CSU’s wagonhound land & livestock student competition
CSU’s annual Legends of Ranching Performance Horse Sale is a prominent event held at the end of April to showcase horses with “legendary” bloodlines from quality American ranches and breeding operations. The week before 2012’s sale, however, was the Wagonhound Land & Livestock Student Competition on April 21; where 36 students in CSU’s prestigious Horse Training Lab (also known as the Colt Starting Lab) competed against each other to show how much they learned and how far they progressed with their consigned horses during the year-long course.
While the big auction benefits the university’s Equine Sciences program as a whole, the student competition was the main focus for participating undergrads. On top of being a competition, it was also the final exam for the course and offered scholarship money and prizes for top finishers.
“This is their final exam,” confirmed Bobbi Skelton, the Western Riding Instructor in CSU’s Equine Sciences program and teacher of the popular Horse Training Lab. “The student competition is an opportunity to show off the work they’ve done over the last two semesters. They also have an opportunity to get some scholarship … (as) Wagonhound Land & Livestock has been a sponsor of this competition since we started it (seven years ago) and they put up $5,000 in scholarship money.”
The student competition was divided between a Salesmanship section and a Horsemanship section, with winners declared in each portion and an overall winner announced later in the week.
“In the Salesmanship portion, it is how they present their horse,” Skelton explained of the part where each student led their young horse into a section of the arena that mimicked a sale ring.
With George Strait crooning in the background, the students guided their geldings or mares in a specific pattern before setting up their horse and giving a speech about the ranch from which it was consigned, its bloodlines and a brief summary about working with the horse throughout the year.
“Are they confident in what they do?” described Skelton about points of interest to the judges. “Do they look like they know what they are doing? Do they have control? And the speech portion, which we feel is very important, is to show communication skills and to get them thinking about the pedigrees (and) the ranches these horses are consigned by,” she added. “The students are scored on how they talk (and) they are judging them based on their horsemanship ability.”
The second portion of competition was the Horsemanship section, where students rode their mounts through and over obstacles such as a gate, a wooden bridge and four poles on the ground before demonstrating riding skills in a modified reining pattern. The segment ended with dismounting, ground tying their horses and checking all four hooves.
“(The judges) are looking for a horse and a student combination where the communication is good, the student understands what they are doing, that they have communication and contact with that horse and that they can direct and ride that horse,” explained Skelton about the Horsemanship portion. “They are not judging based on the horse’s ability, it’s judged based on the rider’s ability to ride the horse through the different obstacles.”
After Skelton provided insight into what the judges looked for, a few past students who remain involved in the program shared their thoughts on what it was like for participants.
“They work so hard up until this point, I think there are some nerves that go into it,” revealed Kelsey Parisi, a CSU senior who took the course as a sophomore, was a Teacher’s Assistant and trained another horse as a junior and then returned to take part in the Sales Management portion of the program this year. “It is the culmination of everything they do. It’s like their final exam and their final project. By the end of it, they are so proud of everything they’ve accomplished and they realize how much they’ve learned. It’s a great day for all of them.”
“I really liked it,” stated John Ludwig, who took the course last year and was a Teacher’s Assistant this year. Ludwig provided the perspective of someone who won the overall title at last year’s competition.
“It was pretty cool,” he said with a smile. “It definitely felt like I finally got a reward for all the hard work I put in. You can look back and see what (the horses) were like at day one and see how far they’ve come over that year.”
Current students also chimed in once the event was finished.
“I can’t believe it’s over, it went by far too fast,” described Kelly McNiel, a senior from Minnesota who trained a 2-year-old mare from Cowen Select Horses in Montana. McNiel was voted by her peers “Most Improved” for the year and had nothing but praise for the student competition. “I’ve never been in anything like this before, so I thought it was really cool. It’s shocking to see what new beginning students can do with new beginning horses. It was amazing to see everyone’s hard work pay off.”
“It was great,” agreed CSU senior Lauren Weinert, the winner of the Salesmanship portion with a 2010 mare from Colorado’s own T Cross Ranches. “These horses, when they first came in, they were all scraggly and small and you’re thinking, what are you going to turn into?” she recalled with a laugh. “To see all these horses now, they’ve really become good horses and everybody has really become better as horsemen.”
The overall winner of the competition was Malia Carr, a junior from Washington state, who won the Horsemanship section and placed second in the Salesmanship portion. Approached after receiving her awards, Carr was all smiles and laughter with her 2010 Bartlett Ranches mare.
“I’m a little overwhelmed,” she revealed when asked how it felt to take first place. “Everyone did so well today, I just didn’t expect to do this well. Everyone brought their A-game today.”
Asked what brought her to the Horse Training Lab and ensuing competition, Carr had an enthusiastic answer.
“I had heard great things about the course,” she stated with another smile. “It’s a complete hands on experience, which is what I came to CSU for, and it has exceeded all my expectations. I would recommend this course to anyone and everyone who has ever had or has a passion for horses. This is the real deal.”
“Hopefully, we make better horse people out of them,” summed up Skelton about the goals of the course and the final student competition. “This is not a class trying to build horse trainers. We’re trying to build better horse people, make better horseman (and) make better people individually out of this whole deal.”