Tales of Tough Terrain Editorial

It’s Out! The January / February issue of Western Horse Review is in the mail and this one is not to be missed. Seriously. With features on western weddings, equine careers and schools, wild horses, plus much, much more – this edition is visually stunning and a heck of a way to ring in the new year. A year, I should mention, that marks the 20th anniversary of WHR. Which means that you can you count on the WHR team to bring you a year’s worth of epic issues and page, after page, of literary spellbinders.

And I’m happy to announce that I have a special piece in this issue featuring Cowboy Challenge superstar, Jim Anderson of Strathmore, Alberta. Training and health editorial have always been somewhat of a passion of mine, so I was delighted when I got the chance to go on a “ride-along” with Anderson for this article.

“Jimmy” of course, was aboard his World Champion Cowboy Challenge mount “Patch.”

Unlike myself, who followed the pair into a steep coulee aboard an orange steed named, “Kubota.”

In this editorial, Anderson shares his best training tips for cowboy challenge competition. And I was lucky enough to capture it all while watching him and Patch do things like this:

And this:

And if I remember correctly, it was at this point that my trusty steed… bucked.

Low and behold, my blackberry fell right out of my pocket. Never to be seen again. <sad face> I was probably lucky to hang on to my camera.

Even still, it was a good day. And

I’m happy with how the article turned out. Here’s a little teaser to lead into Secrets of an Xtreme Cowboy

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FROM REININGS TO COWBOY CHALLENGES

Anderson began trying his hand at cowboy challenges in 2011, and Patch has even less time in this particular arena. The eight-year-old mare, registered as Picasmokinlittlelena, sustained an injury early on in life, preventing her from being shown as a reining futurity prospect. Patch went on to foal “Hesa Shotgun Wedding”, but as his name indicates, the colt was not a planned incident.

After the colt was weaned, Anderson began training Patch for reining but discovered early in 2012 that she had a real knack for extreme cowboy challenges.

“She’s a really good-minded mare and she’s really confident in anything she does, so it was a good fit,” he says.

The trainer relays that a good cowboy challenge horse is one with a kind disposition and a lot of confidence in their rider.

“The ones that will try going over a steep hill or through water without knowing how deep it is, or whatever – if they will try for you even when they don’t know what’s coming up, those are the horses that are ideal for cowboy challenges. By nature, Patch has a lot of confidence in me and she tried everything I threw at her, so I knew she would be good at the event.”

With a shelf full of NRHA bronzes and trophy buckles and a list of credentials that requires several clicks of a computer mouse to scroll down, one may wonder why Anderson ever began to pursue the discipline of cowboy challenges in the first place.

“At many of the reining and horsemanship clinics I teach, I saw a lot of people having trouble with obstacles and communicating with their horses through this type of stuff. Sometimes it was as simple as a rider merely wanting to be able to ride from the barn to the arena, or go for a trail ride. Those are the little things that are actually big things,” the trainer states.

Anderson explains that realistically, there are many arena-ridden horses who find their nemesis packing their riders over little hills or down the trail on short rides, because they aren’t exposed to that type of scenario very often.

“So I started helping them get through those kinds of obstacles and teaching their horses how to learn, in addition to helping the horses have confidence and trust in their riders. From that, I realized there was a real demand for this stuff.

“Plus”, he grins, “It’s fun.”

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Be sure to pick up the January / February issue of WHR! And for more on Jimmy’s credentials and whirlwind 2012, check out: World Champion Next Door

Cowboy Up Challenge Decided

The Calgary Stampede’s Cowboy Up Challenge, an event sanctioned by the Texas-based Extreme Cowboy Association, sees horse-and-rider teams negotiate a series of obstacles while combining horsemanship with speed. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

He made the long haul from the Show-Me State. And then, William (Runt) Rageth and his working-class companion truly showed ’em how to cowboy up.

Rageth, 46, a ranch foreman from Harris, Mo., captured the Calgary Stampede’s second annual Cowboy Up Challenge on Monday evening at the Scotiabank Saddledome, outclassing a 12-team field in the championship final with a fast, smooth ride aboard his 10-year-old Grade gelding Burdock.

The key to victory, a cheque for $7,000, and one of those coveted Stampede buckles? Look no further than Burdock – who has no pedigree that Rageth knows of, but bucketloads of heart.

