However, change may be in order to prevent the show from becoming a boring parody. Why? There simply are not enough stars in the trainer/clinician universe to maintain interest. There are many top-flight trainers, but very few are successful and entertaining enough to sell out Altel Arena at The Kentucky Horse Park. Once beyond Craig Cameron, Parrelli, Lyons and Clinton Anderson, not to mention Chris Cox, four time undefeated champion of RTTH, the pool becomes very shallow.
This year's contest was billed as a Celebration of the Cowgirl, but seemed to walk a fine line, perhaps unintentionally, between a contest of skilled competitors and a feminist forum. Tootie Bland often said that this event will/would prove that women are as good as the men. Anyone with their wits about them knows that horsewomen are every bit as skilled and generally more empathetic than their male counterparts. Woman have competed at RTTH in the past and done very well, thank you. Several years ago Sarah Dawson, competing against both men and women, lead until the last day of the competition when she was thrown from her horse. Little was made of the fact that Sarah was a young woman and the daughter of former RTTH winner Richard Winters. And I don't remember the sequin spangled Bland cheerleading like a spastic marionette for Sarah, or Obie Schlom, the other female competitor of that year.
The lack of star power almost surely reduced the gate in 2017, and I am just as certain that there were far fewer men in attendance than in the past. Men, it seems (I'm a guy), don't seem to be very interested in watching women compete athletically. What a shame, because one of the women, Vicki Wilson, put on a hell of a show and could/can compete toe to toe with any of her male counterparts.
The Running of the Remuda (horses are provided by Texas' 6666 ranch) heralds the beginning of each Road To The Horse, and this year's herd was memorable because of two of its 3 year old cast members: a big gorgeous gray that came to be know as Checkers and hip #7, a feisty, running, bucking, kicking brat of a horse that everyone fell for immediately. Incidentally, #7 was not chosen by any of the four competitors but was the backup choice by three of the women.
For three days Vicki Wilson demonstrated knowledge, competence, courage and extraordinary skill, whether showcasing her diagnostic and chiropractic skills in a demonstration (she even had adjusted Stacey Westfall's horse once and had been asked to do another adjustment), or in a dream-like spotlit performance aboard one of Dan James' horses, she simply stood taller than her fellow competitors.