Nevada horseman Nick Dowers claims World Championship of Colt Starting.

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Standing next to producer Tootie Bland, Nick Dowers raises the championship belt buckle he earned for winning the 2016 Road to the Horse.

Nick Dowers may have been a rookie going against two former Road to the Horse champions, but the Nevada cowboy performed like a seasoned competitor, winning the World Championship of Colt Starting handily. The annual competition was held in Lexington, Kentucky, March 18–20.

Dowers completed the final of three rounds with six minutes to spare, performing all the necessary maneuvers and negotiating 10 of eleven obstacles (his horse refused to walk across a white tarp). Combined with scores from the first two rounds, Dowers claimed the title with 1,217 points and earned $60,000 for the win.

“I was going against two former champions, and I’ve never even done a colt starting competition,” Dowers says. “So it was just an honor to go out there and do my thing.”

Richard Winters of Reno, Nevada, who won the event in 2009, finished with 1,095 points. Clinton Anderson of Stephenville, Texas, who claimed the title in 2003 and 2005, scored 883.

Richard Winters hung on for second place at RTTH.
Richard Winters hung on for second place at RTTH.

RTTH competitors have three days to start a 3-year-old gelding under saddle, working in a roundpen for two 105-minute sessions, and then performing in an open, obstacle-filled arena in the final round. Five judges award points for each day, giving credit for training methods, application, approach, progress and overall horsemanship.

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True Burson of the Four Sixes Ranch brings in the remuda.

Each competitor selects a horse from a group of 3-year-olds supplied by the Four Sixes Ranch of Guthrie, Texas. Dowers chose Seven Attraction, a sorrel gelding by Playin Attraction. In the final, 45-minute round, the pair completed required maneuvers such as walking, trotting and loping both directions, leading, stopping and turning 180 degrees. They also had to negotiate a trail course, which included various colorful poles to weave through and to jump, a log to drag, a gate to open, and a surprise appearance by someone dressed as Darth Vader. The wacky obstacles are a trademark of Tootie Bland, RTTH producer and founder.

Dowers and Seven Attraction meet Darth Vader during the final round.
Dowers and Seven Attraction meet “Darth Vader” during the final round.

Dowers is the first person to win both a world championship colt starting event and a world championship futurity. In 2013, he won the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s Snaffle Bit Futurity on Time For The Diamond.

“This is different, but it’s every bit as challenging [as the Futurity],” Dowers says. “It’s a tough competition—there are a lot of variables. I’m really proud to take my horsemanship and win the Futurity, and now to win this, and to be able to tie the two together. That’s huge. Like I’ve said, nothing changes at the higher level. It’s the same horsemanship, just a little different application.”

Dowers added that he will work with Seven Attraction for at least a year. Fred Lenertz of St. Paul, Minnesota, purchased the gelding and asked Dowers to continue training.

“I’m excited about that,” Dowers says. “He’s a really intelligent horse and he tries really hard.”

Clinton Anderson guides his horse through a trail obstacle in the final round.
Clinton Anderson guides his horse through a trail obstacle in the final round.
Richard Winters rides his gelding in the final round of competition.
Richard Winters rides his gelding in the final round of competition.
Tootie Bland announced that Sarah (Winters) Dawson, middle, will be joined by Barbara Cox and another woman yet to be announced at the 2017 RTTH.
Tootie Bland announced that the 2017 RTTH will feature an all-female cast of competitors, including Sarah (Winters) Dawson, middle, Barbara Cox (Chris Cox’s wife) and another woman yet to be announced.
Craig Cameron (left) and Matt West added commentary to the action.
Craig Cameron (left) and Matt West added commentary to the action.
Nick Dowers is surrounded by mustachioed friends and family
Nick Dowers is surrounded by mustachioed friends and family, including (to his left) wife, Jackie, and daughter Jovi.

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