“The final event was the tie breaker, with tension highest among riders, making for passionate suspense of all those watching intently in the bleachers,” coordinators said.
Eight riders from Kansas and Missouri competed in four most-diverse competition divisions, each evaluated by different judges, to make the Premier Farm & Home Top Horse Challenge one of the brightest highlights at the recent EquiFest of Kansas in Topeka.
“Knowing the intensity of entries and the excitement this unique horse contest might attract, events were scheduled in four sessions throughout the three-day EquiFest to climax with the Freestyle To Music competition Sunday afternoon,” said Dehlia Burdan, brainchild of the attraction.
“Still, we could have never imagined the intensiveness there would be coming down to the finish line and naming of the champion,” insisted Kate Fowler, co-chairperson of the Challenge.
“Going into the final event featuring riders and their mounts performing freestyle to the beat of musical background, Dwight Bilyk of Sedan riding Grey and Josh Rushing, Hume, Missouri, on Buster were tied with 22 points each,” Burdan said.
”That made the freestyle competition of utmost importance, and both cowboys rode beautifully. But, there has to be a winner,” Fowler insisted. “When tabulations were complete, Dwight Bilyk and Grey became the champion with 30 points, while the reserve champion was Josh Rushing riding Buster, right on his tail with 29 points.”
Final placings third through eighth, in order, Lee Hart on Roanie, Topeka; Ashley Purdin on Jesse, Olathe; Runt Rageth on Burdock, Harris, Mo.; Kristin Cloud on Rebel, Benton, Mo.; Shawn Day on Cash, Chapman; and Chris Redden on Drover, Ravenwood, Mo.
Rusty Walker of The BIG 94.5 Country number-one-rated Walker-Daniels Morning Show announced all four divisions.
The Sunday afternoon Freestyle To Music was a five-minute class with riders given the opportunity to “have a plan of your ride, show off what your horse does best, make it interesting, unique, original and fun,” with 40 percent of scoring based on creativity and 60 percent, horsemanship.
Judging panel included Dan James, EquiFest clinician from Double Dan Horsemanship; Yvonne Barteau, EquiFest dressage clinician; and Mark Gratny, renowned Leavenworth, Kansas, reining horse trainer.
Freestyle rider placings following the champion and reserve overall were Hart, Rageth, Redden, Purdin, Day and Cloud.
Kickoff event Friday morning was the stock horse class judged by trainer Missy Hood with scores based on quality and correctness of the ride following Stock Horse of Texas rules. Placings: Purdin, Hart, Bylik, Cloud, Day, Rageth, Rushing and Redden.
Mounted shooting Friday afternoon followed guidelines of the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association with Kevin Rowl serving as range master. Top shooters were: Day, Rushing, Redden, Cloud, Bylik, Rageth, Hart and Purdin.
In the Saturday morning cowboy jumping derby, judged by trainer Kyle Fowler, the jumps were from 18-inches to 2-feet-three-inches, with three optional jumps at 2-feet-six-inches. Riding in western saddles, competitors were judged on “bravery over fences, correctness in jumping form and keeping the same cadence or rhythm through the whole course, while speed was penalized.”
Rankings of the cowboys and cowgirls jumping fences, in order, were Rushing, Purdin, Hart, Cloud, Bylik, Redden, Rageth and Day.
Ranch horse class judged by Chase County rancher-trainer Adrian Vogel of Cottonwood Falls was a four-minute event including dry work and cattle divisions following Midwest Ranch Horse Association guidelines.
Bylik won the ranch horse division followed by Rageth, Hart, Rushing, Purdin, Cloud, Day and Redden.