For Mogollon Montoneras president Megan Ward, gymkhanas have always been a way of life.
"I've been competing in them for about the past 20 years, since I was 5 years old," she said. "My mother was a Montonera."
Among the thrills of hosting the competitions, she said, is watching riders improve their skills and abilities as the summer and fall series progress.
"It's really neat to see them when they first come in and how much they progress," she said.
With the 2005 season under way, Ward -- who is serving her fourth year as president -- will look to vice president Marla Mileam and secretary Allison Randall to help carry on the Montonera tradition that has long been a big part of Rim country culture.
The first in a series of six gymkhanas kicked off April 9 at the Payson Event Center. Others will be held May 14, June, 11, July 9, Aug. 6 and Sept. 17. All are free and begin at 10 a.m. except for the July 9 and Aug. 6 competitions which start at 5 p.m.
At every competition, barrel riding and pole bending are the standard events.
"We always have one funny event, too," Ward said. "We try to pick a different type event, something they haven't done before."
Each of the unusual events are cleverly designed events that test the rider's skill and the horse's training.
Following each performance, competitors receive series points based on their times.
At the series finale in the fall, overall winners in each age group will be awarded trophy buckles.
Other awards, including halters, blankets and lead ropes, are given out through sixth places.
At the series opener Saturday, several 2004 champions returned to defend their titles.
Among them were Chelsie Stodghill, representing the 7- to 9-year-olds; Candace Bullard, 14- to 17-year-olds; and Chancy Brown, 18- to 30-year-olds.
Traditionally, upwards of 75 riders participate in the gymkhanas.
Montoneras Gymkhana results for April 9, 2005
7-9 Taylor Randall 19.0
10-13 Skye McNeeley 19.94
14-17 Candace Bullard 18.17
18-30 Chancey Brown 18.16
31-over Susan Althoff 19.25
6 and under Brice Stodghill 29.94
7-9 Chelsie Stodghill 23.42
10-13 Bailey Randall 23.05
14-17 Amber Marshall 23.83
18-30 Chancey Brown 22.21
31-over Dee Dee Stodghill 24.33
Mountain Cow Horse (Balloon Race)
6-under Shad McNeeley
7-9 Chelsie Stodghill
10-13 Skye McNeeley
14-17 Amber Marshall
18-30 Lani Murdock
31-over Melany McNeeley