For centuries, training horses has been a major part of ranch work worldwide.
The key, horsemen say, comes in the early stages of a colt's development.
"The funnest time of training horses is the first few days," said Victor Sundquist, a trainer from Olathe, Colo.
Such is the foundation for Colt Starting Challenge USA, an association of two-day competitions that feature trainers utilizing Natural Horsemanship methods with young horses.
The next event is scheduled for Thursday, July 30, from noon to 3 p.m., and Friday, July 31, from 8 a.m. to noon at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds Arena in Cortez. Tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 7 to 12. Kids 6 and under are free.
Sundquist is a four-time champion who has excelled at numerous challenges, most recently at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo event in Denver, where he walked away with the Winning Champion Trainer Buckle.
"In the first two days, the colt is able to learn new things really fast," said Sundquist, 20, now in his sixth year of training professionally. "It's amazing what you can do in the first hour. I've actually been able to stand up on a horse in the first couple of hours."
That quick timeline becomes quite evident during the Colt Starting Challenge. Each trainer is matched with a horse via random draw; the colts have not been started and have never been saddled nor bridled. The trainers will work with the animals over the course of two two-hour sessions set up over two days, and judges will determine which of the trainers wins.
"We will have two hours of work the first day with a half-hour break in between," said Russell Beatty, who founded the Colt Starting Challenge USA. "This is all done with an audience, and each contestant has a microphone so that when it's their time to talk, they can say what they're doing and why they're doing it.
"The second day has two 45-minute sessions with a break in between. After the second session, we tear down the round pens, set up our obstacle course and the contestants ride their horse through the obstacle course. The winner gets a buckle."
The contestants love the idea.
"I honestly see this as a great idea with a great future, which is why I'm doing it," said Bob Mundy of Norco, California, who has competed in seven events in the last year, which includes four victories. "I really like the whole philosophy behind it. This gives the smaller guy, the guy that has no name, the opportunity to go out and show his skills and promote himself.
"I also think it educates people, because you will have four guys who do things similarly but they do them differently."