March 18, 2009 -- Richard Winters of Ojai, Calif., was crowned Road to the Horse Champion in Franklin, Tenn., March 15. Winters, John Lyons and Tommy Garland competed for the coveted title in front of a sold out crowd of 6,000 spectators. The competition matches three top clinicians with three unbroken colts and culminates in an obstacle course competition after just three hours of training.
Winters' approach in training his colt, as he explained to the live crowd, was to train his colt just like he would in any other setting on any other day. For Winters this included riding his colt in the obstacle course in a halter rather than a bridle and bit, making him the first champion to ride his colt to victory bitless.
In another Road to the Horse first, Winters asked for a calf to be let into the arena during his freestyle. He explained it is important to him to cultivate curiosity and confidence in his young horses by introducing them to new experiences such as tracking cattle. Winters is the horsemanship instructor in residence at the Thacher School in California and is also a champion reined cowhorse competitor and an A-rated National Reined Cow Horse Association judge.
Fort Dodge Animal Health donated $15,000 to Winters' charity of choice, Focus on the Family. Shelly Mix announced the winner on behalf of Horse & Rider magazine, the official publication of Road to the Horse.
The horses for the event were provided by Bath Brothers Ranch in Laramie, Wyo. They are widely known for their ranch-raised horses who trace back to Hancock and Blue Valentine bloodlines.