I don’t particularly like horses. Or, dislike them, for that matter. However, my wife is absolutely batty about them. Street rods, old muscle cars, or old motorcycles are more to my taste. In order to enjoy some guilt free time in the garage, the wife was encouraged to pick up a hobby. Well, the only one she was interested in was horses. Encouraging her to pick something cheaper like a heroin addiction, or collecting DaVinci artwork, was a fruitless endeavor.
Time passed, and my wife desired a second horse so we could ride together. Well, who doesn’t do things to accommodate their significant other? And so started the slippery slope, the death spiral. Today, my lakes modified coupe hasn’t been touched in three years, and I’m training a $25,000 quarter horse to compete in Extreme Cowboy Racing.
The problem with horses these days is there’s nothing for them to do except eat money and poop work. Having grown up on a cattle ranch, there needs to be a reason to ride a horse for it to be enjoyable for me. There are only so many vistas to observe before you’re bored stiff with trail riding. So my wife, who really does love me, attempted to find a horse-related activity that would keep me interested enough to haul her around to horse things. And that’s how you end up Extreme Cowboy Racing.
This video illustrates what Extreme Cowboy Racing looks like when performed at a high level by one of the top trainer/riders in the nation. The cowgirl in that video is Magen Warlick of Stephenville, Texas. The emphasis of cowboy racing is to show control with speed, and that run illustrates it perfectly.
Do any of you have the “free one” deal with your significant other? You know, where she rolls her eyes and says “Yes, if Beyonce’ does show up on our doorstep to announce she’s left Jay-Z and declares her undying love for you, you may leave with my blessing.” Well, If Megan Warlick showed up on our doorstep, I fear for the sanctity of our marriage. Not me, although Megan is a talented, attractive young woman, and very personable besides. My wife is absolutely silly about her.
Megan won the Green Horse and Pro divisions at this year’s EXCA Nationals. She is the real deal. I don’t know if I could blame my wife, truly.
Cowboy racers are as much friends as competitors. Former World Champion Joel Mobley has graciously allowed my wife and I to train at his facility many, many times. I think the bit I’m using right now is his as well. Occasionally Joel won’t be able to take it any longer and will spend time showing me the proper way to work through some obstacle when I’m fumbling around.
Gus (my horse, real name is Chip Im Hot, but who is going to call him that?) is the biggest drama queen ever, think Prince Herbert from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He decided to throw a shoe ten minutes into practice the day before the event. No farriers were to be found, anywhere. Chris Reddon, a successful competitor in the Pro division from Ravenswood MO, came to the rescue. He went to Tractor Supply, bought a rasp, hammer and box of nails, and used some concrete as an anvil and his knee as a stand to put Gus’ shoe back on.
The Johnsons of Meridian, TX were camped next to us; their horses stalled next to ours as well. They loaned me a fan for my stall when I showed up without any, and let us use their hose and buckets to water and wash horses as well until I got organized. They were Texas-sized people with a Texas-sized rig and Texas-sized horses. Mark and Nickie competed in the Novice and Intermediate divisions just like me. Only, Nickie is second in the country, and I’m like second from last.
The Keekers of Otwell, IN are prime examples of why America is Great. Jason and Mindy both competed in multiple classes. Two of their six(!) children, an eclectic mix of foster, adopted and biological, competed in the youth and young guns divisions. There are also two foster babies at home! The rest of the kids constantly ran up and down the arena to help reset obstacles in between runs. One of the girls even sang a beautiful rendition of the national anthem.
Just in case you’re not exhausted yet, in real life Mindy is a school principal! And those kids, which spent the entire day running up and down a 300 foot long arena, played touch football all evening in the parking lot. The weekend at the nationals, which left me utterly drained, was vacation for them. No wonder Indiana owns the series record against us in football.
My personal goal for the season was to beat fellow competitor Mike Elledge of Brooksville FL just once. First of all, he rides this showy Tennessee Walker/Spotted Saddle Horse, and it just shouldn’t be legal to have a prettier horse than Gus. And he’s originally from Oklahoma, so how could I not want to beat him? Unfortunately, just like with Tom and Barry, he’s got the Sooner Magic.
Mike and his horse Dancing in Dixie outperformed us in every single event. Humorously, the second day of the event was his birthday, and they played the birthday song for the music during his run. Similar to us, his wife Joyce had gotten him into cowboy racing, and he got the bug bad. If only the Elledge’s weren’t so gosh darned likable.
Our weekend was a mixture of ups and downs. Teresa got trapped under a canopy with Magen Warlick during a sudden cloudburst for about an hour the Friday night before the competition started; so the weekend was incredible for her no matter what happened next.
I, on the other hand, had sprung a radiator leak on the truck coming into the horse park, found a squirrel nest in the camper’s air conditioner that locked it up, determined that a mouse had eaten my show shirts and had babies in them, and realized I had no stall fans for horses on the hottest, muggiest day in Alabama history.
After the aforementioned shoe incident, I wasn’t taking any chances and didn’t work my horse again on Friday. So of course, for the first run on Saturday, he was a brainless idiot and the dullest, chillest horse in all of horsedom bucked his way down the arena, rared up in front of obstacles he had practiced on jillions of times, and in general made me want to grind him up into the most expensive bag of dog food on the planet right then and there.
We went out the the warm-up arena, had a mini-rodeo, and Gus got reminded of how to act in public. Rather firmly. Nothing to call horse CPS over, but he was suitably chastened after that, let me tell you. Meanwhile, little kids in the youth class are warming up like this:
The second run of the day was in Intermediate division, which we run just for the practice and experience. Gus and I at least made it through the run successfuly. Teresa had to go second, did one obstacle out of order, and got DQ’d for that run. She’s still sore about it. Like right now as I’m typing this article, she’s sitting in her chair grousing about it, and we’re not even trying to be competitive in Intermediate. Somebody can’t help being competitive at all times though!
We volunteered to help reset obstacles in between runs during the other classes. Jack got to help too:
Sunday the judges reconfigured the course, and we ran again in Novice and Intermediate. This time, Gus was actually acting like the horse that had won a national competition for standing still, and I had my head on straight as well. In EXCA you get a score on how well you do an obstacle and how fast you do the obstacles.
Our obstacle score was fourth!
Gus is a Western Pleasure bred horse (very pretty but very slow), so of course we finished second to last on elapsed time, but that obstacle score really salvaged the weekend for me, as I was having a serious lack of confidence in my ability to train a horse. Now, just to show you how far Gus and I have to go, watch Magen’s run up there from last year’s Calgary Stampede, then watch my second run right here (clumsily captured on my phone):
At the end of the weekend, my excellent obstacle score in run two moved me up to third from last for the event. Doesn’t sound that great but after the first run, just finishing while still in the saddle seemed pretty good, so I was happy. This is our first year competing in cowboy racing. Teresa has generated a long list of obstacles for me to build in order for us to practice on until the new season starts in January. Even learning as we went, Gus and I are 23rd in season points out of 70+ competitors.
Next year we’re going to shoot for top half in every event. #process #risengrind and all that. Or, you know, at least make it through the season without putting on another bucking demonstration.