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RTTH competition: a true test of horsemanship

Samantha Lederman

Could you use a little more Yellowstone in your life? Perhaps you remember the horse whisperer? And what about American Idol? Well, the Road to the Horse Colt Starting World Championships is a perfect mix of all three and WUKY's Samantha Lederman was in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park to bring us this report.

The mission of road to the horse is to inspire people to reach a higher level of horsemanship and develop unity with a horse based on trust and not fear. Three elite horsemen, Canada's Tick Maynard, Australia's Donald Hancock and Wyoming's Ken McNab were selected to compete for the World Championship title this year and they were joined in the arena by the winner of the Wild Card competition CD Wilcox.

Each competitor picks one colt out of a herd of twenty completely raw, untouched 3 year olds, and over the course of the next three days they form a bond with them as they work in round pens in the arena and eventually progress to riding.

The RTTH World Champion is ultimately the superior colt starter who accumulates the highest score over the three days of competition. The horse and rider pairs will be judged on their time in the round pen and saddling pen on their rail, work obstacles and overall riding form.

All of these different stages take place in the main arena in front of a sold-out crowd of thousands and via live stream to hundreds of thousands more all over the world.

The competition is intense and fascinating to watch. 4 horsemen focused on forming a bond with their colt, explaining their different approaches to their training as they go. The arena is almost silent, the crowds rapt in reverence and complicit in their concentration.

Canada's Tick Maynard is a top-level event rider and author of in the middle of the Horseman. He's only the second ever English disciplined rider to be invited to compete.

Samantha Lederman

Watching the competition is what I imagine it's like to watch a chess match at the very highest level, but once the daily heats are done, the party starts.

There are demonstrations in entertainment, lots of loud music, dazzling lights, there's food, drinks, several full bars, and an array of Western themed shopping. Crowds cheer, clap and stomp their feet.

After Sunday afternoon's final round, Maynard emerges the clear winner.

Samantha Lederman

As the newly crowned 2024 Road to the Horse world champion Maynard wins $75,000 cash purse, an enormous gist silversmiths custom belt buckle and a circle wide trophy saddle. But he's also won the love and respect of many thousands of new fans on the podium. He swapped out his eventing helmet for a rather dashing cowboy hat. But the following weekend will see him eventing again in his home state of Florida, and we look forward to welcoming him back to Kentucky in April.

Listeners might remember Lederman and her English accent from when she was a morning news anchor on WUKY from 1999 to 2001.