If the status quo prevails, Prescott cowboy Ben Balow will soon be boot scootin' into a new custom trophy saddle.
He'll earn the rig by virtue of emerging victorious from the inaugural Open Ranch Horse competition that wraps up Aug. 4-5 at the Payson Event Center.
In the first two of the three competitions, held June 4-5 and July 16-17 also at PEC, Balow won both events.
His victories came as no surprise -- Balow is a former National Reining Horse World Champion.
Most of Balow's competition has come from Ivan Stewart who was second at the two earlier competitions. Payson's Gary Walker and Tim Roberts of Queen Creek have also shown well.
In the women's division at the first two events, Prescott's Mary Fallon earned top honors by besting runner-up Lynn Carbol of Phoenix and bronze medalist Deanna Kristofic of Page.
The competitions are hosted by Zach and Vanessa Gibbs -- owners of Gibbs Performance Horses in Camp Verde.
According to Zach Gibbs, the summer events, while new to Payson, have been a hit.
"We have good turnouts and everything has run smoothly," he said.
"At the second (event), the winners improved their point (totals) from the first."
In the competitions, the versatility of the working ranch horse and the rider are tested. Judges award points for cow work, roping and the overall appearance, confirmation and attitude of the horse.
In reining, competitors ride their horse through a pattern in which the rider must open and close a gate on horseback, take the horse on a trot along a fence in the center of the arena,ope, fast lope and back the horse 15 feet.
In cow work, the rider and horse must box in a cow at the rear of the arena, then drive the cow down the arena and turn the animal back at least one time in each direction.
The roping event calls for the rider to rope a steer and tow it about 15 feet.
The riders are allowed six minutes to complete each event. An unfinished run results in zero points.