MILTON — Russell Beatty has worked with and trained horses all his life. He developed the Colt Starting Challenge USA, a competition in which experienced trainers work with untrained horses.
Beatty said, "Each trainer is matched with a horse on a random draw. The colts have not been started and have not ever been saddled, bridled, nor ridden. They have been unhandled most of the time."
The trainers then work with the animals over the course of two evenings, and judges will determine the winner. The competitions take place across the country, and the next one is coming to Milton — 6-9 p.m. May 3 and 4 at the Santa Rosa County Fairground’s covered arena, at 8604 Bobby Brown Road, Milton. Tickets are $15 per person per night.
"We will have two hours of work the first night with a half-hour break in between," Beatty said. "This is all done with an audience, and each contestant has a microphone so that when it’s their time to talk, they can say what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.
"The second night has two 45-minute sessions with a break in between. After the second session, we tear down the round pens, set up our obstacle course and the contestants ride their horse through the obstacle course. The winner gets a buckle."
The contestants love the idea.
"In the first two days, the colt is able to learn new things really fast," said Victor Sundquist, 20, of Olathe, Colorado, who has trained professionally for five years. "It’s amazing what you can do in the first hour. I’ve actually been able to stand up on a horse in the first couple of hours."
Attendees can take some of the lessons they learn inside the arena back home or consider utilizing one of the trainers with their animals. The shows are set up in a fan-friendly environment making for an enlightening performance.
"The people who come to these events can see the different methods coming together," Sundquist said. "They can see the different things going on. I really see the Colt Starting Challenge USA events growing and making something positive. I think it’s something that’s needed. What I really like about it is, in the competitions I did, everybody was really helpful. We’re there to support each other. We want everybody to succeed."
The challenges are a camaraderie-based system, because all the competitors are after the same goal; they just go about it in different ways. A major ingredient is natural horsemanship, which uses a horse’s instincts and methods of communication. Horses don’t learn through fear or pain. They learn from pressure and the release of pressure.
For details and an action video, see www.coltstartingchallengeusa.com or call 360-395-8422.