Cowboys and cowgirls from throughout the nation like Western action in an extreme way.
Mounted on their best equine friends, a total of 103 Western athletes from 23 states, the nation’s width and depth, participated in the first Extreme Cowboy Race World Championship at Topeka.
Craig Cameron, founder of the Extreme Cowboy Race Association based in Bluff Dale, Texas, emphasized, “The fastest growing sport for equine enthusiasts around the world is the Extreme Cowboy Races.”
Membership in the association is mandatory for participation at the competitions, and there are now more than 800 paid members, with the list growing daily.
Â The country is divided into 15 regions, and a total of 76 Extreme Cowboy Races were conducted during the past year, with Cameron personally in attendance at a couple handfuls of them.
“In the three days of the world championship, we had contestants from as far away as California, Florida, Maine and Massachusetts,” explained Bill Hull, president of the sponsoring group and also of Bluff Dale.
Some of the riders had just entered a few local events, but one contestant had been in 30 Extreme Cowboy Race events during the past year.
Competing in six divisions, the contestants ranged from eight years of age up to 68 years old. “There were mules and several breeds of horses represented, with those from three-year-olds up to one 26-year-old horse,” Hull added.
Highlights of the three-day event were Friday and Saturday morning educational and entertaining riding demonstrations conducted by Cameron, an inductee into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. A cowboy church service was Sunday morning.
Spectators were especially pleased by Cameron serving as the announcer and providing a pleasurable critique of every ride in the entire event as it was progressing.
On Saturday evening, Cameron, in his jovial style, competed on his own sorrel gelding in a celebrity contest with Rusty Walker, prominent WIBW 94.5 Country radio personality, riding her black and white Paint gelding. No winner was officially declared, but it was a unanimous crowd decision that Walker was the hands-down champion.
“Horses and riders competed through challenging obstacles while being judged on horsemanship, courage, speed and trust in one another’s skill,” according to Hull.
Among the obstacles were various patterns, rollbacks, stops, spins, jumps, dragging objects behind their horse with a lariat and shooting targets from their horse.
“Number of obstacles crossed, overall horsemanship and speed with control were the basis for scoring,” Hull verified.
Riders in six divisions participated in three go-rounds of competition, with the final round on Sunday afternoon. Competition lasted into the wee hours both Friday and Saturday evenings. Course was changed for each go-round.
Overall winner was legendary Kansas horse trainer-rancher Lee Hart of Gardner. A former top hand and champion bronc rider at ranch rodeos throughout the country including the World Championship Ranch Rodeo in Amarillo, Texas, Hart rode a black three-year-old gelding called Buster.
“Going into the finals, Lee was two points behind, but even though he knocked down a couple of the jumps, his horsemanship ability during the final seven obstacles, while riding bareback as required, was by far and away the best of any contestant,” Hull credited.
For his top score, Hart received a number of prizes including a Colt 45 pistol used in the competition and a trophy buckle. His winnings were valued at more than $4,000.
“All of the individual $200 entry fees were distributed back to the top three or four contestants in each division,” Hull commented.
Largest division was for non-professionals with the 33 contestants topped by Tracy Pinson of Florida riding her black Tennessee Walking Horse stallion, Tuff. The Ride Smart Division for competitors 55 years of age and older was won by 61-year-old Jim Best on his Quarter Horse gelding, Little Black Skids.
Nineteen novice riders were topped by Susan Morris of Louisiana on her black Quarter Horse stallion, Cajun. Jake Glidwell from Missouri rode Jigsaw to win the youth division for riders 12-17. Topping three Young Guns, youth from seven to 10, was Samantha Lebbin on Pretty Hot Dude.
“We had a large attendance for every part of the championship, making it very successful, especially for the first one we’ve had,” Hull evaluated. “The contestants were all quite enthused and are excited about the coming year and participation in events throughout the country leading to another world championship.
That second Extreme Cowboy Race World Championship is already being planned for next fall in Topeka. “There will be some changes made,” Hull promised. “We have not determined the exact dates, but it will be a different weekend which doesn’t conflict with other major horse events.
“That will enhance our participation and spectator attendance even further. We sure appreciate all of the hospitality everybody in Topeka and the area gave us this year. We are excited about making next year even bigger and better,” Hull concluded.