Catch the finals of the Cowboy Up Challenge are today, Monday, July 7, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. in the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Strathmore’s Jim Anderson is a true horseman, ranch raised and schooled in the methods of legends like Ray Hunt, Bill and Tom Dorrance and Pat Parelli. Having made a name as one of the best in the reining arena, Anderson raised eyebrows when he entered the 2011 Cowboy Up Challenge at the Calgary Stampede.

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Introduced to the Cowboy Up sport by friends Bobby and Jerry Fenner, they encouraged him to give it a shot with Fenner’s horse Patch. “I thought this is something I could do. It looked like a lot of fun” says Anderson. “You have good horsemanship, you have speed and you have obstacles so it’s a combination of all your disciplines put into one. It doesn’t matter what level of rider you are, you can go into a division and have fun and learn.” And learn he did. After finishing as Reserve Champion in his Cowboy Up debut, Anderson went on to win at the 2012 Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Championship, and then claimed the 2012 Extreme Cowboy Association World title in Hamilton, Texas.

Taking chances and trying something new paid off for Jim Anderson, but little did he know, that was just the beginning. His success led to a Wild Card invitation at the 2014 Road to the Horse. The event held each year in Lexington, Kentucky showcases the world’s finest horse trainers and clinicians. Wild Card competitors receive an untouched three-year-old Quarter Horse from the famed 6666 Ranch in Guthrie, Texas and then have one year to develop the horse’s skills, confidence and abilities. Anderson’s bay horse Six Flo Buck (aka Maverick) came home to his ranch, east of Strathmore, in April of last year and looked like a seasoned pro three months later at the Calgary Stampede, where he claimed the 2013 Cowboy Up Championship on the novice horse.

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Without question, Maverick’s exposure to difficult obstacles and big crowds in Calgary helped prepare him for Road to the Horse. “The Stampede has the best obstacles anywhere in the world” says Anderson. From the lights to the music, crowd noise, living props and tricky maneuvers, riders and their mounts are challenged on all levels. While the action may look fun and easy to the untrained eye, the Cowboy Up Challenge is anything but. Anderson has been in many competitions but calls the level of horsemanship at the Calgary Stampede “the best in the world”. Sanctioned by the Extreme Cowboy Association and hosted by the sport’s creator, cowboy clinician Craig Cameron, the event draws big name contestants from both sides of the border.

With many hours under the saddle, Anderson, his wife Andrea and Maverick made the long journey to Kentucky for Road to The Horse in March. After the team’s Extreme Cowboy success and a reining show first place, Anderson knew his horse was ready, despite being considered an underdog in the competition. “It was really tense going there but I was confident in him.”

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What happened next shocked everyone. Out of eight expert horse trainers vying for a spot to compete for the title, Anderson took the Wild Card Championship. Asked if he was surprised with the win, the quietly self-assured Anderson humbly credits his horse. “Not necessarily surprised but I was very happy. I was confident that he was going to be good, but he has a lot of heart so when we went there he rode better than he does normally.”

Winning the Wild Card Championship earned Jim the opportunity to battle for the World Championship of Colt Starting title alongside fellow Canuck and respected trainer Jonathan Field. Jim impressed the stadium crowd, calmly working his new 6666 Ranch gelding, Speedy Cream over the three day competition, first in the round pen and a few days later confidently through an obstacle course.

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The colt was bold and Anderson’s steady approach helped make a dream come true performance, stunning fans as he claimed the title. The Andersons have since purchased the grulla gelding who they now call Smokey and plan to have him competing soon.

Anderson attributes his new found celebrity and success at the Road to the Horse to the fun little sport that he thought looked like fun. “It just started opening
doors” he says. “The ball got rolling” and in three short years a whole new generation of Extreme Cowboy competitors and fans have been born.

Fun facts:

  • Extreme Cowboy Racing is the fastest growing equestrian sport in North America.
  • Jim met his wife Andrea while training horses in Europe. Andrea is from Vienna, Austria and is also an accomplished rider and horse trainer.
  • Only two Canadian competitors competed in the 2014 Road to the Horse competition.
  • Past Road to the Horse Competitors who have also competed in the Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Challenge include Obbie Schlom and the 2010 Cowboy Up Challenge winner, Glenn Stewart.