arena for the freestyle it worked out really slick. My colt saw the calf and he really freed up and started tracking it. Hat’s off to the Bath Brothers for raising really great cow horses,” he says.
Randy and Laurie Dunn, owners of Bath Brothers Ranch in Laramie , Wyoming said they were proud to show off their horses’ natural ability by providing the 10 colt remuda for the event. “I think Richard really sold the crowd with the tracking of the calf and showcased the horses and their capacity and keenness of mind and ability to adapt to situations. I’m really glad that I was able to bring my horses into this venue and with this high caliber of trainers,” said Randy Dunn in an interview after the event.
Winters who is the horsemanship artist-in-residence at the Thacher School in California is also a champion reined cowhorse competitor and an “A” rated NRCHA judge. He was accompanied at the event by his wife Cheryl, daughter Sarah, and son Joseph. Winters chose his daughter, a champion reined cowhorse trainer in her own right, as his Road to the Horse pen wrangler.
Road to the Horse not only featured high caliber horses and trainers, but the crème de la crème of the equine industry who were chosen to judge the event and lend their superior expertise in determining the 2009 Road to the Horse champion. Senior judge Bob Moorhouse was joined by returning judges Jack Brainard, Dr. Robert Miller and Toni Warvell. Dr. Jim Heird from Colorado State University and Marian Buehler of Dallas , Texas joined the judging ranks for the first time at this year’s event.
Shelley Mix announced the winner on behalf of Horse & Rider Magazine, the official publication of Road to the Horse. Fort Dodge Animal Health, a world-wide leader in equine health solutions, had Director of Equine Sales Laura Primm on hand in the winner’s circle to present a check for $15,000 to Winter’s charity of choice – Focus on the Family. The organization is dedicated to serving and strengthening family bonds worldwide. Winters says that he chose the charity due to the immense help that they have provided his own family and families across the world.
“Focus on the Family has helped me in raising my own children and strengthening my own marriage. When families are strong and healthy, opportunities are more available for young people to participate in horse shows and junior rodeos and be involved in great organizations such as 4-H and FFA. When families suffer, the result is often horses being sold, cutting back on equine activities and moving away from a rural lifestyle ,” he said in explaining why he chose the charity.
Winters also received a check for $10,000 from Road to the Horse producer Tootie Bland, a memorial Steven “Dookie” Bland trophy saddle provided by Martin Saddlery featuring conchos by Gist Silversmiths, a handcrafted Road to the Horse buckle by Gist Silversmith, a CSI saddle pad and an original painting by artist Peter Grant entitled “On the Road” which was featured as the cover image of the event’s souvenir program.
As Road to the Horse host Rick Lamb said Saturday evening at the event, “Day two can change everything”, and this year’s Road to the Horse was no exception. After a challenging first day of competition, all three trainers and their colts stepped into the round pens and onto the obstacle course on Sunday with new attitudes and a renewed sense of purpose.
Garland’s colt (a grullo named Blue Leo Bonnet), though it did not want to move out in the round pen and offered to buck, was able to successfully navigate the obstacle course which was constructed with poles, jumps, bags of shavings from Guardian Bedding and sacks of Nutrena SafeChoice T feed. The obstacle course required everything from rail work to dragging a log to a mystery obstacle which entailed the clinicians getting their colts as close as possible to a cage which held two live chickens. In addition, Garland showcased the confidence he had built in his colt by standing on his horse’s back while swinging a rope, crawling underneath his colt and navigating a pool noodle obstacle he said approximated trees brushing against his colt out on the trail.
John Lyons, who was supported at the event by a large extended family including wife Jody, son Josh (who acted as his pen wrangler) and daughter Brandy (who participated in her father’s clinic presentation on day 1), chose a sorrel colt named A Dunn Wiggy. Lyons explained that it was important to him for any horse to be inquisitive and want to please the trainer, but not to require babysitting. To illustrate his progress in this area, after successfully completing the obstacle course portion Lyons asked his horse to ground tie. Lyons, who recently underwent knee replacement surgery, gave the crowd a start when he seemed to be positioning himself to perform the ever-iconic Road to the Horse move of standing on his horse’s back. Instead, in signature fashion he good naturedly teased the crowd for falling for his ‘gotcha’ moment.
