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Project Cowboy

Project Cowboy intends to do for undiscovered horsemen and horsewomen what American Idol does for unknown singers.

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Even though they were pitted against one another, either as individuals or on small teams, the Project Cowboy entrants developed an almost-immediate sense of camaraderie. They shared early-a.m. coffee, helped feed and care for one another’s horses, loaned their tack and gave advice when needed, and cheered their rivals on.

"All I need Is one good break, and I could be in as much demand as any other good horseman out there."

No one knows how many talented riders have ever said that to themselves, but a pair of horse-event innovators are determined to open opportunity's door. Using the tagline of "We'll make you famous," Tootie Bland and Patti Colbert—the producers behind the über-successful road to the Horse and extreme Mustang Makeover events, respectively—have brought forth a new competition with a decidedly grassroots twist.

They call it Project Cowboy, and only the unknown need apply. The objective, they say, is to find "The next great American Horseman," who'll be awarded the chance to star in a primetime TV series to appear this fall on RFD-TV.

Debuting last year with a single session in Fort Worth, the event expands in 2012 with three contests held in conjunction with regional horse expos. The first, held in February during the Pomona Horse expo in California and attended by H&R, was open to men. The second, open to women, is set for the Western States Horse Expo, June 7 to 9 in Sacramento, California. A battle of the sexes version, featuring men and women on the same playing field, with $10,000 in prize money at stake, will take place August 16 to 18 at the Taking the reins expo in Madison, Wisconsin.

Unlike Road to the Horse, where contestants prove their skills with unstarted colts, the Project Cowboy entrants compete on their own horses, which can be of any breed. And they aren't evaluated on horsemanship skills alone, but also on their ability to think on their feet, be charismatic on camera, and entertain a crowd.

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