The Wild Card Challenge is hosted by
Matt West – Official Host
Matt West has proudly hosted Road to the Horse since 2013, and will host the very first dedicated Wild Card Challenge. West can be most commonly heard as live event announcer for the PBR Unleash the Beast tour, the elite tour of the Professional Bull Riders and as the host of his podcast “Matt West Now.” Throughout his career, West has been part of the team for 12 PBR World Finals, has announced The American Rodeo, has been heard in iconic venues such as Madison Square Garden, AT&T Stadium, and The Staples Center in Los Angeles, and traveled not only across the USA, but also in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. When not traveling, Matt and his wife Megan own and operate their gym WESTFIT in Oklahoma and enjoy life in their hometown of Delaware, Oklahoma. Follow Matt on all social media platforms @MattLWest.
Dan James – Horseman’s Host
Dan James is a Road to the Horse fan favorite; fans have been intrigued with the roman-riding Australian horseman since his first performance at Road to the Horse 2012. James has held many titles at Road to the Horse as a past Champion, competitor, and entertainer. He adds Horseman’s Host to his already impressive list of Road to the Horse titles. Born in Queensland Australia on a small cattle farm and starting his first colt in his early teens sparked his hunger to understand more about the horse’s thinking patterns. After studying at Longreach Pastoral College, James began traveling the world to gain a better understanding of the horse. In 2008, James joined his good friend, Dan Steers, in Western Australia at El Caballo Spanish Horse Centre where they performed together each weekend. In 2009, Steers and James relocated to New South Wales and founded Double Dan Horsemanship. Now based in the United States, Dan James continues to perform, teach, and inspire horse lovers at the Australian Equine Performance Center, based in Midway, Kentucky. James is joined by his wife, Elizabeth, daughter Isabella and son Jesse.
Internationally renowned, Australian horseman and entertainer Guy McLean is a rare combination of ‘young horse educator’ and ‘finished horse master.’ His accomplishments include Road to the Horse World Championships, an Australian Championship at Equitana Australia 2005, as well as being named the first Official Australian Stock Horse Ambassador. Since 1999, McLean and his amazing equine team have been featured at Australian events including Royal Shows, Equitana Asia Pacific, major equestrian festivals, international rodeos, the Australia’s famous Man from Snowy River Festival, and Australia’s Got Talent. In 2010, McLean took a leap of faith and flew four of his Australian Stock Horses to the United States to share his beloved horses and country with the rest of the world. He now has three liberty performance teams on two continents, demonstrating his complete and utter dedication to the horse. Learn more about Guy McLean at www.Guy-McLean.com.
The Wild Card Challenge features these Guest Clinicians:
Our Road to the Horse 2022 World Champion. Mike was raised as the son of a cattleman, Buddy Major, and grew up pushing cattle, match racing, and competing in rodeos across New Mexico, Arizona, and southern Colorado. Mike competed on the rodeo scene in both rough stock and timed events where he specialized in bull riding and team roping, and later entered the cutting horse scene. The opportunity of a lifetime came up in the early 1990s when Mike purchased the Flying A Ranch in Fowler, Colorado and found himself running 550 cows and growing his band of ranch horses, including a few mares and three studs, Bright Mito Bars, Joys Double Feature and Leovada Chic. He continued to team rope as ranching allowed but focused on growing his cattle herd and running the ranch. Although horses are a huge part of the Major’s operations, the ranch is a working cattle ranch. Every year, Mike operates a large yearling cattle operation on the Flying A Ranch and on the Rio Puerco Ranch in Belen, New Mexico and enjoys training his own and client’s horses in Bowie, TX where he continues to see success in both the AQHA and Stock Horse of Texas show arenas. Learn more about Mike Major at www.MikeMajorHorsemanship.com.