“It was a privilege to ride with John and Tommy and I appreciate what they’re doing for horses and horse people. I felt like I had already won before the event even started just because I had the opportunity to participate in such an amazing event. It’s really given me a leg up and I truly believe this event is a great thing. Not only has it given me national exposure to people who have never heard of me before, but it has allowed me to share the California and vaquero brand of horsemanship and reined cowhorses to people across the world,” said Winters.
Cox is Two for Two
Defending champion Chris Cox (Mineral Wells, Texas) emerged victorious at his second Road to the Horse competition with his win Sunday, March 2, 2008, at the Tennessee Miller Coliseum, making him the only competitor other than Clinton Anderson to win back-to-back championships. Along with taking the title, Cox also received a $15,000 donation toward his charity, The Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer from Quest and Fort Dodge Animal Health. The winning horse was WR Shinosmoke by Shining King Cody out of Alamosa.
The competition was neck-and-neck until the moment the winning envelope was opened. Top judges Robert M. Miller D.V.M., Jack Brainard, James Gholson, Terry Crofoot and Toni Warvell took in the action both days, and even into the last minutes of competition felt it was any man’s game.
“None of us knew where it was going to go,” said Warvell. “It was so close. The clinicians were spectacular in the short-go. I was just very impressed.”
The Arkansas-bred Wood Ranch horses proved to be the challenge Boss Wrangler Thomas B. Saunders V was looking for. Competitors Tommy Garland, Ken McNabb, Mike Kevil and Cox tested their knowledge and horsemanship skills on four three-year-old American Quarter Horse geldings. The exhibitors and competitors enjoyed this year’s selection of horses.Garland even bought his colt.
McNabb and Kevil, a former judge, had two of the most impressive turn-arounds going into day two, and both clinicians left the arena to standing ovations after the obstacle course round.
“It is absolutely amazing the feel that these gentlemen have developed over the years,” said celebrity host Larry Mahan. “They are a great group of clinicians. It was a beautiful thing.” According to host Rick Lamb one of the main aspects of Road to the Horse is learning to stay flexible and adjusting to fit the situation. This year learning to adjust played a big part in the clinician’s tactics. When day two began Cox was the underdog and adjusted his program after the judges instilled a 10 minute time penalty at the beginning of the second round because he did not rest his horse for the required time during round one.
“The thing about horsemanship is that you have to learn how to adjust,” Cox said during his obstacle course round. “This colt has come a long way.”
Entertaining, exciting and educational are all words to describe the 2008 Road to the Horse competition. The American Cowgirl Chicks, the clinicians, the Extreme Mustang Makeover and the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department added a thrilling touch to opening ceremonies. One of the weekend’s biggest surprises was the announcement of John Lyons, “America’s Most Trusted Horseman,” as a competitor in 2009.
Chris Cox Named Champion
MURFREESBORO , Tenn., March, 2007: Chris Cox (Mineral Wells, Texas) was named champion of the 2007 Road to the Horse Sunday March 4 at Murfreesboro’s Tennessee Miller Coliseum. With Cox’s win, $15,000 will be donated to the national chapter of the Future Farmers of America (The Wahl Charity Challenge money) and Cox will head home with a memorial saddle, buckle, and model of his winning horse, Commander Otoe King, a 2004 AQHA sorrel by Paseo Pronto and out of Otoe Windy Commander.
As Rick Lamb said at the end of the event—“It’s now one for the history books. The judges’ vote and the crowd vote went to Chris Cox.”
Chris Cox started the 2007 Road to the Horse with a goal to win, but also to educate the crowds. “It’s a great event and I’m privileged to be here,” Cox says. “The crowd was into it. It feels good. When I picked the horse and went in there, I was the last person to catch my horse. It’s constant work. I had to stick with it. I came here with the same plan I always use to work with a horse and I stuck with it.”
At the end of the event that horse, number one in the remuda, locked onto Chris and followed him around in circles then out of the wide-open arena.
