The dirt surface of a rodeo ground should never be hard-packed. A so-called "hard pan" surface is dangerous for horses and riders alike. An ideal horse ground has been sufficiently "ripped," or deeply plowed and leveled, to provide an ideal surface for horses to round and turn and maneuver safely.
The stated mission of the Surface Creek Saddle Club is to provide a safe environment for equine activities: a place for youth and people of all ages to be able to explore, understand, and participate in equestrian activities which reflect the foundation on which the American West was built.
The Saddle Club continues to fulfill its mission and you might say they're "ripping the hard pan" in their efforts to bring safe, exciting and educational horse and rider events to western Colorado. The club is constantly working the ground: promoting and supporting long-standing activities while continuously seeking feedback for new ideas and events.
The club's spacious arena at 24224 Grand Mesa Drive in Cedaredge began life in 1955 as a venue for "Cowboy Polo." In 1959, they began hosting the Little Britches Rodeo as well as other roping and rodeo events. This summer, following a 60-year run, the Little Britches competition will be discontinued due to lack of participants. The Surface Creek Festival Association -- the organization which previously put on the Little Britches rodeo -- will meet soon to determine if a non-sanctioned rodeo might be beneficial to the youth in the surrounding area.
In the meantime, the saddle club will continue its tradition of gymkhana events which began in 1990. A gymkhana features horse and rider activities which demonstrate equestrian skills. Typical events are barrel racing, pole bending, flag races, and a variety of fun events. Every summer, riders come to Cedaredge from throughout Delta County and from neighboring Montrose and Mesa counties and elsewhere in Colorado to compete for fun, points, and prizes.
And opening day is just around the corner.
This year's "Saddle Series" gymkhana events will be held every Wednesday beginning May 30, with the exception of the Fourth of July. There are four events each night. Gates open at 5 p.m. with contestant sign-up from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The grand entry begins at 6:45 p.m. and competition generally ends around 9 p.m.
Competitors must be members of the Surface Creek Saddle Club. Annual membership fees are $20 for an individual or $30 for a family. A one-day pass to accommodate competitors is available for $10. There is an additional cost of $7 per event, per day. Membership dues and event costs can be paid on the day of the gymkhana or in advance by contacting Melinda Katchur via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gymkhana riders compete in five age categories. There is a group for seven-year-old-and-under youngsters who ride while someone leads their horse; a seven-year-old-and-under group which rides solo; and groups for 8 to 13 year-olds, 14-18 year-olds, and adults. Competitors accumulate points toward local prizes awarded at the end of the gymkhana season and they also earn points to qualify for other rodeo competitions. The local gymkhana prizes include saddles and other western articles. In addition, winners among the youngest competitors receive ribbons each week.
The saddle club is a nonprofit organization which relies on volunteers and community contributions. Their major sources of operating funds are their membership dues and their event fees. They have also had generous support from area businesses including Bank of Colorado, Big John's Ace Hardware, West Elk Electric, Murdoch's Ranch & Home Supply, CropwoRx, Home Depot and Starr's Guitars. 4-H students help out with events and the club's volunteer board members are very active.
The club's current officers, all of whom reside in the Surface Creek area, are Keith Stilling, president; Gwen Williams, vice president; Melinda Katchur, secretary/treasurer; and members at large: Kurt Jones, Mitch Larson, Stacey Kenyon and Whitney Woolley.
Volunteers are always needed to help with events. To volunteer, to join the saddle club, or for more information, visit the club's Facebook page or www.surfacecreeksaddleclub.org.