A passion for horses and training has long been a way of life for Ben Baldus. Raised in Michigan, Ben began training and showing horses at the age of 12 and through his growing up years, had the opportunity to show Western Pleasure and All-Around horses. After moving to Pennsylvania for school, Ben worked for Christian Evangelist Lew Sterrett and gained presentation and public speaking skills as he traveled the United States with the ministry Sermon on the Mount. A whole new world of opportunity opened up to Ben when he decided to move to Texas to work alongside NRHA Professional and Hall-of-Famer Doug Milholland at the historic Waggoner Ranch. It was here that Ben began riding and training Reining horses, along with breaking two year olds for the ranch and cowboys. He has had the privilege of teaching Reining at SHOT (Stock horse of Texas) clinics in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Alabama as well as giving clinics for 4-H and community horse programs. His abilities as a trainer and showman are beginning to surface as he continues to succesfully train horses for Reining, Reined Cowhorse, and Ranch Versatility and show NRHA, NRCHA, RHAA and AQHA money earners at major events such as the Futurity, Derby, National Reining Breeder’s Classic and World show. He has had the privilege of being the 2014 AQHA World Champion in Ranch Versatility, NRCHA World Champion Limited Open Hackamore and NRCHA Reserve World Champion Open Two-Rein as well as a finalist at the NRHA and NRCHA Futurities. Ben and his wife Cameron reside in Bowie, TX where they operate Baldus Horsemanship. They look forward to what the future holds as Ben continues to pursue his passion for horses and training. The lessons he’s learned and the vision he has are all a part of the trail he rides.
The Wild Card Challenge features these Entertainers
Templeton Thompson – Singer
Nashville singer, songwriter and lifelong horse girl Templeton Thompson has written songs that have been recorded by multi-million selling artists like Reba McEntire, JoDee Messina, Little Texas and more. Her music is featured in the 7 Clinics with Buck Brannaman DVD series, Dr. Doolittle 3, Every Other Holiday (a perennial Lifetime Christmas movie) along with other movie and television placements. She’s toured the US from coast to coast and has played in Europe and Japan. The music video for her song When I Get That Pony Rode premiered on CMT.com and climbed to #1 in its first week and spent several weeks at the top of the charts on GAC’s Daily Countdown show. Her video for Ride a Wide Circle – a duet with Michael Martin Murphey received national attention. Templeton and her producer/songwriter partner and husband, Sam Gay are riding a wave of success on Australian Country Radio with 12 singles, including 10 #1s written with and for various Australian Artists. The title track of her new album Get Back Up has also found its way to Australian country radio. What does the future hold for Templeton Thompson? “My plan is to continue writing, recording, touring and riding,” she says, “I love what I get to do for a livin,’ I’m a blessed and grateful ‘hippie chic cowgirl’!”
Recording artist Clay Walker is a fan, “A vulnerable, yet believable voice this pure needs to be heard on the radio. Templeton is one of the TRUE undiscovered talents.”
Originally from Georgia, Caitie Holtzman moved to Texas in 2006 to pursue a career in the Western performance horse industry. She is now based in Nocona Texas with her husband, Elliot where together they own and operate Versatile Horsemanship, LLC. They start colts, train Liberty horses, and compete in various aspects of the Western performance horse world; and like many folks, they also have roots in the Extreme Mustang Makeover competitions.
Aside from training and competing, the pair teaches and hosts clinics and lessons at their home facility and all across the state of Texas and Southern Oklahoma. Caitie was the Champion of the International Liberty Horse Association’s Invitational Freestyle event at Road to the Horse in Kentucky in March 2022, and was the Reserve Champion of the Road to the Horse Horsemanship Freestyle. She was a 2022 presenter at Art of the Cowgirl and performed a specialty act as a part of the opening ceremonies for the finals of World’s Greatest Horsewoman. The horses that Caitie performs her specialty acts and presentations with are not only Liberty horses but are also competitive in Cow Horse and Reining.