“I don’t know anything about his lineage at all. I paid $750 for him, and it’s the best $750 I ever spent. Every time you ask him to do something, he just does it,” said a beaming Rageth following his win. “He doesn’t argue with you; he just hands it to you. He gets right on it. He’s an athlete. We do a lot of cow work on him back home, and you can go catch the cow, tie one down, whatever you want to do on him.

“I was a little worried about him when we got to Calgary. He was kind of anxious, and looking at everything,” added Rageth. “But he settled in, got back to his own self, and went to work.”

The Cowboy Up Challenge, which was the first Extreme Cowboy Racing event held on Canadian soil back when it made its Stampede debut in July 2010, is sanctioned by the Bluff Dale, Tex.-based Extreme Cowboy Association (EXCA). The brainchild of Craig Cameron, who’s known as the “cowboy’s clinician,” Extreme Cowboy Racing is a timed and judged event that demands both horsemanship and speed – and is the fastest-growing sport in the equine industry, with more than 100 sanctioned EXCA events from Hawaii to Alberta to Maine.

The sport challenges both horse and rider with an obstacle course that changes from round to round; riders are only allowed to preview the course minutes before the event begins, with no practice permitted. Judges award points for each obstacle, on a scale of one to 10, based on such criteria as horsemanship, cadence, control, and overall execution, with quickness also a major factor.

For Monday’s Cowboy Up Challenge final, horse-and-rider teams had to negotiate bridges, moguls, jumps, serpentine courses, water boxes, and cowboy curtains – not to mention picking up an extra rider for a spell, and dragging a rodeo clown around the Saddledome infield on a hide.

Rageth, who was reserve champion at the EXCA world finals last November at Topeka, Kansas, was fully in control for the final two days of the Cowboy Up Challenge.

He and Burdock won the second of two preliminary rounds on Sunday evening, pocketing $1,000. And while point totals were reset to zero after preliminaries, the pair picked up where they left off in Monday’s final – with an extremely smooth run, and the fastest time of the night at four minutes and six seconds.

Rageth’s winning score was tabulated at 128.255 points. James Anderson of Strathmore, Alta., and his quarter-horse mount CK Olena Doc, were reserve champions, collecting a runner-up cheque of $4,000 with a score of 121.725 points.

James Anderson of Strathmore, Alta., and his quarter-horse CK Olena Doc were reserve champions, or runners-up, at the Calgary Stampede’s second annual Cowboy Up Challenge on Monday afternoon at Scotiabank Saddledome. Anderson pocketed $4,000 for his troubles. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

Glenn Stewart of Baldonnel, B.C., and Genuine Jet Smooth, who won the Stampede’s inaugural Cowboy Up Challenge, finished third at 119.765 points for $2,400. Teala Caton of Exshaw, Alta., and Marshmellow were fourth with 117.955 points, Kateri Cowley of Exshaw, Alta., and Kokanee placed fifth at 109.395, and Chris Redden of Ravenwood, Mo., and Wrangler Baron Bar finished sixth at 103.710.

“This was a tough course in the final, but the way the teams came through it shows their ability and their skill,” said Cameron. “What I liked about Runt and Burdock was the way they really attacked the course, with a lot of heart. They were truly going for the gold.

“But I was proud of all the competitors. We had the top horses and riders from the USA and Canada, and they put on quite a show.”

And inquiring minds want to know, William . . . what about that Runt nickname?

“Well, my dad was a little fella, about five-foot-four. And when I was born, I was a little premature,” chuckled Rageth. “They always called my dad Shorty, and I had an uncle who said, ‘Well, we can’t call them Shorty and Little Shorty. How about Shorty and Runt?’

“I was about three days old, and it’s been with me ever since. Yeah, lucky me,” added Rageth. “You look me up in the phone book and it says Runt Rageth. When we got married, (the pastor) said, ‘Do you, Runt, take Machelle?’ If you holler for William, I don’t understand who you’re talkin’ to.”

Cowboy Up Challenge: Day One Decided

Glenn Stewart of Baldonnel, B.C., in saddle, captured the Calgary Stampede’s inaugural Cowboy Up Challenge in July 2010. The horse trainer and clinician is in the mix again this year, after winning Saturday’s first round at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

OK, OK, time for Glenn Stewart to come clean.

When Stewart won the Calgary Stampede’s inaugural Cowboy Up Challenge last July over some of the brightest lights of the Extreme Cowboy Association (EXCA), it was billed as somewhat of a David-versus-Goliath victory. But Stewart, from Baldonnel, B.C., has an extreme streak of his own.

