Cowboy Up Challenge

He’s got the resume of a daredevil extraordinaire. So it seems only natural that Bill Cameron, silver-screen stunt man in the saddle, has gravitated to Extreme Cowboy Racing.

Cameron, of Rosamond, Calif., virtually grew up in the motion picture industry as the son of the famed Denzel Cameron, who trained horses for such movies as The Man From Snowy River and City Slickers. Bill himself, who began wrangling on movie and commercial sets at the age of 14, once famously trained a horse to jump from rooftop to rooftop — four times in a row — for a Tag Heuer advertisement.

Bill Cameron of Rosamond, Calif., once famously trained a horse to jump from rooftop to rooftop for a wristwatch advertisement. “Once you overcome the fear, it’s amazing what you can accomplish,” says the Hollywood movie and commercial wrangler and stunt man, who’s in Calgary to compete in the Calgary Stampede’s inaugural Cowboy Up Challenge. Calgary Stampede photo.

The secret to his success? Taking one big leap of faith after another.

“My dad pushed me to do things as a child that no kid would have ever dreamed of doing — putting me on race horses when I was nine years old, that kind of thing,” says Cameron, one of the heavyweight entries at this weekend’s Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Challenge, the first Extreme Cowboy Race ever held in Canada, at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

“And I found out that once you overcome the fear, it’s amazing what you can accomplish if you have enough faith,” adds Cameron. “I guess one of the main things I found out is that if I really believe I can do something, I’ve always been able to do it. And I think that applies to this sport — I have a lot of faith in my horses, and they never let me down.”

Cameron and his faithful mount I’ll Cowboy Up, a nine-year-old American quarter horse gelding, were one of 12 horse-and-rider teams who qualified Sunday afternoon for the championship final of the Cowboy Up Challenge, as the field was narrowed from its original 15 entries. The final round gets underway on Monday, July 12 at 3 p.m. at the Saddledome.

Extreme Cowboy Racing, sanctioned by the Extreme Cowboy Association (EXCA) of Bluff Dale, Texas, was created by Craig Cameron, known as the “cowboy’s clinician,” and originated as a TV program on Rural Free Delivery-TV (RFD-TV) in the U.S. Thanks to a wild surge in popularity, EXCA staged 70 events in 22 American states, from Hawaii to Maine, during its first official season of competition in 2009, and more than 100 events are scheduled for this year.

A timed and judged event, Extreme Cowboy Racing demands both horsemanship and speed, and challenges both horse and rider with an obstacle course that may include such challenges as moguls, bridges, log crossings, tunnels, cowboy curtains, roll backs, and water crossings, among others.

Judges award points for each obstacle, on a scale of one to 10, based on criteria such as horsemanship, cadence, control, and overall execution. Horse-and-rider teams are required to complete each obstacle within a predetermined time period to collect points.

Top 10 qualifiers for today’s 3:00 p.m. final are Robin Bond of Vista, Calif., aboard Jose’s Perfection, Glenn Stewart of Baldonnel, B.C., on Genuine Jet Smooth, Kelly LeBlanc of Riga, Mich., aboard two horses (Peppy’s Classy King and Sun Sparkle Cricket), Kateri Cowley of Exshaw, Alta., on Kokanee, Tammy Botsford of Rockyview, Alta., aboard Dez Add To The Assets, Sally Addington of Polk, Penn., on Ghost of a Chance, Kateri’s brother David Cowley of Exshaw, Alta., on Desperado, Russ McKenzie of Eckville, Alta., aboard Quincy Dans Dancer, and Jonathan Cooper of Cremona, Alta., on Cool Kelly’s Bear.

Also making the grade were a pair of wild-card entries – Bill Cameron and Don McLeod of Hanna, Alta., aboard Hiccup. Scores over the first two rounds will be wiped out, and horse-and-rider teams will start Monday’s final with a clean slate.

Some of the sport’s heavyweights like Bill Cameron (fourth at the 2009 EXCA world championship), Bond (third at the ’09 worlds), and LeBlanc, who qualified on two horses here, made the trek to Calgary because of a tasty carrot being dangled by EXCA — an automatic berth at the 2010 world championship in Topeka, Kansas. Competitors ordinarily must qualify for the worlds by collecting enough regional points at sanctioned events.

In addition to his silver-screen work at the Cameron Movie Ranch, Bill Cameron – who’s no relation to Craig Cameron –gives clinics and lessons in reining, cutting, roping, barrel racing, jumping, and dressage. He’ll be heading to Alaska later this year for a group training session, and over to Sweden for a series of clinics, but admits the Cowboy Up Challenge has been foremost on his mind since the spring.

“The topic of conversation, every day, for the last several weeks, has been Calgary. I consider it an honour to have been invited,” says Bill Cameron, who’s giving Saddledome fans fair warning for Monday’s final round.

“I can get the crowd going pretty good because of the way I ride, with my speed and everything. I can really bring the house down,” he says. “I’m more like the Top Gun of this sport . . . I really attack the course when I go on it.”

Watch today’s finals at the Saddledome or through our live feed here at www.westernhorsereview.com. You’ll find the button to click through on the home page.

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