GUNNISON, Colo. – For nearly eight decades, the open horse show has been a staple for the Cattlemen’s Days celebration.
Of course, the community-based gathering dates back even further, to 1900, when the inaugural Cattlemen’s Days helped bring people to the town of Gunnison to celebrate their lives and livelihoods. That was a time when horsepower was much more prevalent than it is in today’s society, but the celebration still honors its past.
Of the events that bring the past and present together, the open horse show fits the bill. It will take place Saturday, July 3, at Fred Field Western Center in Gunnison.
“We base our horse show off the AQHA rules,” said Ivy McNulty, chairman of the volunteer committee that organizes show. “We have different classes, ranging from Western pleasure to limited English classes.”
The number of participants varies, she said, depending on how the calendar works. Entries can range between 50 and 150; she’s unsure of what to expect since this year’s show takes place on the Fourth of July weekend.
“We get people from all over to enter our show,” McNulty said. “I’ve had people from Kansas come and enter this show.”
This isn’t like some of the national horse shows, but it’s big enough. There are five age divisions, and the top high-point rider in each age division will earn a buckle. There also will be other awards possible.
“It’s not all kids,” she said. “We have anywhere from 8-under lead line on up. We’ve had women that have been 80 years old showing their horses.
“There’s a whole bunch of horse showing out in the world, but Gunnison is not one of those big events. It’s an opportunity for the kids to show more. I know some people who come just to do the trail classes. It’s a good way to participate in the classes you want.”
The show is just an extension of so many pieces of the Cattlemen’s Days puzzle. It takes all those pieces together to showcase the Gunnison Valley and all its people in a fabulous community event.
“The sponsors are 100 percent the most important part of our horse show,” McNulty said. “It’s the only way I can put it on. We have a budget with the Cattlemen’s Days committee, but it all really comes from sponsorship. I’ve been part of the open horse show my whole life, competing in it, participating or running it, and we’ve had the same sponsors for years and years. I appreciate that very much.
“I don’t think there’s one thing that makes Cattlemen’s Days special. I think it’s all of it. I’m a 4-H leader, and I think it’s the 4-H program, the carnival, the livestock shows, the horse shows, the rodeo and everything else. For a lot of people in this valley, this is the only weekend they have to show their horse.”