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Extreme cowboy challenge a hit

PEDRO — It was all about showing the versatility of the horse.

Under ideal conditions and a cooperative course, nearly three-dozen riders and their horses took part in what is likely to become a very popular event.

The first annual Extreme Cowboy Challenge allowed riders and their equine counterparts the opportunity to show both discipline and trail work while being asked to accomplish a variety of challenges under the eyes of judges and the clock.

Held at the Elkins Creek Horse Camp and Tack Shop and initiated by owner-operator Rick McCleese, the event was a huge success in terms of horsemanship and participation. The western-themed tack shop contains a wide variety of western saddles, leather halters, lead lines and western apparel.

“We had a very nice turnout today,” said McCleese who purchased the secluded property on Township Road 245E two years ago with the hopes of making it into his own ranch and horse center.

McCleese has spent his entire life around horses and at one time was even a guide for Grand Canyon mule trips.

McCleese said when he envisioned a perfect location for his facility, it “was not Utah or Colorado, but Lawrence County.”

While difficult for both horse and rider, the Extreme Challenge course that McCleese laid out was fair for all skill sets.

Riders were asked to open and close a gate, circle the course, grab a horseshoe and toss it into a bucket while riding, circle a barrel without knocking it over, jump a pair of obstacles, transfer a tennis ball from one cone to another, cross a makeshift bridge, retrieve and hang a cowboy raincoat from one end of the arena to another and strike a cowbell when leaving the ring.

Now outside the ring, horses were asked to cross a shallow, yet tricky creek in order to climb and subsequently descend a steep embankment before being loaded into a horse trailer – a harder task than it looks.

Once their horse was secure in the trailer, riders had to grab a gun to shoot three water-filled balloons before taking off their boots and wrapping themselves in a sleeping bag in front of a fire.

One contestant that has a very successful ride was 17-year-old Crystel Fedele of Portsmouth.

Fedele, who rode her Tennessee Walking Horse “Shadow” through the challenge course in a little more than four minutes, said “Shadow” was made for an event like this.

“He gives me a very smooth ride and is very dependable,” said Fedele who is entering her senior year at the Scioto County Joint Vocational School and wants to be a farrier when she is older. “My horse has a good head on his shoulders and handled the course well.”

There was no age limit for the event with three divisions based on points with prizes being paid 100-percent of the entry fees.

Lunch and a potluck dinner were available along with fresh kettle popcorn by Mama Dee’s Old Fashioned Kettle Korn of Franklin Furnace who was raising money for the Ohio Horse Council.

The event began Friday evening with a trail ride and campfire. A second trail ride, on the more than 100 miles of trails available from the Elkins Creek Horse Camp, went off Saturday afternoon.