“We have our own little circuit. We don’t call it Extreme Cowboy Racing, but we’ve been having our own horsemanship competitions for eight years,” says Stewart of the Extreme Horsemanship Canada circuit, which he operates from his own home base in northeastern B.C., The Horse Ranch.

For the past five summers, the Extreme Horsemanship Canada series has made tours across Western Canada, making stops in Smithers, B.C., Eaglesham, Alta., Stonewall, Man., Winnipeg, and Saskatoon, with Stewart – a longtime natural horsemanship clinician – in charge of course design, judging, and emceeing.

“It’s very similar to what (EXCA founder) Craig (Cameron) has going in the United States. There are four areas of horsemanship that I teach – on-line, liberty, freestyle, and finesse – and when I first saw what Craig was doing, I thought, ‘Wow . . . that’s pretty close to what this is.’ They’re very similar.”

In March 2010, Stewart placed third during the Craig Cameron Extreme Cowboy Race Clinic at the Corral on Stampede Park from a field of 20 locals. And in July, he grabbed the spotlight from American heavy hitters such as Robin Bond of Vista, Calif., Bill Cameron of Rosamond, Calif., and Sally Addington of Polk, Penn., by winning the Stampede’s Cowboy Up Challenge – the first Extreme Cowboy Race held on Canadian soil – aboard Genuine Jet Smooth in the Scotiabank Saddledome.

As Extreme Cowboy Racing continues to gather steam in the U.S., Stewart is back to defend his Stampede title. With Saturday’s and Sunday’s preliminary go-rounds now in the books, the stage is set for the second annual Cowboy Up Challenge championship final on Monday, July 11 at 3 p.m. at the Saddledome.

Extreme Cowboy Racing, sanctioned by Bluff Dale, Texas-based EXCA, is the brainchild of Cameron, known as the “cowboy’s clinician,” and originated as a TV program in the U.S. It’s the fastest-growing sport in the equine industry, and more than 100 EXCA events were held last year from Hawaii to Alberta to Maine.

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.

As with other EXCA events, all three rounds of competition at this year’s Cowboy Up Challenge feature a different course layout. Following Sunday’s second go-round, the stage is now set for Monday’s final – with 12 horse-and-rider teams set to attack the Saddledome course in pursuit of the $7,000 winner’s cheque and coveted Stampede buckle.

With a pair of preliminary go-rounds now in the books, the 12-team field is now set for the final of the Calgary Stampede’s second annual Cowboy Up Challenge. The final begins on Monday at 3 p.m. at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

Stewart, who won Saturday’s first round of competition on Genuine Jet Smooth, is back among the top 10 qualifiers for Monday’s final, a list that also includes Runt Rageth of Harris, Mo., and Burdock, James Anderson of Strathmore, Alta., and CK Olena Doc, Robin Bond of Vista, Calif., and I’ll Cowboy Up, Steven Barrett of Wheatland, Ind., and Mr. Genuine Doc, Teala Caton of Eckville, Alta., and Marshmellow, Chris Redden of Ravenwood, Mo., and Wrangler Baron, Kateri Cowley of Exshaw, Alta., and Kokanee, Corinne Lindquist of Perris, Calif., and The Master Cure, and Tammy Botsford of Chestermere, Alta., and Dez Add To The Assets.

Also advancing to the final are a couple of wild-card entries – Russel McKenzie of Eckville, Alta., on Quincy Dan’s Dancer, and Adrian Neufeld of Olds, Alta., on Valenfire’s Attractive Image. Scores over the first two rounds will be wiped out, and all teams will start Monday’s championship with a clean slate.

Stewart is back with Genuine Jet Smooth, an 11-year-old American quarter horse stallion, one of his main demonstration horses at The Horse Ranch. “Jet’s always been eager to please, that horse. Tries hard. Really a confident horse. They’re not all made equal, and I was lucky to have gotten him,” says Stewart. “I’ve got all the horse I need.”

As owner of The Horse Ranch, Stewart has travelled all over the world conducting horsemanship clinics, camps, and courses. And just recently, he earned an invitation to the prestigious Road to the Horse, the world championship of colt starting, at Murfreesboro, Tenn., in March 2012, as one of the world’s six best horse trainers and clinicians. Still, winning the inaugural Cowboy Up Challenge will remain a lifetime highlight for Stewart. “It was overwhelming. The whole thing was unbelievable,” he says. “I didn’t ever expect to be going to the Stampede for any reason other than to watch. To go, and compete in something that I do and teach anyway, was fantastic.”

