The final of three Open Ranch Horse summer competitions is now a part of the Northern Gila County Fair and will be held Sept. 11 at the Payson Event Center. Competition begins at 10 a.m.
Originally, the finale was to be held Aug. 4-5 at PEC, but monsoon downpours forced postponement of all events.
Open Ranch Horse director Zack Gibbs, also co-owner of Gibbs Performance Horses in Camp Verde with his wife Vanessa, said he was at first disappointed with the rainout, but is now excited the events are part of the fair.
"It'll be fun, there is no admission and we'd like everyone to turn out for what we think are some fine cowboys and horses," he said.
Entering the finale, Prescott cowboy Ben Balow is a favorite to ride his way to the title and the first place prize of a new custom trophy saddle sponsored by Black Mountain Escalating.
Balow won both Open Horse competitions, held June 4-5 and July 16-17, also at PEC.
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.
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, lope, 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.
Gibbs stresses entries are still being accepted for the upcoming finale. To enter, call him at (928) 301-1143.