Lonestar Cowgirls of Texas
Lone Star Cowgirls of Texas were established in 2006 by sisters, Valerie Cranford, and Cat Hammers. Valerie’s background was in barrel racing, pole bending and marching band, which translated for drill maneuvers. Cat’s background was in playdays, music and sewing which has been a blessing to have for custom made costumes! Originally started with only 4 members, it was the goal to build a team of 8-12 to ride in competitions and perform at rodeos. Mounted on flashy paint horses and dressed in sparkling red/white/blue costumes, the Cowgirls now travel all over the state of Texas performing at rodeos, parades, and special events. They are from Montgomery County, the birthplace of the Texas flag, which they carry proudly at their appearances. It is the goal of the Cowgirls to provide and exciting and entertaining performance wherever they ride. The Cowgirls are known for their Texas pride and patriotism. In Jan 2019, Lone Star Cowgirls were a feature photo in Texas Monthly for the upcoming Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The Cowgirls believe in giving back to the community and country by donating to Homes For Our Troops, a nonprofit organization that builds and adapts homes for severely wounded service members. Please see their mission at homesforourtroops.org. Special thanks to our husbands, boyfriends, parents, friends, and family that help support Lone Star Cowgirls….we couldn’t do it without you! Current members are Abbi Harkay, Cat Hammers, Haleigh Jackson, Kim Conner, Kali Beavers, Marisol Villareal, Savannah Small, Valerie Cranford.
The Woodhaven Wranglers
The Woodhaven Wranglers are an equestrian drill team from Woodhaven Stable in Allen, Texas. They are an elite show drill team who are back-to-back National Rodeo Drill Team Champions and the current, 2022 USEDC Sportsquest International Champions. The Wranglers focus on the art of riding and making creative drills that really showcase the beauty and athleticism of their horses. Good horsemanship and showmanship is the core of what they do. They have been featured in Texas Lifestyle Magazine this year and have appeared on tv shows as well. The Wranglers have 26 team members but ride with 8-12 riders at a time depending on performance requirements. They are primarily a youth drill team with team members ranging in age from 14-21 years old. The team has been coached by April Evans for 11 years and a major component of the team is mentoring young women and providing a safe place for them to grow in their horsemanship. Our alumni have performed at Road to the Horse, they are veterinarians, equine photographers, collegiate equine athletes, and the list goes on. The Wranglers are honored to be invited to perform at the Wild Card Challenge this year and look forward to entertaining the crowd. The selected team members performing are Bella Greco, Jaica Evans, Jessi Ramos, Jillian Garver, Clementine Brown, Sarah Muckelroy, Camryn James, Kylee Colby and Caroline Hebert.
Eric Carter – National Anthem Singer (Fri)
Eric Carter is a senior vocal major from Dallas, Texas currently matriculating at TCU – Texas Christian University. He has been singing and performing since the age of two and has no intentions of stopping. Eric is an alumni of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. He has performed solo and with many ensembles across the nation. He is excited for what the future holds for him and his gift.
Master Sergeant (Retired) Erika L. Stevens – National Anthem Singer (Sat)
Erika is a native Texan who grew up in Denver, Colorado. She enlisted in the US Air Force band in 1988 and joined the Texas Air National Guard Band of the Southwest in l997 after separating from active duty and relocating to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Erika’s performance highlights include performing morale concerts for the troops fighting in the Iraq war in 2007 and performing “God Bless America” in the 7th inning of the Texas Rangers 2011 World Series, as well as performing the National Anthem for numerous MLB, NCAA and NASCAR events. She retired in November of 2020 with 29 years combined Active duty and National Guard service.
Kate Cowling – National Anthem Singer (Sun)
Kate Cowling is a dynamic young entertainer who hails from Paradise, Tx. She has been singing and performing for the past 10 years in various venues. Some of Kate’s performance highlights are singing the national anthem for numerous events at Texas Motor Speedway and for the RFDtv’s Superior Livestock Show. She has also performed “How Great Thou Art” on the Cowboy Channel. She enjoys leading music at her church and performing country classics with her guitarist, Doug Bridwell, at venues around North Texas. She is excited to see what the future holds and is so appreciative of this opportunity.