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A Cal gal’s Stampede

Extreme Cowboy racer Robin Bond gets 'epic adventure' -- and near win -- in her first Calgary Stampede

From Horsetrader staff reports - August 5th, 2010 - Cover Story, Show & Event News

CALGARY, Alberta, Can. — After three rounds of intense competition at the Cowboy Up Challenge Extreme Cowboy Race July 10-12 at the Calgary Stampede, Robin Bond and Jose Perfection fell one point shy of winning. Her enthusiasm upon returning home, though, sounded more like a champion’s than the reserve.

“For me — I’d never competed out of our country. I’d never BEEN out of the country,” said Bond, who received a hero’s reception upon return to Rancho Dos Palmas in Vista, where she trains. “It was just really exciting.”

And challenging. The fastest-growing sport in the equine industry, Extreme Cowboy Racing is a timed and judged event that demands both horsemanship and speed. It confronts both horse and rider with an extreme obstacle course of moguls, bridges, log crossings, tunnels, cowboy curtains, roll backs, and water crossings.

EXCA photo

Robin Bond and Chapo negotiate the 'Cameron Curtain' obstacle at the Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Challenge Extreme Coybow Race. THey finsihed second by a single point after three days of competition.

The venerable producers of the Calgary Stampede added another layer of difficulty: theater-like spotlights that tracked entries across a darkened course. The technique was so new, all 15 contestants had to participate in a “dress rehearsal.”

“It was the most fun challenge of the event,” said Bond, whose 109.5 final score on “Chapo” fell second to Canadian cowboy Glenn Stewart on his 10-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, Genuine Jet Smooth.

“None of the horses wanted to walk into the spotlights.” she added.”Then, the spotlights appeared to be chasing them, and the horses didn’t want to be hit by the lights. Horses were bouncing off the walls for the first 15 minutes of this exercise — until they realized that the lights weren’t going to hurt them. Then the lights could be used during the performance.

The uneasiness caused by spotlights affected early go’s. Several horses, including Chapo, had issues.

“We were doing an intricate pattern of lead changes, and the spotlights were moving around him,” Bond said. “It caused him to break the trot on a number of occasions. But everyone had to deal with the same set of circumstances, so it wasn’t an unfair thing. We just didn’t score as many points on that obstacle as we would have otherwise.

Horsetrader photo

Rider poses with owner of Chapo, Ricky Cruz (from left) and Ann Laddon, owner of Rancho Dos Palmas in Vista where Bond trains.

“It was just a whole new thing,” she added. “I am going to hang a disco ball in my barn now.”

After jitters led to a fifth-place finish in Day 1, Bond and Chapo relaxed in Day 2 and dominated, winning by more than six points over the second day’s runner-up, Kelly LaBlanc on Peppy’s Classic King.

Why the difference in scores?

“The first day, I fell into the classic trap of people who do jumping, trail obstacles – anything with your horses. I was looking AT the obstacle instead of THROUGH the obstacle. The second day I analyzed that and I paid attention. My focus was always on going THROUGH the obstacle, not the obstacle itself.

“The old adage, `throw your heart over the jump and the horse will follow.’ The same thing with this. If you don’t look through the obstacle, you’re going to be stuck on the obstacle. That was the difference.”

Day 3, the finals, was a classic tight match between the two front-runners. On this day, a close race went to Stewart, in his first EXCA race — which also was the first EXCA race in Canada. LeBlanc finished third, almost 6.5 points behind Bond.

The most challenging obstacle for Bond turned out to be filling a mailbox that stood high above the ground — and moved. Such creative details in obstacles are designed to test specific trained abilities, and they thrill spectators and entice riders.

The trophy buckle.

In Calgary, riders faced a new course daily, which they first viewed in a course map received 4-5 hours before the event. The map, however, doesn’t provide details of the obstacle, like the strong magnetic clasp on the mailbox that forced riders to use both hands in order to open it.

“At at event like this, they gave us a map of the course in the morning between 10 and noon, and the event happened at 3 p.m. — so we had the diagram,” Bond said. “But what we weren’t able to see was what the actual obstacles looked like. For instance, the diagram said, `take the mail and put it in the mail box.’ What we didn’t see until 15 minutes before we went was that the mailbox was 14 feet high in the air and it swiveled. It was on a pole that moved when you touched it. You’d reach for the latch, and the latch had a strong magnetic clasp. You couldn’t open this mailbox with one hand.”

During the three rounds of competition at the Cowboy Up Challenge, organizers changed the course each time, dotting the Saddledome infield with courses that Bond says inspires her to push for more visually enticing courses in California’s line-up of EXCA events.

“You can take a back-through `L’ obstacle and just have four poles on the ground, and you’re required to back through it,” she sais. “You can make that 20 times more challenging by putting a skull and a buffalo hide next to it — it makes it a different obstacle, a different degree of challenge.

“Horses see things very differently than people do – that’s one of the reasons why in the show jumping they use a lot of jump standards and different sized rails and planks and different foliage. Each time, if it’s not just visually interesting for the person, it makes it visually interesting for the horse.”

Bond’s next EXCA competition will be the Surf City Cowboy Challenge in Huntington Beach Aug. 14-15, but she will ride another horse — not Chapo, who at age 13 gets a rest after already qualifying for the 2010 EXCA World Championship Show Nov. 12-14 in Topeka, Kansas.

“I don’t want to show him as much because he’s 13 years old,” she said. “Plus, Chapo actually belongs to my boyfriend, and I want to make sure that he gets to enjoy his own horse some, too!”

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One comment has been made on “A Cal gal’s Stampede”

  1. Kathy Cooksey Says:

    Robin is not only an awesome rider, she is a really neat gal and we are so proud to have her in our riding club !!! Thank you, Robin, for all your work on the back 40 @ Vista Palomar Riders….

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