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Colt Starting/Trainer Challenges
These are competitions where the trainers are given 3-4 hours to "train" an unbroke young horse to ride in an obstacle course. It's really much like "Road to the Horse".

Chris was invited to attend (for the 2nd year) the New Hampton Battle for the Buckle in June 2012. There were 5 trainers in the competition to train the 3-year-old prospects. Chris drew a little sorrel gelding that took the roundpen work well and was very receptive to everything Chris asked of him. He had the gelding following him around in the first hour, looking to Chris for guidance. Chris introduced him to the tarps, flags, bull whip, bridge, rope, sack, you name it and Chris had this colt accepting it all. Chris not only trained this horse but made a bond with him and he felt secure with Chris. The little gelding genuinely liked Chris and really respected him. He did 100% in the obstacle course and won the competition. It was a great challenge to watch.

Chris competed at Farmington, IA again in June 2012 along with 11 other trainers. Chris drew a cremello filly that was very skiddish and wanted to jump out of the roundpen instead of work and learn respect. This put Chris at a disadvantage as far as his training program is concerned. Once he got all his flag work and desensitizing done, she really started to follow him and focus on him. This filly was really herd sour and was concerned and distracted by the other horses in adjoining roundpens. Chris rode in the obstacle course nicely with the little filly and ended up herding donkeys and steers, which is totally fitting for a mule trainer. He did a great job with a challenging mare.
  Pettingtarpsaddlingbarrelsdonkey herding

Chris was accepted to attend the New Hampton Battle for the Buckle in June 2011 in New Hampton, IA. There were 3 trainers at this competition and several different levels of horses to draw from. Chris drew a 6-year-old mare that had been handled enough to know she didn't have to be caught and if you lure a human in and try to bite, then spin and kick it really does intimidate the human. Chris was not entering the competition planning on training an aged, problem horse in 3.5 hours. It was really unfortunate but he did get a lot accomplished with her and taught her to respect humans. This mare was very confident in herself and extremely pushy. You could pet her and do anything you wanted with her until you approached her with a halter. She may bite you just because she wanted to so Chris had a time dealing with her issues of disrespect, insecurity and pushiness. He was able to get through to her on the ground and even halter drove her right in the trailer without resistance when it was over. Chris made quite an impression on the crowd training this mare.

Chris competed, for the second time, in the Farmington, IA trainer's competition in June 2010 at the River Valley Lodge and Campground. There were 12 trainers and Chris drew a blue roan filly that was pretty sticky-footed and real skeptical of him. They'd had lots of rain so the trainers used spades to "drain" their roundpens. Chris completed all his groundwork despite the filly trying to lure him in to kick him. It took a bit to earn her trust and respect but he did and he did well with her. She would lay down if she got mad and didn't want to do something. Chris felt like some horses can take this kind of pressure while others (this filly) cannot. He chose to not ride the filly in the obstacle course. Chris came home with the People's Choice Award (fan vote).
 RoanBridlingRearLay downRiding

Chris competed in a Colt Starting Challenge against 9 other trainers on May 30-31, 2009 at the River Valley Lodge and Campground in Farmington, IA. Each trainer drew a number to determine the 4-year-old mare they would train in just 3.5 hours. Chris drew a Sun Frost filly that had a lot of spunk, buck, kick and attitude. She was one he would have wanted to really take his time with. She did really well for him and completed the obstacle course with ease with the exception of one obstacle he didn't even try: the raccoon in the live trap under a cloth. Most broke horses wouldn't have done some of the obstacles! She ended up taking the saddle nicely, bending at the poll to back up and took to the tarp, flags and bull whip like a pro. Considering the difficulty of the colt Chris drew - he did a great job. Thank you to everyone who supported him at the event!
      desensitizing with ropeMountingbackingverbal interpretationcongrats chris

Ravenwood Fall Festival
Cowboy Race 2007

Chris and Skipper in the Water

Chris French and SkipperChris French, of Rafter CF Training Mule Company, was in the Ravenwood Fall Festival 2007 Cowboy Race on August 11th. There were 19 entries and we were the only mule entered. Chris rode Skipper and did really well. They ran all 19 contestants and had 5 judges. 10 points were based on speed with the rest of the points on horsemanship and how the animal completed each obstacle. Chris tied for 2nd in that round but got 3rd because the horse’s time was faster. The top 7 qualified for a second round and thTop 4 finishersey drew a wild card from the other names to be the 8th rider. This time more points were on speed but horsemanship was still a factor.

Chris ended up 2nd overall and won the Ravenwood Fall Festival 2007 Cowboy Race Reserve Champion breast collar and brought home some cash. We were very proud of Skipper. He just does everything so nice!

The crowd was amazed to see a mule do all of the obstacles so nice and that a mule can actually run!!! It was a great day and Chris and Skipper had fun!


Rafter CF Training Mule Company
3105 Forest Ave
Bedford, IA 50833


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