Sunday, May 24, 2009

Off to the Packhorse Race

The National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center in Dubois (WY) had been our intended stop Saturday morning. As we approached the Center, traffic was stopped and horses were crossing the highway.

We had arrived about mid-way through the Don Scheer Memorial Packhorse Race competition.

Cameras in hand, we joined the crowd at the Dubois Town Park.

Through conversations with locals in the crowd, we learned that the open race (men and/or women) started with each two-person team breaking down their camp, packing up one horse, saddling the other two horses, and traveling at a trot over a 7-mile course.

After they unpacked the horse, they had a 15-minute break. They would then pack up the pack horse, saddle up the other two horses, and would trot again the 7-mile course. They would then set up camp. The horses could not gallop, and judges along the course monitored the pace of the horses. The team completing the course in the fastest time wins.

It was the consensus of the handful of people that we talked to that the team of Phil Cross and Dave Brant (one of whom is shown in the first photo) would win. They were experienced, and they had three beautiful Morgan horses whose trot was uniform and fast.

The second photo shows the loaded pack horse and one of the team members leaving on the second 7-mile leg of the course. They would return to set up camp as the final stage of the competition.

This sequence of photos shows the final task of the teams. They had to set up their tent, unsaddle the horses, and store all the gear (saddles, storage boxes, shovel, ax, blankets) in a specified manner.

We were close enough to the eventual second place winner to shoot the steps in setting up the tent.

Here the cowboy digs out a chunk of turf and then wedges one of the main support poles in the resulting angled hole.

This twosome was finishing setting up the tent. In the background (upper left in the photo), you can see that the tent of the eventual winners had already been set up.

There were six teams taking part in the competition, and we were led to understand that the times would be fairly close among the six.

The final rankings showed that the second place team completed the course 14 minutes faster than the sixth place finisher. The favored Cross-Brant team completed the course in 1 hour, 14 minutes, and 2 seconds--14 minutes faster than the second place team.

We spoke to a woman who tried to explain the "Calcutta" form of an auction in which she had won the right to bet on the team that eventually won the competition.

She was happy, so we congratulated her and thanked her for the education.

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