Te Awamutu rider Natasha Guest and her Arabian horse, Arahi Tahi TWS finished second at the recent Cowboy Challenge event hosted at Bird Equestrian in Rangitoto early this month.
Cowboy Challenge is a relatively new equestrian discipline in the North Island, although it has been going strong down south for the past eight years.
It is a test of horsemanship, where horse and rider combinations compete over a series of 13 obstacles with each obstacle marked out of 10.
Bonus points are available and an extra five points can be awarded for speed, however, horsemanship is respected above all with a possible extra 20 points for deserving riders.
Classes start with lead rein and intro classes up to open combinations.
A wide variety of tasks included carrying a flag on horseback, backing between cones, riding at speed to balancing on a narrow bridge.
Local horse trainer Russell Higgins of Brumby Farms judged alongside Palmerston North's Andrew Smith. It was the first introduction for Higgins to this sport, however Smith has been a regular judge for five years.
A miserable day greeted riders on Sunday. The grey clouds regularly teased a brighter day, however by midday the rain had set in.
The riders who competed in Saturday's non-points-approved competition huddled under makeshift shelters to watch the action.
The Youth class riders went first and was won by Bay of Plenty's Maia-Rose Bennett on her mare Flyby.
Guest and her Arab horse were entered in the rookie class of 16 riders. The pair were accompanied on the weekend by team-mate and local rider Brittany Van Dijk and her Kaimanawa mare, Kaimanawa Queen of Hearts TWS.
Cowboy Challenge order is determined by drawing names out of the hat and Guest and Van Dijk were to ride one after the other, which put extra pressure on Guest's nervous mount, who was reluctant to leave his stable mate behind.
"He's a kind, super little horse," said Guest. "But he gets very dependent on his friends."
On passing the start flags, Arahi became less distracted.
"He started really listening to me and by the time we hit the 10th obstacle we were flying."
The standard of horsemanship at this event was high. Riders had come from all over the North Island and Guest was ecstatic to get awarded the blue ribbon behind Rotoma's Daph Ngamotu and her horse Indy.
The Intermediate Class was won by Drury's Kushla Larsen and her well-seasoned mount Sailor, taking the top placing from Tauranga's Annette Wakefield and Nienke.
The rain worsened and by the time Matamata rider Kiri Rhodes hit the course in the open division, it had turned to mud and slush.
However, this was not enough to deter Kiri and her horse Navajo Dyanae from snatching the red ribbon from Kawerau's Jaimee Pryor and Whero.
The next challenge for these riders is at Maihiihi and will include introductory rings for young and old, as well as points-approved classes for more experienced combinations.
A practice ring is also available for riders to have a go before they enter the ring and experienced riders are on hand to offer support and guidance.
A third event will be held at a local property in Parawera in December, following a similar format.
¦For more information on Cowboy Challenge events check Cowboy Challenge Waikato on Facebook or go to their website — www.sporty.co.nz/cowboychallengewaikato