For those of you who aren't familiar with the event, Road to the Horse is a colt-starting competition where renowned trainers must start and compete on a horse chosen from a remuda of unstarted 3-year-olds (this year's ruda is from the Four Sixes ranch). This year's competition has to contestants from Australia (Dan James, 30, and Guy McLean, 37) and two from the United States (Obbie Schlom, 19, and Sarah Winters, 23), each competing for the title of Road to the Horse World Champion.
Our friends at My Horse Daily (www.myhorsedaily.com) are at the event, and had the opportunity to interview the competitors.
From My Horse Daily:
Question: What are you doing to get ready?
Dan James: I try to keep up the level of fitness, but I pulled a groin and injured my knee. Being on the road doesn’t help at all. When we do work out we try to run at least three times a week. One guy with us is a fitness fanatic. As for food–I eat whatever’s available at the time.
I’m working on my performance, not really starting colts. At the end of the day, it comes down to the colts we draw and what they allow us to do with them.
Obbie Schlom: Trying to stay healthy. I was really sick this past summer–some weird virus went through the barn. So I’ve been eating healthy and working out. I just run. A lot of cardio. I do enough ranch work to keep my upper body in shape. And then I will go start a bunch of colts.
Sarah Winters: I love to run. I do that everyday. Horses are a sport in a sense, so you need to keep yourself in shape.
My job gets me ready for Road to the Horse. It’s what I do everyday. I come out and ride horses all day long. I have taken a few horses through that time frame, timed it, and then taken them through an obstacle course at the end. That’s the only thing out of the ordinary I’ve done. I started three horses under timing. It’s hard to find horses that fit that mold of being untouched.
I was able to get a feel for what Road to the Horse would be. It went well and I’m glad I did it. All three were so different but I was able to come up with a plan in my mind.
I have about 20 more colts I’ll be working on for Richard Winter’s Horsemanship (her father is noted clinician and Road to the Horse emcee Richard Winters).
Guy McLean: It’s a three-day marathon for the pressures you have. I couldn’t sleep that first night, I was so far behind in points. It’s more mental preparedness. I’ve started enough colts and done enough so I don’t need to do any more.
I just spent three days with a wonderful warmblood, also a zebra-cross donkey. He was the sweetest thing. I’ve ridden mules, camels, bulls. The z-donkey was very much like a bull–they don’t have the same flight instinct, don’t let you know what they’re thinking.
That second day they come back with so much more horse in them. They’re not babies after the first day.
Question: How old were you when you began starting horses?
Dan James: I started when I was 14, doing about ten a year. Then I went to a racehorse establishment and started about 150 a year there.
Obbie Schlom: I was 14. I kind of fell in love with it.
Sarah Winters: I did my first one at 11. He was fun. I learned a lot.
Guy McLean: I started at 15. My father owned a resort, so we’d start the young horses. I’ve been on and around them since I was 16 months old.
Question: How many horses have your started?
Dan James: More than 500.
Obbie Schlom: Rough estimate? Upwards of 50-60.
Sarah Winters: Hundreds.
Guy McLean: I’d say I’ve started about 500, although I’ve worked thousands of horses.
Question: What do you think of your competitors?
Dan James: Competing against Guy kinda sucks, to be honest. I’m not a fan of that process- I really enjoyed competing with him. We’re both quite competitive, and have expectations of ourselves.
The girls are gonna give us a run for our money, and certainly have a right to be there. But if you beat two girls, then people will say, “Aw, you beat girls.” Or, you get beaten by two girls, and you get your ass handed to you. It’s a tricky one.
Obbie Schlom: Competing against the Aussies–talk about intimidating. I’d rather go surf a tsunami than compete against those guys. I am really honored to just be in the same ring. They’re some handy horsemen, for sure.
As for Sarah, I haven’t met her. Met her dad. The stuff she’s done–you have to know what you’re doing to be able to do that kind of stuff (Sarah has earned 2 NRCHA World Championships, the 2008 Snaffle Bit Futurity Limited Open Reserve Champion and Ladies Reserve World Championship in both 2009 and 2011. She is also a two-time Open Finalist for NRCHA Premier Aged Events). Her dad is amazing, and I’m sure she learned from him.
As far as us being women, I think people under credit us. I see her as much of competition as the boys. They’re all extremely handy in their own way.
Sarah Winters: The Aussie team, I think they’re fantastic. I met them but there wasn’t a lot of time to talk. Both are great horsemen and have a lot to offer.
Obbie, she’s taken the industry by storm (Obbie took both champion and reserve champion at the 2012 Norco, Calif. Extreme Mustang Makeover, with two different horses). She seems like a great hand. I’m really looking forward to meeting her.
To get even more behind-the-scenes interviews, videos, and photos, visit www.myhorsedaily.com, or follow them on Facebook or on Twitter at #RTTHFromtheStart.