New contest coming to Cortez

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Russell Beatty trains a young horse recently. Beatty utilizes natural horsemanship in his training and in his competition-based showcases, the Colt Starting Challenge USA, which take place across the country. (PHOTO COURTESY OF RUSSELL BEATTY)
Russell Beatty trains a young horse recently. Beatty utilizes natural horsemanship in his training and in his competition-based showcases, the Colt Starting Challenge USA, which take place across the country. (PHOTO COURTESY OF RUSSELL BEATTY)


CENTENNIAL, Colo. – There is something beautiful and majestic about a horse, from its raw power to its sheer beauty in movement.

Russell Beatty first witnessed it as a child, and that’s when his passion for horses began to stir. It’s merged into a lifelong love and a hunger to work with horses.

You see, Beatty has worked with and trained horses all his life, and now he has developed the Colt Starting Challenge USA, an event that features some of the brightest trainers in the country who work with untrained horses in a competition.

“These are a competition between trainers,” said Beatty, a native Texan now living in Hawaii. “Each trainer is matched with a horse on a random draw. The colts have not been started and have not ever been saddled or bridled. They have been unhandled most of the time.”

The trainers will then work with the animals over the course of two two-hour sessions set up over two days, and judges will determine which of the trainers wins. The competitions will take place across the country, including an event scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 1, and 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds in Cortez.

“We will have two hours of work the first day 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 day 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.

“The thing I like about it is that Russell cares about the people and the horses, and he just wants to make for a good competition,” said Bob Mundy of Norco, Calif., who has competed in two events, including one victory. “He wants to show people that there are different ways and different methods to colt-starting. It opens the public’s eye that if you do it in the correct manner, you can really start a colt in a short amount of time.”

It also allows trainers to show their stuff and promote the work they do. That’s a valuable tool, especially for horse owners that are looking for someone who can work with well with their animals.

“In the first two days, the colt is able to learn new things really fast,” said Victor Sundquist, 20, of Olathe, Colo., who has been training professionally for four 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.”

It’s that type of progress that makes the Colt Starting Challenges a draw not only for competitors but also for horse-loving fans who come to see the trainers at work. They 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 that makes each performance enlightening.

It’s a pretty good feature for Beatty, who began the idea on the islands a few years ago.

“I had guys calling me, and they were wanting us to do them over here,” he said of the mainland. “There is a calling for them, so we are putting them on over here. The contestants love them, and the crowd loves them. People are seeing how you can really work with the horses and see that the horses respond better to this type of training.”

Beatty was raised near San Antonio in the community of Helotes, Texas. He competed in rodeo and attended college in Sheridan, Wyo., on a rodeo scholarship, where he studied ranch management. He continued to compete in rodeo – riding bulls and saddle broncs and roping calves – until he was 42.

If there’s something to be done on a horse, Beatty has done it. He now enjoys the theory of natural horsemanship in working with animals, which is how he developed the Colt Starting Challenge for competition.

“I first attended a colt starting challenge put on by a top rated horse clinician,” he said. “I was intrigued and amazed by what I saw. The trainers’ methods simplified and sped up the process of gentling a horse.”

The theory is being put to work nationwide.

“I really enjoy it and think it’s awesome,” said Sundquist, who works with his father in training horses. “I got involved mostly because it was something new and something different. Partially it’s for the advertising for me.”

It has been a powerful tool for the competitors in their own promotion.

“For anybody that does this, our goal is to promote how we go about it,” Mundy said. “I like colt starting because I like being able to start horses and get them a good foundation. The first few days with a horse makes all the difference in a horse.

“The people who come to these events can see the different methods coming together. They can see the different things going on. I really see the Colt Starting Challenge 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.”

That is a key factor in what Beatty has developed. The challenges are a comradery-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; instead they learn from pressure and the release of pressure.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but we’re showing that there are other ways to do this,” Beatty said, noting that there is a need for more young horses or colts that have been unhandled to be part of the Centennial event. “People are coming to it, and they really like it.”

In fact, the growth has allowed Beatty to create a Colt Starting Challenge USA finals, which will take place during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Fan Fest in December in Las Vegas.

“In order to make it to our finals, they will have to have competed in at least two of our events, and we will take the top eight,” Beatty said. “We will do it over three days, where the third day is all the contestants doing the obstacle course at the same time.”

The finale also is an attractive enticement for trainers to be part of the challenges.

“I like the fact that he’s already talking about having a finals,” Sundquist said. “This is a good sign that something big is about to happen.”

It’s happening Aug. 1-2 in Cortez.



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