“The mission of the Ultimate Horsemen’s Challenge Association is to provide a forum to unite all breeds, disciplines, and skill levels in a competitive obstacle course setting that emphasizes and rewards good horsemanship while encouraging sportsmanship, camaraderie, and above all, fun and enjoyment with horses.”
That’s the printed purpose, but also exactly the instantly-adrenaline-inflated-response of Scott Simms to question-answering first telephone ring before sunrise.
“I’ve worked with horses and cattle all of my life, and after going to Craig Cameron’s, June 2007, Extreme Cowboy Race at the Saddle & Sirloin in Kansas City, I left there hooked. Great event, great horse people wanting to ride and enjoy their horses to the ultimate,” continued Simms, never taking a breath.
Headquartered his livestock operations near Butler, Missouri, since 1988, Simms said, “I came home, talked to my horseshoer and some other horse people. We set up some obstacles, had a fun competition among ourselves, and then had an event at the county fair.
“Everybody had such a good time working their horses, with other horse people and their families. The comradery was so apparent,” Simms insisted.
The horseman thought about how “like-minded” horsemen might join together to have a few such events a year. “They’d have fun challenging their horse’s abilities and their horsemanship skills with others, maybe even have a yearend awards gathering.” Simms remembered his “brainchild.”
The Extreme Cowboy Races Finals that year were also at Saddle & Sirloin. “Several of us went, and it really got things rolling. We had so much fun that we wanted to share such opportunities with others. We discussed having a similar organization, more local, yet a regional circuit-of-sort, so we didn’t have to be gone so long, and it wouldn’t cost so much to travel,” Simms said.
The Ultimate Horsemen’s Challenge Association was formed as a family organization in 2008, with the first event in May.
Initially, there were only four divisions. “Today, eight divisions offer riders of every age, level of ability and discipline the opportunity to compete and demonstrate their skills and strengthen their relationship with their horse, no matter the breed, mules, whatever,” according to Simms.
“It’s all in fun; family, friends and their horses always trying to improve their horsemanship, their horses, helping each other, wanting to do their own personal best with their horse. Nobody has a personal agenda like some groups, but it’s for the good of the family, horse and rider,” Simms said.
While it’s regional group, riders and their horses have proven to be among the best in the country. “Every year, several UHCA riders participate in the Extreme Cowboy Race Finals,” Simms said. “Last year, it was at the Calgary Stampede, and five out the top 10 were UHCA competitors.”
Although obstacles are designed to test ability of horses and riders through a variety of challenges, Simms emphasized, “My goal is never to scare a horse, or make an obstacle that will be dangerous for a horse or a rider. I want every rider to be brave, trust their horse, and sometimes even bypass an obstacle, if necessary, but always finish the course, instead of being eliminated.”
With that initiative, Simms admitted, “There have been revisions in our guidelines through the years, so obstacles are more realistic to what a rider would encounter on a trail or when riding their horse for pleasure. Two directors always walk courses ahead of time to make sure it’s doable and completely safe.”
However, Simms emphasized, “Every day is a new day. That’s what makes these events more fun and a challenge.”
Among the 50 obstacles listed in the rulebook with stipulations for each are backing, spinning, riding bareback, jumping, carrying items, cattle work, ditches, carrying flags, putting on slickers, roping, shooting, curtains, sprinklers, trailer loading, bridges, water holes, etc.
Divisions include buckaroo, youth, novice, classic, intermediate, colt, amateur and open.
A score is given for each obstacle on the course, while time accounts for 10 percent of the points.
About nine competitions from central Missouri to central Kansas are conducted each year, starting in April through October.
“We don’t intend to expand the area, in order to keep travel expenses and time away from home at a minimal.” Simms said. “Likewise, we don’t want any more events in a year, or one every weekend, whereby riders get burned out. So, it’s not a ‘trailer race,’ we only count the top five placings from nine events.”
Simms has been a regular competitor since formation of the group, but heart procedures have kept him off horseback this season, although he never misses an event. “I’m getting well, and anxious to get back in the saddle to participate,” he informed.
“You need to come ride with us,” Simms invited.