Returning champion Clinton Anderson trained his assigned filly fast and thoroughly to win the third Road to the Horse challenge in Murfreesboro, Tenn., March 6. Scores were not released, but judges say this was an extremely close competition.
"The competition was tight, but so valuable not only for the horses that were being trained but for all the horses that belong to everyone who was watching," said judge Cherry Hill, horsewoman and author. "Clinton persevered. His horse was a challenge and he was working every minute doing something and often times more than one thing at a time."
Anderson was thrilled with the results--and the opportunity to share his challenge check with the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association. The association will receive $10,000.
March 5 marked the first day of Road to the Horse competition. The three competing clinicians--Anderson, Craig Cameron and Van Hargis--drew for a previously untrained Quarter Horse filly to train and show during the weekend. The horsemen started out by working their horses in a round pen for one hour. When time was up, the three were not allowed to touch the horses until Sunday's competition rounds.
On March 6, the horses were corralled once again for a two-hour training session. After longing, sacking out and riding their horses for a short time, Anderson, Cameron and Hargis entered the pen individually to show their horses at a walk, trot and canter, complete an obstacle course and perform a freestyle routine.
"The level of competition this year was high, the horses were challenging and the crowd was fantastic," Anderson said. "As the defending champion, in a way, you're almost the underdog. It's human nature to want to see the last winner be unseated. The charity prize money also helped up the ante for us all--each of us like to see good causes rewarded."
Cameron and Hargis also showed their fillies well and are willing to compete for the title another year.
"I was just tickled with the progress my mare made," Hargis said. "I think she showed great character and a great amount of progress...Where she started compared to where she finished was by far the greatest transition of those three mares. But my first round scores had to be poor. That first day I couldn't get anything done with the mare. I wasn't disappointed that I didn't win. My mare proved herself. I was so pleased with how she ended up."
Cameron shared his thoughts about his horse and her progress.
"I think people began to realize that my mare was pretty tough," Cameron reported. "She wanted to bite and paw and was just generally disagreeable. A guy just sticks in there. As soon as she got out of the round pen, she did a lot better...I was pleased with her, and I think she really gained some confidence. I think toward the end she was thinking 'I'm starting to like this guy.'"
Senior Judge Bob Moorhouse works the event annually. He said the five judges weren't sure who would win until Horse & Rider editor Darrell Dodds announced the winner. Moorhouse was impressed with all three horsemen and the progress they made with the fillies.
"Bottom line--all three guys did so well," said Moorhouse, a noted equine photographer and ranch manager. "It's so much fun because they played with each other--they talked to each other during the event. That made it fun for the crowd."