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Up to a horse: Challenge-Train a Horse in 2 hours and 15 minutes?

Cecil Huff of Ava, Missouri won the Ultimate Equestrian Challenge™ at the 2009 Horse Celebration produced by Missouri Equine Council, Inc http://www.mo-equine.org/Celebration/UEC.htm and sponsored by MFA, Inc. during the two day event held at the Boone County Fairgrounds January 23rd , 24th .

Most have heard of Tootie Bland and her “Road to the Horse” colt starting competition .http://www.roadtothehorse.com/ Clinton Anderson won 2 years in a row. Chris Cox won 2 years in a row in 2007 and 2008. Stacy Westfall the first female winner went from unknown mystery contestant to shining star when named the 2006 winner. Contestants draw to choose one untrained horse from a band of 3 year olds. On the first day, they were given one hour and twenty minutes with the horses in a 50-foot round pen, with a mandatory 10-minute break. On the second day, the contestants had two hours and fifteen minutes with a 15-minute break. Then, after a short recess, each competitor had a chance to show off what he’d accomplished to a sold-out crowd utilizing the entire arena set up with an obstacle course. Total training time for the colts was 3 hours and 10 minutes when you deduct the mandatory rest time. That is a challenge in any horseman’s book! So what is the The Ultimate Equestrian Challenge ™ ? Wonder why Missouri’s Slogan is “Show Me”?

You draw for your horse and round pen location in the arena. You train in a 40 foot round pen instead of a 50 foot pen. You have only 5 horses to pick from instead of 10 and they are 2 year olds and 3 year old performance bred quarter horses. Horses are led to the round pen and turned loose. The time begins when the trainers step inside the round pen. Sound very similar to Road to the Horse- Not!

The time is reduced 55 minutes leaving the trainers only 2 hours and 15 minutes total training time before the show. The trainers were given 3 minutes to introduce their colts to the obstacle course.

This ultimate horse challenge became real on Friday night as the trainers drew for their colts from performance bred two and three year old horses provided by DVM Kent Haden of Columbia, Mo. Each trainer competed in a separate round pen in the main arena where the crowd watched as the horses were caught, bridled, saddled and ridden for the very first time. Friday night’s time frame was two 45 minutes sessions with a 30 minute break in between. On the edge of their seats, attendees watched intently as each trainer used varied approaches and natural horsemanship techniques to starting their untrained colt. Cecil Huff was the first trainer to saddle and ride his colt.

On Saturday night trainers were given another 45 minute round pen session with colts. Then the round pens came down and the trainers were given 3 minutes to introduce colts to the obstacle course. The course consisted of a 12 inch high rectangular mounting block which the colts were required to step upon and cross. Drag a ground pole and step over ground poles. The final challenge included riding the horses in a freestyle movement designed by the trainer. Walk, trot, lope and back on command was expected. Cecil Huff chose for his free style to walk, trot and lope both directions. He continued with a serpentine between the ground poles and figures 8's at the walk and at a trot in the middle of arena. Cecil chose to ride the colt in a rope mecate. Due to the previous time spent in bonding and communication, all this was accomplished with leg yields and light rein cues, no bit or spurs!

The relationship with the colt paid off. Cecil Huff had truly developed a soft and willing partner from an established connection of mutual trust and respect. This demonstrated dance between minds showed us all how rewarding the end result can be.

Huff later commented: “This was the most challenging event I have ever done. Wow it’s more of a challenge than “Road to the Horse” (http://www.roadtothehorse.com/). We had 55 minutes less time to get the colt ready. “Road to the Horse” had used 3 hours and 10 minutes in their 2008 contest. After our first session, my horse was willing to do what I asked. (After he bucked like a rodeo bronco with his first saddle.) When I saw the course requirements and time limits I knew that I must get the colt’s complete trust. So I made it my top priority to build that trust and two hours later I had it.

When I think back on it, I am pleased it went so well. God blessed and used me in a special way.” Huff’s congratulations, on a challenge well done, were met with his shy smile and humble gratitude for all those in attendance and support. See this link for slide show. http://www.bucksandspurs.com/Ultimate-Road-to-the-Equestrian-Challenge.htm

Who is Cecil Huff?

He is married to Sonny (Sonya) Huff and has two children Dustin and Kim and 3 grandsons.

He has trained horses for novice riders visiting Bucks and Spurs Guest Ranch http://www.bucksandspurs.com and trained interns in natural horsemanship from USA, France, Italy, Austria, Luxemburg, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, England for the last 14 years (http://www.bucksandspurs.com/dude_ranch_internship.htm ) He uses natural horsemanship techniques and emphasizes nonverbal communication during the training process and all through his horse handling. Cecil is a Board of Director for the MFTHBA http://www.mfthba.com/ and President of the DCFTHBA http://dcfthba.com/ The Douglas County group has over 60 trail rides each year. http://dcfthba.com/whatsnew.htm Cecil also serve as one of the deacons for Walnut Grove Baptist Church. Bucks and Spurs Guest Ranch is home to World Champion Missouri Fox Trotting horses and superior registered Angus cattle. Cecil will tell you his horse of choice for ranch work and pleasure is a Missouri Fox Trotter. See his accomplishments here. http://bucksandspurs.com/World_Champion_Titles.htm


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