Watch Glenn Stewart’s winning run on the Western Horse Review Facebook page.

 

Cowboy-Up Challenge

It might have been the perfect jolt for Jake.

Six years ago, Tammy Botsford of Chestermere, Alta., bought her Paint gelding, Jake, as a yearling, and the pair enjoyed a pretty decent – if sedate – run in the show ring.

“Western pleasure, trail classes, halter classes, English hunter-under-saddle . . . all really slow and controlled,” recalls Botsford. “He did quite well at it, but Jake was getting bored, and we both decided to do something else. He didn’t just whisper, he shouted at me: ‘I don’t want to go slow anymore!’ ”

By contrast, last year’s inaugural Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Challenge – the first Extreme Cowboy Racing event on Canadian soil – was like a pure charge of electricity for Botsford and Jake, whose show name is Dez Add To The Assets.

In an event that demands horsemanship and speed in equal measure, before a charged-up crowd at the Scotiabank Saddledome, Botsford and Jake teamed up to win the Cowboy Up Challenge’s first go-round with 96.25 points – qualifying for the 12-team championship final, and eventually finishing 10th overall.

“I might have overthought things in the second round and the final, but we did have a great start,” reflects Botsford. “In that first round, the pattern just really worked well for Jake and I; it had all the elements we could do well at, and it worked out quite nicely.”

Botsford and Jake are back for more, with the second annual Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Challenge set to take over the Saddledome from Saturday, July 9 through Monday, July 11. Saturday and Sunday will feature the two preliminary rounds, with 14 horse-and-rider teams. The top 10 in point standings, and two wild-card entries, will return for Monday’s championship final. Start time all three days is 3 p.m.

The winner receives a cheque for $7,000 and a handcrafted Stampede champion buckle.

Botsford is one of eight Canadians in the fray, a number that includes the event’s inaugural winner, Glenn Stewart of Baldonnel, B.C. Six Americans are also entered, including Extreme Cowboy Association (EXCA) heavy hitter and 2010 Cowboy Up Challenge runner-up Robin Bond of Vista, Calif.

Tammy Botsford of Chestermere, Alta., and her horse Jake won the first round of the inaugural Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Challenge in July 2010. They’re back for another title shot against the heavy hitters of the Extreme Cowboy Association (EXCA) during the Stampede’s second annual Cowboy Up Challenge, which runs from Saturday, July 9 through Monday, July 11 at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

 

Extreme Cowboy Racing, sanctioned by Bluff Dale, Texas-based EXCA, is the brainchild of Craig Cameron, known as the “cowboy’s clinician,” and originated as a TV program in the U.S. It’s the fastest-growing sport in the equine industry; more than 100 EXCA events were held in 2010 from Hawaii to Alberta to Maine.

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.

Botsford, who has participated in both editions of the spring Craig Cameron Extreme Cowboy Race Clinic at the Corral on Stampede Park, ended her competitive season last November by travelling to the EXCA world championship at Topeka, Kansas.

An interesting experience, to be sure.

“There’s certainly different gun laws down there, because we got to shoot off horseback in our go-rounds, to try and hit some balloons,” says Botsford with a laugh. “They gave us a little walk-through before we started, and allowed us to handle the gun . . . mine was a Colt .45. I’d never even handled a gun before.”

While EXCA’s sanctioned events in the U.S. feature Pro and Non-Pro riders, the Cowboy Up Challenge will see its horse-and-rider teams go head to head, with no divisions based on gender or experience.

And with the intimidation factor and first-year jitters no longer an issue, Botsford and Jake will hit the Saddledome course at full tilt.

“During that first round last year, I had no clue who anyone was – Robin Bond, Kelly LeBlanc, all the big names from down in the States,” she says. “Maybe that was a bit of an advantage, because I wasn’t being psyched out.

“Who’s this amateur from Calgary, and what’s she doing here?”

After the 2010 Cowboy Up Challenge, no one’s asking those questions anymore.

The Stampede will be webcasting all events being held in the Saddledome and the Big Top this year. Visit http://ag.calgarystampede.com/saddledome-ustream-2011 for live streaming of Saddledome action, and http://ag.calgarystampede.com/big-top-ustream-2011 for events under the Big Top.

