STILLWATER, Okla. – The focus of any college program is to better prepare students for life off campus.
With that thought in mind, organizers of the Colt Starting Challenge USA have teamed together with a few select colleges and universities to bring its competition to their communities in order to showcase true horse trainers with this inventive competition.
“Our competitions are also a way to showcase a way of starting colts and young horses, and we wanted to make it an opportunity for college equine programs to experience it and be part of it,” said Russell Beatty, founder of Colt Starting Challenge USA. “We want the colleges to benefit from this experience, too.”
There will be four challenges throughout the fall semester, with the next taking place from 6-9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26, and noon-4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, at the Oklahoma State University’s Animal Science Arena on the west edge of campus.
“This is a new deal for us,” said Dr. Steven Cooper, associate professor in animal science and the head of the equine teaching program in Stillwater, Okla. “What we’re excited about is it’s going to be a little different. He’s reserving a couple of spots for college students to compete.”
The Colt Starting Challenge features several horse trainers working with colts or young horses that have had limited handling. None of the animals will have been saddled nor bridled, then the trainers will utilize natural horsemanship methods to work their animals over the course of the two-day, judged competition.
At the conclusion of their few hours of working with the horses, the trainers will then ride the horses through a series of obstacles to show how these animals work in a short amount of time with focused training that centers around the animals’ instincts and personalities.
“One reason we’re involved is because we have an equine program, and our bread and butter is that we start colts under a saddle,” said Jake Walker, who, with Jake Lawson, are agriculture equine instructors and rodeo coaches at Connors State College in Warner, Okla. “It’s always an interest of us being a small junior college that anytime we can get equine folks on our campus, we try to focus on that.”
The Connors State challenge will take place Oct. 3-4 at the Fred Williams Indoor Arena on the school’s campus. The final collegiate event will be Oct. 24-25 at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.
“We also have an annual festival here in Warner, and we’ve been asked to be part of that for years,” Walker said. “We’re actually going to host the Colt Starting Challenge with the Warner Cowchip Day. That will be going on downtown, then we’ll host the competition.
“We want to get the people to campus to show off our programs, and we’re using it as a community effort with the cowchip day.”
Each school has its own reasons for hosting the events, but it comes down to showcasing their own programs. That works well with the basic premise of the Colt Starting Challenge USA.
“This is a fund-raiser for the OSU Horseman’s Association,” Cooper said. “That’s a group of undergraduate students that are active both on and off campus working with certain aspects of the community.”
While some schools are using the format as a fund-raiser, Connors State will focus raising awareness.
“We just want to get our name and our programs out there,” Walker said. “We are letting people know we’re here and that students can earn an education here while being involved in equine.”
Colleges to benefit from challenge