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The first Great Alaska Horse Expo, held at the fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska, was home to the first race for the title of "Great Alaska Cowboy." Contestants guided their horses through eight obstacles, including a Reindeer and a water hazard, before racing back to the finish line.

The great race

Great Alaska Cowboy Race caps of Ninilchik horse expo

Posted: June 24, 2012 - 10:11pm  |  Updated: June 26, 2012 - 5:56pm
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Jenna Hansen, 15, of Nikiski, rides her horse bareback Saturday June 23, 2012 during the Great Alaska Cowboy Race, an event at the Great Alaska Horse Expo held at the fairgrounds in  Ninilchik, Alaska.    Rashah McChesney
Rashah McChesney
Jenna Hansen, 15, of Nikiski, rides her horse bareback Saturday June 23, 2012 during the Great Alaska Cowboy Race, an event at the Great Alaska Horse Expo held at the fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska.

Barry Cox is the “Great Alaska Cowboy.”

The Oregon man beat 20 other hopefuls for the title in the “Great Alaska Cowboy Race” during the first Great Alaska Horse Expo Saturday at the Ninilchik fairgrounds.

Cox, a clinician at the expo, taught two clinics on how to deal with problem horses during the three-day event which ended Sunday.

Racers had to put their horses through a series of obstacles which horse trainer and organizer Allison Trimble called ‘typical to Alaskan horses.’

They started by dragging a buoy around a barrel, coaxing their horses to walk through a tarp strung between two trees, carry an antler from one barrel to another past a reindeer, rope a dummy, jump a row of buoys then go across a water feature before heading back to the finish line.

Teresa Bitterich, of Nikiski, won the junior race in 2 minutes and 7 seconds, a time that astonished several of the judges.

As she jumped off of her horse to rope, one of the spectators leaned to another and said ‘watch this.’

Bitterich didn’t hesitate, she picked up the rope, swung it once around her head and with unerring accuracy threw it around the steer-head sitting atop a bale of hay before grinning and running back to her horse.

“Those kids were extremely fast,” Trimble said. “The second place kid was in 3:12. That was eight obstacles and a big distance.”

Jenna Hansen, a 15-year-old from Nikiski, also surprised several of the judges by blowing through the race bareback.

“Is a saddle required?” she quipped at the starting line before taking off leaving behind a haze of dust and several laughing riders.

Trimble said the racers had been working on several of the techniques they used to coax their horses through the course during clinics at the expo.

“The expo is based around horsemanship and exposing people to more horse activities that take place in other states,” Trimble said.

The race, hosted by Alaska TV personality Atz Kilcher, included live music and several friends and family of racers shouting encouragement and advice.

Trimble, an Anchor Point native, said she planned to bring the expo back next year with more clinicians and vendors.

Each of the seven clinicians, including Trimble who sat with the reindeer, helped the younger riders through the obstacles.

Alina Patterson, 9, of Nikiski rode her horse Hercules through the course with several people guiding her through the proper maneuvers to help him through the obstacles.

“Do you have a strategy for winning?” Kimberly Barber, a clinician timing riders at the beginning of the race, shouted to Patterson.

The girl shrugged and grinned, “winning.”

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

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