Denver, Colo. – The National Western Stock Show (NWSS) hosted a successful Youth Ranch Horse Mentor Matchup on opening day of the 114th National Western Stock Show (NWSS) for the second year. The event was created to provide an opportunity for local equestrian youth to learn and compete during the NWSS through relevant hands-on educational activities with their equine partner and top equine professionals.
Ten individuals ages 14-21 from Colorado and Wyoming were pre-selected and paired with industry professionals who acted as their “coach” or “mentor” for the day. Donned in matching shirts, the selected youth received one-on-one practice time with their coach, rotating through area to practice various skills. Then the youth competed against each other for scholarship money provided by the National Western Scholarship Trust. They were asked to complete a ranch trail pattern, a ranch riding pattern, a modified reining pattern and then worked a cow.
Comments from the selection committee were echoed from both the coaches and renowned judge Drake Johnson on the talent level and dedication of the youth riders and their athletic horses. In between learning and practicing, there was also time out of the saddle for the youth to get to know the other youth riders and coaches. The camaraderie showed during the competition when every youth rider and coach cheered for each other. The youth riders were able to glean knowledge from their mentors in areas they felt needed some advancement and showcased their new skills during competition.
Tara Hiatt from Elizabeth, Colo. competed last year and was coached by Jet McCoy. She rode Genuine Gray Starlite (Spirit) a 17-year-old Quarter Horse (oldest in the competition) to the Reserve Grand Championship title, earning her a $1,000 scholarship. Spirit has been her partner for eight years and have improved to become the Elizabeth Stampede Queen and earn a spot on the Northeastern Junior College Ranch Horse Team. Jet McCoy of Oklahoma comes from a rodeo and ranching background and can be recognized from appearances with his brother Cord from “The Amazing Race.” He is a four-time International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) champion. He owns and operates McCoy Ranch and is team captain of their ranch rodeo team.
Just ahead was Reagan Wheatley from Calhan, Colo., coached by Shane Brown, who took home the Grand Champion title and $2,000 in scholarship money. He rode his 9-year-old Quarter Horse gelding Bug Lites to the win and hopes to use the scholarship money at Texas Tech or Clarendon in pursuit of a business degree. Shane Brown from Elbert, Colo. owns and operations Shane Brown Performance Horses, focusing on reining and cow horse. He serves on the National Reining Horse Association board and has multiple national honors to his name.
The youth riders expressed their excitement to be chosen for the Mentor Matchup and to have the opportunity to learn from some of the top equine professionals in the business. The mentors enjoyed sharing their knowledge and experience to help riders gain confidence and experience and have a great time while competing.