EAGLE COUNTY — You have to get up early to win state titles. For Kiefer and Kelby Kaufman, that’s 4:30 a.m.
The Kaufman kids are the first from Eagle County’s 4-H program to win state equestrian titles.
Kelby is this year’s state champion for gymkhana and Reserve Grand Champion (second place) in working ranch horse.
Kiefer is the state reining champion and was fifth overall in Colorado’s highest level of riding. He had three world champions in his class, and beat two of them.
Working ranch tests the rider’s ability to perform skills used on a working ranch. It’s four events and a written test. The written test is the tie breaker, which was a good thing for Kelby. He was tied with another kid for Reserve Grand Champion (second overall), but he blew the top out of the test.
What they learn
Most rodeo folks insist that the best thing for the inside of a kid is the outside of a horse.
“We’ve learned to win with humility and lose with grace, how to set longterm goals and work toward them, and sometimes, even when you do your best, things can mess up or someone may just be better that day,” Kiefer said.
They’ve been at it for six years.
“We love doing it,” Kelby said.
On competition day, the Kaufman kids roll out at 4:30 a.m. and ride or lunge their horses. The sun peeks over the horizon, they grab some breakfast in one hand and their study guide in the other to prepare for a written test they’ll take in a few hours.
They take the test, learn multiple patterns for each event, reasoning that it’s easier to get your horse to go where you want it to go if you know where you’re going yourself.
Then they wait.
There are all kinds of things you have to be good at to win equestrians events. Waiting patiently is one of them. How much you wait depends on how many kids are in your events. In Kiefer’s case, there were 30, including two world champions. He beat two of them.
How they learn it
The season starts in March and ends, well … it never really ends. They’re like most political campaigns that way, except horse shows smell better. Kiefer plays football and wrestles for Eagle Valley High School. All winter he’ll wrestle on Saturdays and head with the family to horse shows on Sundays. He and Kelby are members of a half dozen horse organizations and have a different horse for each discipline.
The season is supposed to end with the state fair, but there’s always an equestrian event somewhere.
After winning multiple state titles, the Kaufman clan drove home from Pueblo, arriving at 11:45 p.m. They turned out the horses into the pasture and collapsed.
And how did they celebrate their victories?
By rolling out of bed at 4:30 a.m., loading the horses and driving to Grand Junction for a Western Slope Reining Horse/National Reining Horse Association event, which, you won’t be surprised to learn, they won.
Kiefer won two NRHA titles and two class/division titles. Kelby won the NRHA and WSRA title and was second and third in club/division.
And how did their parents, Bill and Sally Kaufman, celebrate? They bought a new truck. They wore the old one out.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.