“I’m patient and I’m going wait on it,” Cox says. “He came around. There has to be a trust built there for that to happen.”
Fans and judges seemed to agree on the winner—but the competition was fierce. At the end of day one, any of the clinicians had progressed with their horses and had the opportunity to win.
“I was absolutely thrilled with the entire competition,” says judge Mike Kevil. “Chris did a great job. I’ve never seen Chris work before and I enjoyed watching him. Chris made a lot of good decisions. He was smooth in applying his methods. He didn’t get hurried. He let his horse relax before he went to work again. It’s the demeanor of his horse we were watching most. He had a great, willing attitude. When Chris asked that horse to lope off, he loped off and loped until Chris asked him to slow down. When he did walk, he walked with his head down and was relaxed—he wasn’t still excited from running.”
Alternate judge Lindy Burch attended Road to the Horse for the first time this year. In the arena, she was in charge of tracking the clinicians’ break time (all were required to exit the pens for a break and could decide when to take those pauses). The award-winning cutting trainer was pleased with the event and the results.
“I came here to see what all the hoopla was about,” she says. “I had heard a lot about it, but wanted to see. This event is a great education. It really fills a niche that people need—teaching them about what can be done with horses. I think it fills a real need for the public—people that are interested in their horses’ welfare. As a professional horse trainer and competitor—my horses aren’t pasture pets—they can do a job. I appreciate a horse that can do a job, a horse that you can saddle up and go out for the day. I saw that take shape in the round pen.”
Stacy Westfall First Woman Winner at Road to the Horse
The sell-out crowd erupted when they heard the results—Stacy Westfall is the 2006 winner of Road to the Horse, the colt-starting challenge held February 25-26, 2006 in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Westfall was the first female competitor, challenging well-known cowboy clinicians Martin Black, Craig Cameron and Van Hargis.
“This year was extraordinary,” says event producer Tootie Bland. “The horses were extremely challenging and each clinician was outstanding. I also think Stacy’s win is a great step forward—confirming that women can compete differently, but on the same level as men.”
Westfall was excited and amazed at the announcement. She was happy with her three hours in the round pen and she was pleased with her judged ride. Still, she says she didn’t know where she would place. Competitors worked with previously untouched horses-training them for three hours, then showing off their progress by riding through an obstacle course with logs to cross and poles to drag.
“It was amazing,” she says. “I couldn’t see what everyone else was doing. I heard Martin Black had his horse crossing bridges and laying down. I didn’t know what would happen. I was happy with my obstacle course. I wanted to do everything safely.”
Westfall bonded with her horse, Doctor T Tari-whom she calls “Popcorn.” She offered to buy him after her first competition round on Saturday. After the competition, she purchased the three-year-old colt sired by Docs T Peppy and out of Ms Tari Babe. The horse was raised on the Cornelius Ranch, in Blountsville, Ala.
Women in the audience were thrilled with the news.
“It was a dream come true for women all over-and especially from Ohio,” says Terry Shellenbarger, a Road to the Horse ticket holder from Mt. Vernon, Ohio. Terry traveled to Tennessee with a friend for a “girl’s only” getaway weekend to support Westfall. “The guys were fantastic, too, but Stacy’s horse was so happy with her. She talked to her horse and guided it through as she performed. She had confidence in her horse and her horse knew it. She was nice and calm during the entire show.”
Westfall is expected to compete in the 2007 Road to the Horse Champion of Champions event. There she’ll meet two-time competitor Clinton Anderson and a yet-to-be confirmed Chris Cox.
Clinton Anderson Wins Second Consecutive Road To The Horse Championship
Murfreesboro, TN – The competition was fierce, the horses were challenging and the 5,000 spectators who filled the Tennessee Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, TN March 5 and 6, 2005 loved every minute of it. Heralded as “The Greatest Horsemanship Event of the Year” those lucky enough to get a ticket to the sold out event had a ticket to horsemanship history. With a tough draw of horses, Clinton Anderson, Craig Cameron and Van Hargis worked for every training success and showed the appreciative crowd the depth of their skills. Ultimately, Australian clinician Clinton Anderson was crowned the winner of the event, but the true winners were the horses and the audience who were treated to the skills of all three clinicians.