Cowboy Up Challenge Champion

Glenn Stewart of Baldonnel, B.C., shows winning form Monday afternoon in winning the inaugural Cowboy Up Challenge at the Calgary Stampede. An Extreme Cowboy Racing rookie, Stewart ripped off a run of 110.5 points in the final round for victory. Photo: Calgary Stampede

For a sport that presents extreme challenges, Glenn Stewart sure made this look routine.

Against a throng of American heavy hitters, during the first Extreme Cowboy Race held in Canada, Stewart and Genuine Jet Smooth, his faithful 10-year-old quarter horse stallion, emerged as the unexpected winners of the inaugural Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Challenge on Monday afternoon at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

“I was learning from them other contestants. They’ve done this lots, and it was my first go at it,” said Stewart, who operates The Horse Ranch in Baldonnel, B.C. “I was thinking, better pay attention to what’s going on out here, and see if I can learn something.”

Clearly, he did. During Monday’s 12-team championship final of the Cowboy Up Challenge, Stewart and Genuine Jet Smooth were fast and clean and smooth and nearly flawless, negotiating the obstacles on the Saddledome infield with ease and grace. Stewart’s winning score from the event’s two-man judging team was 110.5, good for a $5,000 cheque, a coveted Stampede championship buckle, and an automatic berth at the Extreme Cowboy Association’s (EXCA) world championship later this year at Topeka, Kansas.

Robin Bond of Vista, Calif., placed second aboard Jose’s Perfection with 109.5 points, collecting a reserve champion’s cheque of $4,000. Kelly LeBlanc ofRiga, Mich., was third on Sun Sparkle Cricket with 103.125 points, stuffing $2,000 in his Wranglers.

Stewart spends about 250 days a year conducting horsemanship clinics, camps and courses, some of which take place out in his stomping grounds, the wilds of northeastern British Columbia. His Stampede opponents such as Robin Bond of Vista, Calif., Bill Cameron of Rosamond, Calif., and Sally Addington of Polk, Penn., arrived with plenty of Extreme Cowboy Race experience under their belt, but Stewart’s only EXCA event was a clinic and demonstration held by the sport’s founder, Craig Cameron, held in March at the Corral on Stampede Park, where he finished third.

“We do years of riding out in the bush, out in the corral and up in the mountains, with nobody around, and you’re workin’ and workin’ and workin’ on your horsemanship, trying to improve,” said Stewart, who’s dabbled in team roping, team cattle penning, cutting and working cow horse disciplines, but not in an organized manner. “This (Cowboy Up Challenge) just came out of nowhere. I have a lot of friends who poked and prodded me to get into this, let the Stampede know I was around.

“So I jumped in it in March, with two weeks’ notice, and they let me enter this one. Unbelievable.”

The fastest-growing sport in the equine industry, Extreme Cowboy Racing is a timed and judged event that 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.

Glenn Stewart of Baldonnel, B.C., is all smiles Monday afternoon after winning the Calgary Stampede’s inaugural Cowboy Up Challenge, sanctioned by the Extreme Cowboy Association of Bluff Dale, Texas. Victory was worth $5,000.

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.

During the three rounds of competition at the Cowboy Up Challenge, organizers changed the course each time, dotting the Saddledome infield on Monday with a dozen obstacles that included water crossings, jumps, a spin box, a dragging discipline, and a maze of deadwood.

Bond, who was third at the 2009 EXCA world championship and won the California Equine Affaire in Pomona, Calif., earlier this year, trains Extreme Cowboy Race horses for a living in the Golden State. After scoring a weekend-high, 108-point ride on Sunday during the second go-round, she and Jose’s Perfection incurred a few hiccups in the final that allowed Stewart to steal the win.

“The lights and the crowd make him excited. He did freestyle training, and he associates the clapping with running fast,” said Bond. So when there’s lights and sound, that causes a few (excitability) issues with him. He’s usually a pretty honest horse, and pretty much does what I ask him to do.”

Extreme Cowboy Racing, sanctioned by the Bluff Dale, Texas-based EXCA, was created by 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.

Stewart traveled nearly 1,000 kilometres from Baldonnel, just east of Fort St. John, B.C., to participate in the Cowboy Up Challenge. Will he take EXCA up on its offer and travel another 2,000 clicks to Topeka?

“I guess I should go,” he said, a grin spreading across his face. “Quite often, my schedule’s booked a year in advance, with clinics and camps and (an annual horsemanship tour of) Brazil. But if they’re giving me a bye, I’ll have to try and fit it in there somehow.”

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.