Channeling our inner cowboy

I’m a big believer in obstacle training for horses. Not only is it fun, it is great for their mental wellbeing. You will never be able to expose a horse to everything that they will ever see in their lives so you need to train them how to react when they come across something new.

Growing in popularity in Ontario, is the Ontario Extreme Cowboy Club. Created in 2012 it now boasts over 2000 Facebook members and hosts a variety of events all over Ontario showcasing rider’s horsemanship and speed over a course of trail and farm-based obstacles. For more information, check out www.ontarioxtremecowboy.ca.

I have not yet competed in a sanctioned race as I keep finding myself running into scheduling conflicts, but I did have the opportunity to attend a clinic last summer hosted by OXC president Lantz McLaren. The clinic was a blast and not only did I get to meet a variety of amazing people, I also received a more detailed look into the rules and strategy of extreme cowboy racing. Last month, a friend of mine, Karen Dallimore, hosted an open house at her farm, Sweet Grass Farm, in Orton where she showcased extreme cowboy racing by inviting those curious to try out a course walk, ask questions, discuss training ideas, and to see a few horses tackle a course. Looking to cure my winter blues, I went for a visit to discuss rules and techniques and to try my hand at a course.

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Taking a spin on the carousel
Our session started off with a course walk. Not only is this the opportunity to see the obstacles and walk them in the order they will be ridden, you also have the opportunity to ask the judge questions about what they would like to see/how they would like the obstacles completed. Although it is a race and speed is an important factor, if you don’t complete an obstacle correctly, you will miss out on points which could be crucial for your overall score.

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My patient cowpony waiting while I rope me some dinner!
The course we would be riding was as follows: a free ride to the left, a 360 box, drag a sled, dismount and have horse ground tie while you roped a “cow”, mount on the offside, open a gate, ride a circle around the carousel, jump a log, cross the bridge, pick up and drop off a flag, walk through a kiddie pool, back through an “L”, and finish with a free ride to the right.

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Crossing the bridge, complete with a duck in “water”
My original goal was not to do speed and to perfect the execution of the obstacles. However, as I started my free ride, Splash seemed to have other ideas. Overall, we had a very good mock run with no hesitation at any obstacles. I even managed to rope the cow on my first shot! What we need to work on through the winter is making everything “pretty” and smooth in order to up our horsemanship points. Hopefully my schedule will allow for me to attend a race or two in the 2016 season!

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Beautiful view of Sweet Grass farm. Who am I to turn down a trail ride?!
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