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Extreme Cowboy Racing designed for everyone

National rider speaks at recent Partnership with Horses meeting

GREEN CREEK — It was cowboy hats and belt buckles at the Green Creek Fire and Rescue Department Wednesday.

Partnership with Horses hosted an informative talk about Extreme Cowboy Racing and Obstacle Challenges that evening.

Guest speaker Holly Charbonneau rode fifth in the Novice Division finals at the national competition for 2017. Charbonneau said she did the Extreme Cowboy Racing because it gives her something to work on with her horse.

“It’s also good for the horses’ minds,” said Charbonneau, who described Extreme Cowboy Racing as a multi–discipline type sport. “There are a lot of things to learn to do.”

Extreme Cowboy Racing is typically done in an arena over artificial obstacles, similar to those found in nuisance training techniques. The obstacles consist of bridges, steps, tarps for the horse to walk over, poles to back through, low jumps or something for the horse to push with its shoulder.

In some divisions, the riders are required to dismount and have their horse ground tie, dismount and ride another horse for a short distance, or ride part of the course bareback.

The events are timed, and the riders are judged as much on their horsemanship as their success in completing the obstacles. Extreme Cowboy Races require Western or Australian style tack, and Western attire with cowboy hats or helmets. Mechanical hackamores, tie downs, martingales, cavessons, dropped nosebands and any type of gag or slip bits are not allowed. Riders can ride in a halter or bareback.

Competitors in Extreme Cowboy Races range from ages 7 through seniors. There are divisions for novice, youth, professionals, nonprofessionals and over 55.

Craig Cameron started the Extreme Cowboy Racing in 2008, and organized the Southern Obstacle Challenge Association in 2015.

“You can have any kind of horse, including gaited horses, which do well at the events,” said Charbonneau, who started with horses as a trail rider. “Trail horses are great horses for this.”

Charbonneau said the sport did not require lots of money, expensive equipment or fancy horses.

“It’s not about the bling, how clean your horse is or how fancy your tack is,” she said. “It’s about hardcore riding and horsemanship. I don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on tack.”

Charbonneau said another reason she likes the sport is that it’s good for the horses’ minds.

“This is a way to free up their minds,” she said. “You end up with a safer, well rounded horse.”

Charbonneau brought her trainer, Joel Mobley, of Green River Farms in Gaffney, who gave a few pointers on how to prepare a horse for an Extreme Cowboy Race event.

“Bravery is the most important element to put into our horses,” he said.

“Don’t let extreme fool you,” he added, stressing that it was more about better horsemanship. “There’s nothing extreme about it.”