Riding big | CraigDailyPress.com

Riding big

O-Mok-See draws competitors from across the nation

Michelle Balleck

Riders walk their horses in sideways, turned backwards, hoping to divert their views of the course.

At the National Championship O-Mok-See horse show, held at the Moffat County Fairgrounds this week, if some animals saw the lane, they immediately wanted to bolt.

“She’ll dance,” Jim Streich of Isanti, Minn., said about his horse, Locomotion. “She’s ready to go.”

When riders are given the ready light, they spin their horses around and race full speed ahead.

“My horse, she’s a deadhead,” Rhonda Glanzer of Winnie, Texas, said about Bay. “Once she gets in there, she knows what to do.”

The championship mixes traditional riding categories with novel ones. In the half eight, riders run a straightaway, make a half figure eight around poles, then gallop back. Another class requires riders to snag tomahawks and return them to a barrel at the other end of the lane.

Streich admitted that training horses for the different courses is tricky.

“I’m still learning,” he said, “and I’ve been at it for five years.”

Riders compete three at a time in their corresponding age groups. They don’t race against one another, but against the clock. When the green light is given, riders take off at their leisure, and they are timed for their personal runs.

“I love it,” Streich said. “It’s a fast-going sport. It’s three lanes, so it’s three times as fast.”

O-Mok-See is a Blackfeet phrase meaning, “riding big.” Some participants paint their horses to match the theme, but Glanzer is not one of them.

“I’m not an artist,” she said. “I’d have to draw stick people.”

The national championship is an annual event, and individual states hold competitions throughout the season. The championship was set for Vernal, Utah, but it was relocated just a few days before the start because of an outbreak of vesicular stomatitis.

“I’m glad it’s here,” Glanzer said. “I love it here.”

She is the assistant to the secretary of the National Saddle Clubs Association, the sponsoring organization. Glanzer has cattle at home, and she knows the disease can spread from horses to other species.

“I was not going to Utah,” she said. “It would have wiped out our family’s entire herd.”

Participants seemed content competing in Craig instead.

“It was a long drive, but it’s worth it,” said MacKenzie Gale, 10, of Vermillion, S.D. “They have nice grounds.”

This is her fourth year competing in O-Mok-See, and she said she enjoys getting to spend time with friends and family. Glanzer also enjoys visiting with the same people she sees at other shows across the nation.

“I’m a competitive person, so I like the competition,” she said. “And it’s a great family sport.”

Duane Toren of Montana was impressed by the welcome he and his family have received in Craig. His son, Rorrie Toren, who was paralyzed in a rodeo accident 27 years ago, rides in Craig this week. His granddaughter, Danielle Toren, 7, broke a record in the half eight Tuesday.

Duane used to ride, but now he enjoys watching his family compete. It is a generational activity that brings his family closer.

“It’s about the only thing outside of church,” he said, “that the whole family does together.”

O-Mok-See continues through Friday at the Moffat County Fairgrounds. Events begin at 9 a.m., and admission is free.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or mperry@craigdailypress.com

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