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College competitors, UW Ranch Horse Versatility team kicks off

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Laramie – The University of Wyoming Ranch Horse Versatility Team started in November 2011 with six members, and they achieved top three national placings in 2013 in all of the events at ranch horse competitions. 

“The team is a recognized student organization with UW and is open to any student who wants to be involved,” describes Ranch Horse Advisor and UW faculty member Doug Zalesky.


Members of the team can compete in three different divisions, which consist of novice, limited non-pro and non-pro at the collegiate level of the American Stock Horse Association (ASHA). 

“The novice division riders don’t have to do as much as the limited non-pro riders or the non-pro riders in terms of demonstrating their cattle handling abilities,” states Zalesky.  

One competitive team consists of six riders, with two of the riders in the novice division, two limited non-pro riders and two non-pro riders. 

Currently the UW team includes of 15 active members who attend shows and compete. 

Within those three divisions, members can compete in four events that remain consistent from show to show and abide by ASHA rules. The events are ranch riding, ranch trail, reining and working cow horse, with some cutting involved at times.


“The judge scores each rider in each event with score sheets that have guidelines on them to deduct or add points for the various things that they are looking for in a particular event,” describes Zalesky. 

“Within each class, a contestant is judged on each maneuver on a zero to 10 scale. A competitor can do really bad on one maneuver but still do really well on all the other maneuvers and come away being competitive in the class,” explains Brian Moore, president of the Ranch Horse Versatility team. 

“The four classes, for the most part, are the same at shows, and members are not judged solely on a class as a whole,” adds Moore.

The ranch trail class is the primary class that may vary slightly with a different course and maneuvers. The judge of the class sets the course. 


The UW team competes in three to four shows in the fall and spring semesters in the surrounding states of Wyoming.

“We have an affiliate of the ASHA called the Colorado Wyoming Nebraska Stock Horse Association (CoWN), and we work most of the shows in the Wyoming area,” says Zalesky.

In April 2014, the UW team competed in their first National Finals, which was held in Loveland, Colo. 

“In the short time we’ve been in existence, we’ve done pretty well at shows and have remained competitive,” states Zalesky. “We’ve had a student that was the regional non-pro champion two years ago and another student who was the reserve champion limited non-pro rider.”

Being prepared

“Preparing for a show is never really a complete task,” states Moore. “We are always preparing, and there is always something for us to work on. We learn from the mistakes that we make at shows, and we take those mistakes and work on them at practice.”

The team works to continually develop their skills and improve from event to event.

“I think that each member of the team is always learning something new that they need to work on,” adds Moore. 


“Being a young group, we don’t have a lot of money, and the kids end up paying most of the expenses themselves, such as entry fees and travel expenses to shows,” says Zalesky.

The UW team partakes in a number of fundraisers to offset some of the costs. They help serve food at the Ag Day Barbeque the UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources hosts in the fall, and they sell tickets and help out with the UW rodeo during the spring semester. 

“We are looking for funding and sponsorships, and all of the officers of the team have been working on creating a business plan for the team that we can take to various businesses,” comments Moore. “Right now, our goal is to be able to pay for a traveling team to attend shows – maybe even the College Finals that will take place in Oklahoma next year.” 

He continues, “We are a collegiate competitive team, and we want to have as many people as are able to join the team to do so. When we do go to shows, we compete at them as a team.”

Madeline Robinson is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at



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