Young riders and animals, along with numerous other events, are coming together at Ponokas Calnash Ag Event Centre to help build the future for these events. File photo

Future Champions Challenge set to take over Ponoka

It’s become a nine-day western extravaganza all under one roof.

The Future Champions Challenge is a collaboration of several groups and events operating as a single event for the first time ever.

Co-organizer Katie Vinson explained these events had previously run individually, but that everything has “come together under one roof to honour the heritage, commitment, dedication, future of rodeo and our western lifestyle.”

She added the new venture began during a conversation with her husband Logan and a friend about setting up a sale for barrel race horses. That was back in 2016 and then in November 2017 came the first ever Cloverleaf Sale for premier and prospective barrel racing horses.

“That event was just one day. In 2018, the sale grew to five days and now, it has become just one aspect of the Future Champions Challenge,” Vinson said.

“Putting the Challenge together came to me while driving into the sunrise after an all-night drive on the rodeo trail. I was questioning ‘why am I doing this?’

“I was doing it because I had sold a hot-headed, fast-footed barrel horse that needed to be seasoned before heading to her new home with her new young jockey. Plain and simple, the horse had to go to make sure she had been exposed to the high-energy atmosphere, bright lights and pressure that comes with rodeo and high level competition.”

That’s when Vinson realized there were no events out there to help train young animals to be ready for the rodeo circuit with that kind of atmosphere.

“Sure, as a barrel racer, we have large and intense races such as the Alberta Barrel Racing Finals or the Canadian Barrel Horse Incentive,” she stated.

“(Those) are great exposure for a young barrel horse, but they don’t come close to the sensory overload a rodeo provides with bucking stock and production. The Future Champions Challenge started as an idea to allow for as many futurity events as possible to create an opportunity to expose our young stock.”

And as Vinson kept driving, she kept thinking about what some of the details would be. However, her thoughts kept going back to what the future of the sport is.

“I quickly realized this event was going to need a group of organizers dedicated to creating an environment where youth can chase their dreams, trainers can showcase their talent and breeders can establish outstanding genetics,” she added.

“And together we could show our support for a history rich sport all while bringing entertainment to fans, families of contestants, residents of Ponoka and members of the surrounding communities.”

Since starting to gather everyone and putting the details in place, Vinson stated the support received and all of the responses have been nothing but positive.

There have been a record number of entries into Future Champs youth rodeo as well as the Canadian Dummy Roping championship to go along with the generosity of the various sponsors and the great work of all the associated event organizers.

“Our team is one who strongly believes in bringing passion to the arena by producing an event that is targeted to those who appreciate the finesse, dedication and responsibility it takes to raise our next generation of champions and enjoys a high level of competition,” stated Vinson.

Things kick off Oct. 24 with an open barrel racing jackpot, then the first go of both a barrel racing futurity and derby on Oct. 25.

That weekend (Oct. 26 and 27) will see the second go on the barrels along with the Future Champs youth rodeo, the Cloverleaf Sale and a futurity (Oct. 27 only) in both team and tie down roping.

There will be a novice and pony bucker school on Oct. 28 as well as bucking horse futurity, while Oct. 29 will have a bucking bull futurity and a barrel racing clinic.

On Oct. 30, a Snaffle Bit futurity will be run along with a men’s and ladies timed event challenge. The futurity will continue to run Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

The All Types Horse Sale demonstration is set for Oct. 31 with the actual sale taking place on Nov. 1, with the Canadian Dummy Roping championship also going that day.

In addition, there will be other events happening during the nine days including a sealed bid stallion auction, trade show and tickets available for the Ronald McDonald House Charity and Hockey Alberta Foundation Truck Raffle.

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