Think you know horses? Can you saddle break a wild horse and ride one in 3½ hours using horse whispering techniques?
That is the nature of the Colt Starting Challenge USA, a new event taking place Friday and Saturday at the Montezuma County Fair.
Russell Beatty is a nationally known horse trainer who runs the show with his wife, Cristy.
Six contestants will test their mettle taming horses they have never seen all while the Beattys give a play-by-play breakdown of their progress.
“It is not a bronc-riding event,” Russell Beatty says. “If you get bucked off, you did not prepare the horse properly. You’ll lose points for that. It’s about successful communication technique and gaining the trust of the horse so it is solid and calm.”
Area horse owners provide their unruly steeds and pay $200 for the rapid-training technique by contestants.
On Friday, competitors have two one-hour sessions for training, using natural horsemanship techniques. Then on Saturday, the big hoo-rah unfolds when they saddle up and ride the horses for the first time through an obstacle course.
“The audience loves it, and the horse owners learn a lot because every step of the way is being explained to them,” Cristy Beatty says.
The contestants are horse trainers themselves, trying to make a name for themselves, Russell Beatty said.
“If they do well, people talk about it. If they do poorly, that word gets around as well,” he said. “I interview each one and tell them don’t enter if you have only broke one or two horses because it could go poorly and give you a bad image.”
The Cortez event is part of a national competition with the finals to be held in Las Vegas during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Fan Fest in December.
The Beattys host 20 colt-starting events per year.
“We got started because rodeos were getting kind of old and the national horse-breaking competitions were only allowing big names to enter,” Russell Beatty said. “We have more of an open contestant format.”
Russell Beatty has hosted and participated in 50 horse-breaking events.
“There were just two horses I was not able to break and ride. One was a wild BLM horse,” he said.
He was raised near San Antonio, Texas. He competed in rodeo and attended college in Sheridan, Wyo., on a rodeo scholarship studying ranch management. He competed in rodeo until he was 42.
“I first attended a colt-starting challenge put on by a top-rated horse clinician,” he said. “I was intrigued and amazed by what I saw. The trainers’ methods simplified and sped up the process of gentling a horse.”
On Friday, the training goes from 9 a.m. to noon in the outdoor arena. On Saturday, the contestants ride the horses for the first time and guide them through the obstacle course while being judged. Tickets are $5.