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Two relatively unknown upstarts used consistent performances and amazing demonstrations of human and horse partnership to place first and second in the first American Horsewoman’s Challenge held at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla.

Jerusha Steinert, horse trainer, teacher, fine artist and mother of a two-year-old, from St. Paul, Minnesota, garnered consistent scores in the preliminary rounds to place fourth going into the “clean slate” Freestyle Finals. Her Freestyle presentation, drawn from fantasy fiction, expressed her artistic side while demonstrating her incredible relationship with her horse Mesabi Warrior. The audience and judges were captivated by the artistry of her bareback performance that combined elements of medieval jousting, Garrocha, bridleless riding and Liberty. Check out their performance below.

Hannah Catalino of Cardwell, Montana, the competition’s youngest competitor at 19, proved to be the audience favorite. She and her equine partner Ace came into the Finals in eighth position. It was her simple, but amazing, routine of horse/human partnership and willingness that enthralled the crowd. The highlight was Hannah and Ace jumping an upright, overturned garbage can dead-on center, multiple times.

Although Steinert clearly positioned herself as Grand Champion with her Freestyle score of 27 from celebrity judges Linda Parelli, Julie Goodnight and singer /songwriter Templeton Thompson, there was a three-way tie for second. Catalino, Obbie Schlom of Canyon, Texas, and Mary Kitzmiller of Kemp, Texas all garnered scores of 26 that resulted in an audience tie-breaker. Through their applause and enthusiastic yelling, Catalino clearly came out on top with Schlom coming in third.

Obbie Sclom’s Freestyle performance featured an amazing presentation of riding with her horse Radar and her Brahman cross steer, Stover. First her horse Radar ponyed and performed with Stover, then the steer performed with Radar at Liberty. The highlight was Radar side passing over Stover, who was lying down.

Leading up to the Freestyle finals was three days of competition in Liberty, Cowboy Dressage TM and Ranch and Trail Versatility. The ranch and trail was judged based on the fast-paced Extreme Cowboy Race where competitors did not know the course obstacles until an hour before the race began. It was a true test of trust and partnership between horsewoman and her young horse.

The Champion trophies for Liberty and Ranch and Trail were presented to Obbie Schlom for her high scores of 69.75 and 115.9, respectively. Marcia Moore Harrison of Potlatch, Idaho won the Champion trophy for Cowboy Dressage with a score of 227.25

While three Canadian competitors began the challenge in April, only one made the journey to the finals. Marion Weisskopf of Princeton, B.C., was at the top of the pack, with a preliminary combined score of 376.45 (Liberty- 67; Cowboy Dressage – 216.25; Ranch/Trail – 93.2), and she scored 25 points in the Freestyle.

Fellow Canadians Pam Asheton of Cochrane, Alberta and Winnie Stott of King City, Ontario opted not to attend the finals.

See the preliminary combined scores here and freestyle scoreshere.

The American Horsewoman’s Challenge is a six-month contest to train a young horse for a cross-discipline competition held this year at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla. The competition combines the equestrian skills of Cowboy Dressage, Ranch/Trail Versatility and Liberty. The top ten finishers split a purse worth $28,000. The Challenge Finals culminate with an exciting Freestyle event demonstrating the horse-human partnership, lightness, music interpretation and creativity. A panel of celebrity judges critiques and scores the freestyle performances in front of the live audience.

Plans call for entries to be accepted for the 2015 American Horsewoman’s Challenge beginning November 1, 2014 with the new eight-month training period starting February 1, 2015. More information on the Challenge and how to enter is available here.