Photo by Heidi Nyland
CLINTON ANDERSON AND COLT, HANCOCK SUG, WIN EL CAMINO DEL CABALLO CHALLENGE IN FORT WORTH
Fort Worth, TEXAS, Dec. 15, 2003 – It started with 10 wild colts. Three were chosen by the judges. And then there was one, Hancock Sug, who excelled under the guidance of renowned horse trainer Clinton Anderson.
Anderson and his colt were proclaimed the winners of El Camino del Caballo, a two-day challenge that featured Anderson, Curt Pate and Josh Lyons showcasing their skills in gentle horsemanship while entertaining the audience. Anderson won a silver belt buckle, and all three received El Camino del Caballo jackets and a gift package from Rio Vista Products.
Held in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 12-13, at Cowtown Coliseum in the Historic Stockyards, El Camino del Caballo was produced by Ride the Remuda Production, and hosted by Rick Lamb, of “The Horse Show” national radio program. Judges were horse experts Robert Moorhouse, Michael B. Richardson, Jack Brainard, Buster McLaurey and Dr. Bob Miller.
The first day began with individual clinics by Pate, Lyons and Anderson, followed by a question and answer session with all three clinicians. Then there was the “running of the remuda,” where a herd of 10 young colts entered the arena. Judges looked them over and chose three for the challenge. The colts were then herded out of the arena, and the three chosen were herded back in and placed in separate round pens on the arena’s dirt floor.
Anderson, Lyons and Pate drew to see with which pen/horse they would be working. Anderson worked in pen #1 with Hancock Sug. Pate worked in pen #2 with Mighty Boy Hancock. Lyons worked in pen #3 with Lowry Leo Hancock. The clinicians had one hour to work with their colts, judged on approach, degree of difficulty, quietness in mounting, degree of force used, and confidence, curiosity and sensitivity, for a total of 50 possible points.
Day two continued with two hours of Round Pen work, which again took place in the three pens situated next to each other on the arena floor. The clinicians and their colts were judged on degree of difficulty; quietness in mounting; horse response to lateral handling, hind and neck movement; horse response to forward movement; and amount of respect, trust and understanding, again for a possible 50 total points.
Next, each clinician was given 25 minutes in the full arena for Rail Work and Obstacle Course for a possible 50 total points, and Freestyle for 10 points. Rail Work was judged on mount, dismount and picking up the colt’s feet; walk, trot and lope in both directions; stop, turn and back in both directions; riding in a straight line for 40 feet; and overall demeanor.
The Obstacle Course consisted of four poles to be ridden through in a serpentine manner, a raised pole walk, stepping over a railroad tie, a bush jump, lariat circling over the colt’s head, and dragging a log 10 feet.
Anderson drew to go first. He walked his colt around the arena before beginning his rail work, followed by the obstacle course and freestyle. Andersons’ trust and partnership with Hancock Sug culminated in an unbelievable conclusion where Anderson stood on his colt and cracked his whip for his freestyle.
“It was an amazing accomplishment, even for a older trained horse,” said event producer Tootie Bailey-Bland, president of Ride the Remuda Productions. “It was just amazing what Clinton did with his colt. It might never be matched.”
Lyons was next and his colt performed well through all requirements. He opted not to do freestyle, saying his colt had made a lot of progress but that rail work and the obstacle course were all he was going to ask of it.
Pate led his colt out unsaddled and saddled it on the arena floor, and then rode it through the rail work and obstacle course. His colt also performed well on all things except the bush jump. Pate, too, told the audience that his colt had done enough.
The judge’s points were tallied as the three men came back into the arena with their unsaddled colts. All three received thunderous applause for their efforts. Lamb announced Anderson as the winner, and then the colts were set free to end the event as they came in.
“It was a wonderful moment to see these beautiful creatures calm and free,” said Bailey-Bland. “The event was a huge success,” she continued. “People came from all over to see it, and they are still sending us accolades. For them, and for me, it was such an honor to see these three men together at the same time and to witness their incredible abilities to bring these colts to such a positive point in their lives on the road to the horse.”