Today it’s cold and snowy here—a good day to be inside by the fire. There’s a big red fox curled up in the snow bank right outside my office and I’ve been watching him all afternoon. He doesn’t’ seem to be bothered by our dogs at all and they have not even noticed him. It’s great to live in the mountains where there’s still a lot of wildlife. Speaking of wild, our snowcat ski trip over the weekend was quite a wild ride!
Although there’s tons of new snow now, on Friday and Saturday, our days out on the cat in the backcountry, it hadn’t snowed in a week and with warm days and cold nights, the snow was quite challenging! The slopes are very steep out there in the back country but I managed to get down everything without embarrassing myself—actually I thought I did pretty well. We had an incredible amount of fun with Rich, my brother, and a few other good friends. Just being in the backcountry on the Continental Divide is an adventure all its own—you can see forever and everything is totally wild and pristine. Only 12 skiers plus two guides go out on the cat every day—into terrain larger than the ski area itself, where thousands of people are skiing. The Monarch Snow Cat Tours are highly coveted as some of the best skiing in Colorado and the cat sells out for the whole year, pretty early in the season. So you just have to be damn lucky to hit a powder day (not really that lucky when it snows 450” a year). We only missed the fresh powder by two days! Next year maybe we’ll be a little luckier.
Speaking of extreme, I promised to tell you about the Extreme Cowboy Race (ECR) that I judged in California last weekend. Produced by Craig Cameron, my friend and well-known clinician and TV star, this event was not for the TV show but just a regular ECR competition, sponsored by Equine Affaire. It was held in an arena and the obstacles were all man-made, consisting of things like jumping barrels, pole bending, log drag, galloping around the arena, going over huge dirt mounds, through the “shower curtain”, backing through the narrow “L” made of corral panels, etc.
There were 36 competitors; 18 competed Thursday night; the other 18 Friday night; then the top 10 made it back to the finals on Saturday. It was timed, so the riders were flying around the course, but horsemanship was judged too. Good horsemanship and speed don’t always go together. A lot of riders sacrificed horsemanship for speed, which was not a good ideas since your HS scores were worth a lot more than your time.
Both nights of the preliminary rounds were a total mixture of horses and riders. There were one or two outstanding rides each night, a few more decent rides and quite a few rides that left the judges cringing. Steve Edwards, mule skinner extraordinaire, and I were the judges. Craig did the play-by-play. After the first night, Steve and I felt that there were only a few riders worthy of moving on to the finals, but we didn’t have any say-so other than filling out the score cards. The second night was close to the same with a few more decent riders. But I have to say, the 10 riders that made it into the finals were pretty impressive.
The finals course was quite a bit more challenging. All the obstacles were more difficult, the clincher being that you had to ride the second part of the course bareback, including two big jumps, the free gallop around the arena and the pole bending (which was really more like a slalom course). I am not sure if I could’ve done it, but I am sure I wouldn’t want to!
There were two strong crowd favorites and even though they didn’t make it into the top three in the finals, everyone loved them! One was a 74 year old man on a beautiful Appaloosa stallion. He was an incredible rider and his horse was awesome. And when he rode right by the bareback jumps and waved at the crowd, the crowd went wild! You get a lot smarter as you age, and he was smart enough to know those jumps were too big to be going over bareback!
The other crowd favorite was a 58 year old woman who had just recently recovered from hip surgery. Again, she was a lovely rider and her horse performed quite well. You could see as she ran across the finish line leading her horse (part of the course) that she had a hitch in her getalong but when she told Craig she had recently had a hip replaced, the crowd was totally impressed.
The winner was Mr. Cam Schryver, Director of the Thacher School Horse Program, on an incredible QH stallion named Sticks. They were absolutely poetry in motion and completely unbeatable. You can see pictures of Cam and his gorgeous horse here http://www.thacher.org/podium/default.aspx?t=204&id=xKgqGs7tc4A%3d. Cam is a 60 year old professional, a beautiful rider (I think he may have marked some 10s in horsemanship) and the national ECR champion. His horse was a machine—beautiful and correct and fast. He posted the fastest times AND the highest horsemanship score.
It was really fun to judge this event and although it made for some very long days (after 11 hours of trade show and doing presentations), it was fun to be a part of it.
Until next time, ride hard but ride safe!
For training tips from Julie, visit the Training Library at http://juliegoodnight.com/q&a.php and check out her online store--full of training tools and DVDs-- at http://juliegoodnight.com/products.html