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The Green family members might not be driving cattle on the range, eating beans out of a can or sleeping under the stars, but they are among the top extreme cowboy contenders in the nation.
The sport was organized under the Extreme Cowboy Association in 2009 when hall-of-fame rodeo rider Craig Cameron thought there should be a horseback-based sport based on tasks that would be expected of cowboys, who rarely climb down from their mounts.
The result is a race that combines dead sprints on horseback with unpredictable obstacles that might include closing a gate, walking over a bridge, shooting a gun or bow or roping from atop the animals.
Winners are picked based on speed and points.
Elizabethtown residents Laura Green and her children have been competing in the sport since its first year, when the world championship was in Kansas.
The Greens are one of the new sport’s few racing families out of the hundreds who compete for the world championship. They brought home a family-sized list of honors in November from the last championship in Texas.
Laura took fourth place in the pro world champion category, the highest level or competition.
Cullen, a seventh-grader at Bluegrass Middle School, placed first in young gun world champion, the lowest age group, and sixth in the youth world champion group riding Tater.
He likes the bond with horses.
“They’re not like any other animal,” he said. “They’re different because you can really tell that they like you if they do, and you can tell if they don’t.”
Eliza, a sophomore at John Hardin High School, took second for overall high points for the year, ninth in youth and 17th the non-pro world champion, the category with the most competitors, atop Lightning.
She said the fact that horses don’t communicate in words makes the teamwork with them difficult and rewarding.
“You have to really challenge yourself to find a way to communicate with them and to build their confidence up, and really, it’s just a test of trust and skill.”
It’s hard to describe that partnership and the bond that forms, Eliza said.
“Horses, they’ve given you the wings that you lack,” she said.
Bennett, a second-grader at Heartland Elementary School, won seventh and eighth places in young gun riding her pony, Dash, and her mother’s mare, Chloe.
That success might mean the children’s father, Rob, might have to make good on his promise to join the sport if his family did well in the competition.
Laura said a love of horses must be in the genes for her and her children.
Laura’s mother always wanted a horse and finally bought one when she was in her 40s, and Laura followed in the interest.
“She said, ‘If we can get one grandkid who likes horses as much as we do, that would be so much fun,’” Laura said.
Her mother had that wish granted, times three.
Laura’s children also became interested, attending riding camps and having their images preserved with baby photos taken upon horseback.
Many of the family’s rides are in Kentucky. Other championships and competitions have taken them to Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina and other states.
On such occasions, the weekend begins by driving to the competition as soon as the children get out of school on Fridays. The kids do homework, sleep and find other ways to pass the hours driving. Sometimes, Eliza gives Cullen wet willies, to Bennett’s amusement.
Bennett’s favorite part about competing is talking to people her family knows.
Laura said she and her children have met a lot of great people through the association.
“It’s just like you’ve known them forever when you go to a race and you see people you haven’t seen for a year,” she said. “Everybody is very supportive of each other. It’s a competition, but everybody cheers each other on.”
A rider’s fiercest competitor is likely to yell out help if the rider becomes confused about the direction of the course, Laura said.
She said that kind of sportsmanship and the time her family spends together are some of the things that make the sport special.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or email@example.com.