The Cowboy Mountain Trail Challenge is what got me hooked on mountain trail competition almost three years ago. Put on by a group a friends who call themselves the "Wild Cowgirls," it is a well-organized, well-run, user-friendly competition, with lots of choices for horse and rider. Two main options, the "Cowboy" and "Cowpoke" divisions, provide greater or lesser levels of challenges, as well as speed. My first two years I was happy to stay at the Cowpoke level, for initiating Kate and my experience. In 2013, Kate won the "Ranch Mare" three day sequence, and I felt like it was time to move up.
With the goal of the regional championships in mind, I decided to try the Cowboy division, to push our limits as much as possible. The biggest issue here was that I did not feel comfortable with loping Kate out in the open yet, so I would automatically be dinged for that expectation whenever it came up.
Friday's course was along the Walla Walla River. We had a few problems here and there, and, as expected, lost points on one lope request, but overall, I was pleased with Kate's "try."
|Looks impressive, right? Well, we were supposed to lift one end of the pole and swing it like a gate to enter the corral. She never did let me put it back where it belonged!|
|This was a series of obstacles built into this ridge along the river. That's the judge watching us from behind.|
|This jumble of logs, stumps and rocks, down a gully, was no big deal for Kate.|
|That was followed by several navigation-type obstacles, where we had to maneuver around, over, and through various trail sequences.|
|I was worried that Kate might refuse to step up on this huge stump, but she never hesitated!|
|She really had to umph to get up there!|
|Her trot here was so strong, I missed the turn to the next obstacle! Rider error!|
|A couple of riders in front of us there had been some sort of problem, and Kate got impatient waiting for her turn to "shoot" the bear [hide], but then we headed upstream to more obstacles.|
Unfortunately, three weeks later, my retirement plans changed.