By Jennifer Denison
Not every cowboy or horseman is cut out to be a colt-starter, but Chris Cox demonstrated once again at Road to the Horse that he has what it takes to be all three. At the event, held March 26–29 in Lexington, Kentucky, Cox won his fourth colt-starting championship and the unprecedented $100,000 cash award. But if Cox had taken friends’ advice, the outcome would have been entirely different.
“I didn’t have to do this event,” he said to a sold-out crowd at Alltech Arena on the grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park. “I called some friends of mine and they said, ‘Don’t do it,’ they won’t let you win again. They told me I had nothing to prove, so why would I want to do it again? I came to this event because I want my two little children to remember their dad [winning a world championship].”
When Cox won his first two championships in 2007 and 2008 his children–Charley, 6, and Case, 5–were not yet born, and they were too young to remember his 2011 win. This year, his family was an integral part of his motivation and success. His wife, Barbara, was his designated assistant during the competition. Throughout the first two rounds, she stood outside the round pen and handed him tack, equipment, obstacles and water. She stood beside her husband on the stage, while their children helped present him with his championship buckle, saddle and gigantic $100,000 check.
During the awards presentation, Cox announced that he was donating $10,000 each to his two fellow competitors: Jim Anderson and Trevor Carter. Anderson, of Alberta, Canada, later posted on social media that he would donate his share to the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Canada and the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Canada.
“There is no second or third in this event; I’m giving $20,000 to these guys right here,” he said, pointing to Anderson and Carter. “I’m officially retired from Road to the Horse. These are the guys that are going to carry the torch.”
Anderson made his mark at Road to the Horse in 2014, winning the Ram Wildcard to earn a slot in the main event. Next, competing against Dan Steers of Australia and Antoine Cloux of Switzerland, Anderson claimed the championship.
Carter, who coaches riders and trains horses for working cow horse and ranch versatility in Clovis, New Mexico, was this year’s Wildcard winner. On the first day of the event, he and five other competitors, who had also selected colts from the remuda provided by the Four Sixes Ranch the previous year, demonstrated their colts’ skills after a year of training in a reining pattern, freestyle competition and obstacle course. Trevor rode Royal Wall.
There were two new elements at this year’s Road to the Horse competition: each horseman selected and worked two colts from the remuda instead of one, and they were allowed to use a saddle horse in the two training rounds.
“Working two horses was huge,” Cox said. “It showed how differently we work different horses and the diversity in our skills.”
Cox’s first pick was High Plains Six by Four Roan Fly and out of Sable Six by Tenino Badger. His second colt was Rockin History by Rockin W and out of Sixes History by Playgun.
“The first horse had a lot of flight instinct, and trying to control that to where I could get his feet controlled required spending a lot more time on the ground getting him soft through his body,” Cox explained. “He was mentally different from the second horse, which kind of surprised me. I thought the second horse would be pretty heavy, but he was really bullish and tried to push my saddle horse around, and he was very aggressive and got mad. I got to a certain point in my ground work where I knew something had to change. If I would’ve stayed on the ground much longer he would’ve run over the top of me, so I decided to saddle him and get on. Once I did that, I started showing him a different side to things. They were two totally different horses, but my job was to try to get to the same destination with both.”
After two 90-minute training sessions with each colt, Cox and his competitors had 45 minutes to warm up; demonstrate basic horsemanship maneuvers such as loping in the correct lead to the right and left to the judges, and ride their horses through an obstacle course. Cox was the only competitor to complete all of the requirements and the entire course on both horses with time to spare. However, all of the horsemen were applauded by the audience for working at the colts’ levels and not pushing them under the time limit.
Besides the world championship title, Cox also received the Jack Brainard Award for horsemanship and the Traveler Award given by AQHA to the trainer and breeder of the top colt at the event, which was High Plains Six. Cox bought the colt and took him home to Texas to further his training.
Highlights from the event will air over five episodes on RFD-TV starting on April 1. Check your cable or satellite company’s listings for time and channel. For more information, visit roadtothehorse.com.