Teton County Fair week saw several equestrian events at the rodeo grounds. Beginning July 18 with the open class English horse show and ending with a trail obstacle course on Sunday, the classes brought several horseback disciplines together.
Western dressage takes cues from traditional dressage. For example, instead of a collected trot it is a working jog. Riders participate in different classes depending on their level of experience within the discipline, with the more experienced classes asking for advanced maneuvers and a lope.
Participants hailed from as far as Oregon. Serene Stone and her mustang, Miss Muffet, make the drive to Wyoming every summer to live with her grandmother. Eight-year-old Miss Muffet was gathered from the Rock Springs herd management area.
Harley Stimmel and his tall gray thoroughbred mare, Promise, competed alongside other Stimmel family members, including Carolyn Stimmel, who took first place in one of the classes.
He’s been watching the event gain traction among other equestrians, and as a polo player himself he’s seen the benefits. Western dressage is a wonderful basic for whatever discipline you’re going to do, Stimmel said. He then praised everyone involved with putting on the competition.
“[This event] wouldn’t run without some of these wonderful volunteers,” he said.
4-H Club events
A group of nearly 15 4-H Club equestrians gathered around the edge of the rodeo arena July 21 to take part in several events. They began with showmanship, then moved on to the performance classes.
In the performance class, riders ask their horse for a walk, jog and lope. They also must complete several maneuvers, including a sliding stop, spin and lead change.
Once the performance classes were completed, the 4-H Club members transitioned to barrel racing. Then, pole bending and more speed events.
The club also did a trail class, in which the horses would be asked to step over, under and through different objects for their riders.
Across the way from the rodeo arena, an open showmanship class took place in the grass arena. Some participants were 4-H members. Others, like Dan Winder, are old hats at the event.
Winder has been raising and showing paint horses for 40 years. He has competed against classes of 50 horses. This year, he was in a class of two. Winder’s mare Scarlets One Hot Imprint won the 2007 Teton County Fair Best of Show.
After the halter classes finished, tiny saddles were placed on horses 10 times the size of the children placed on their backs. The lead line class consisted of the children being led around the grassy arena and judged much like the showmanship class — with an extra dose of cute.
Horses, riders, cows — the three sisters of cowboy competition. Saturday was particularly apt for the day’s events: National Day of the American Cowboy.
Ranch sorting requires a two person team and takes place in two connected round pens resembling a figure-eight.
When the team begins working, a calf’s hip number is announced, thus marking the first target to be cut from the others.
If the number called is seven, then the team must gather the “seven” cow first, then the “eight” cow and so on. The team rotates who cuts the calf from the herd and who plays door security, only allowing out one specific calf, within a time limit.
Sunday afternoon in the rodeo arena saw rapid dismantlement of the ranch sorting setup. Once the arena was cleared of pens, over 35 horses and riders entered the arena to warm up.
Time for team branding, the wildest event offered during the week’s festivities.
Two teams of three riders each enter the arena to wait on a chalk line for a dropped flag.
When the mark is given, six horses rush toward two calves at the arena’s end. The calves, for their part, scatter.
One rider is responsible for throwing a loop around the calf’s neck, another for catching its heels. The last cowboy has to hop off his or her horse, switch the neck rope to the front hooves, position the calf on its left side and slash a line of paint on the haunches before remounting.
Once the “brander” is back in the saddle, the clock stops for the team.
Cyndie Clark, a Star Valley resident, helped her father haul calves 40 miles for the day’s events.
In comparison with the lackluster showmanship turnout, Clark thought the ranch sorting and team branding turnout was up to par.
“There’s not as many spectators, but there’s still a lot of participants,” Clark said.
“Pretty much everybody that was here last year is here this year.”