Weld County Fair: Young riders stay in the saddle for new horse trail event
Clay Kinnison made his way through the natural ranch horse trail Wednesday morning, a new addition to this year’s horse show at the Weld County Fair.
Clay, 9, was quick with his assessment of the trail that wound its way along the Poudre River east of the grandstands at Island Grove Regional Park.
“There’s not many trees that grow out at Grover,” he said, referring to the ranch where he lives with his sister, Hannah, 8, and their parents, Brian and Andrea Kinnison. The two youngsters are members of the Grover Guys and Gals 4-H Club.
But the trees were about the only thing different from growing up and working on the ranch northeast of Grover, he said, noting he’s been riding horses “since I was old enough to sit up.”
The trail, said Teresa Johnson of Greeley, superintendent of the horse show, was designed to simulate conditions while working on a ranch by horseback. The course had about half a dozen obstacles and was designed to show a horse’s ability – and willingness – to perform ranch tasks.
“What we hope to do with this is draw more ranch kids to the horse show, other than just the horse show kids,” Johnson said.
Mark Howes, a Fort Collins saddle maker who judged the event, also liked the idea.
“It’s nice to have something au naturel. For the ranch horses, it shouldn’t be a problem. The show horses might have some trouble. But then, if you put a ranch horse in a show ring, he might have some problems, too,” Howes said.
The course required the horse and rider to open a gate while on horseback, weave through the trees along the river, rope a calf – a sawhorse with a set of horns – ride through a chute, drag a log and side up to a truck with a cooler that the rider had to open and retrieve a bottle of water. Howes evaluated each of the more than dozen riders who participated and their ability, along with that of the horse, to complete the tasks.
“We don’t do much roping on the ranch. But we might rope some calves when they’re sick,” Clay said. “Some people say that I’m a natural roper. I don’t know about that, but I’ve been carrying a rope ever since I was born.”
He roped the “calf” on his first try and completed the course with few distractions, other than the trees.