April 2, 2012

Local ‘showdown’ to be held on May 4-5

Members of the NJC Versatility Ranch Horse Team at NJC.

Members of the NJC Versatility Ranch Horse Team at NJC include: (front row left to right) Kalli Blough, Fleming; Maegan Kelly, Denver; Sarah Stoudt, Ault; Kayli Money, Castle Rock; Kassie Norton, Del Norte; Selena Giers, Parker.(Back row left to right) Jacob Weingardt, Denver; Michelle Klein, Pueblo; Alyssa Goldstein, Highlands Ranch; Hannah Pace, Norwood; Katie White, Conifer; Jenna Cobb, Frisco; and Meghan Flavin, Conifer. (Courtesy Photo)

By Barbara Baker

The Versatility Ranch Horse Team at Northeastern Junior College is having a good season in 2012. Two weeks ago, they were named the reserve champion team at the American Stock Horse Association’s Region 5 Championships held at the Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The NJC Team had two individual champions in the three divisions of competition.

Sophomore Katie White of Conifer, CO was champion of the Limited Non-Pro Division and sophomore Selena Giers or Parker, CO was champion of the Non-Pro division. Both young ladies brought home very nice belt buckles.

Collegiate age students from all over the country compete, by region in these versatility ranch horse competitions which are conducted by the American Stock Horse Association and various affiliates. The American Stock Horse Association (ASHA) was chartered as a non-profit organization in 2008. The Association is dedicated to enhancing the pleasure of owning and riding horses through creating better horses and horsemen. The mission of the Association is simple: help people ride a better horse.  Since its inception, Versatility Ranch Horse Teams have popped up at colleges all over the nation, with students hauling and competing with other collegiate age riders. 

According to the ASHA’s website, the original organizers saw problems developing in the horse industry that, in their opinion, were not good for the industry.  These founders viewed the trend of emphasizing specialized horses was replacing the versatility of the horses in the past. Rider skills were also becoming specialized, relating only to a single discipline or event. There was not a link between a truly well-trained horse and the versatile horse that could perform many tasks. These organizers also recognized a need for affordable education for the many horsemen who wanted to learn to ride better horses, but their situation or location prevented them the opportunity.  The idea of having a clinic preceding every competition has proven its success. It meets the need for providing affordable, standardized western stock horse riding and training clinics that are fun and challenging. Having a competition the following day helps riders evaluate their progress.

 ASHA is new as a national organization; but its programs including philosophy, educational methods, and competitions have been well tested in Texas before offering the program nationwide. The philosophy of how to measure the worth of a good stock or ranch horse and how to teach the skills is so sound and well-accepted that national demand has led to the formation of ASHA. This type of non-traditional horse competition activity has experienced unparalleled growth in the past few years.

The ASHA format is designed to be positive and straight forward – always encouraging growth and improvement. A close examination of how the ASHA classes are conducted and evaluated will reveal a real effort to keep a horse as natural as possible while still training him to be correct and precise. The stock horse pleasure class as designed and run by ASHA is completely unique. This may be the most important class offered because a good stock horse must be functional and a pleasure to ride. Probably the most important job a stock horse has to perform is to be a means of transportation to get from one task to another.   The cow horse class is pointed and judged in a more realistic manner than many of the other cow horse classes offered. The option of either roping or circling is unique and very necessary. Everyone loves a good roping horse, but everyone can’t rope. Having the option of either roping or circling allows the good roping horse to be showcased, but also allows the non-roper a chance to own a good cow horse. Being able to control a cow without roping is a science as old as roping itself. The reining class is separate from the cow horse class. This is by design and is important because some good ranch horses will work a cow very well, but are not good at all of the specific maneuvers required in a reining horse. By the same token some good reining horses may not work a cow very well. A horse’s past experience and training may allow them to compete well in one class while learning to also do the other class well. The trail class attempts to measure the ability of a horse to handle different stock farm or ranch chores. ASHA obstacles are common sense, everyday encounters and the class is held on natural terrain where possible.

ASHA competitions, with standardized judging and scoring, serve as a medium to measure progress and provide an incentive for further improvement. Riders compare specific maneuver scores from one competition to the next as they strive for improvement. Exhibitors feel as if they are competing against themselves from one evaluation to the next. Participants tend to encourage each other and celebrate their victories. With this program, both rider and horses eventually become very versatile.

The scoring system is a positive one rather than a negative one which leads to many disqualifications. In some years, there have been less than 10 horses disqualified in all of the classes – this is by design. This organization believes that a horse should be given credit for what they accomplish rather than disqualified with no score.

ASHA is firmly committed to a positive scoring system and the four classes of stock horse pleasure, reining, trail and working cow horse.

The NJC Team now gears up for the national competition which will be held in Amarillo, TX on April 13 and 14th. The students will also host the second annual NJC Showdown versatility ranch horse competition here in Sterling at the Logan County Fairgrounds on May 5th and 6th. NJC’s director of equine management and a very accomplished horse trainer, Cole Briggs, will give a workshop preceding this competition on how to do body control, circles and transitions with your horse. Cost of this clinic will be $50 at the event. It is open to the public.