Cecil Huff of Ava, Missouri was chosen as winner of the Ultimate Equestrian Challenge at the 2009 Horse Celebration produced by Missouri Equine Council, Inc and sponsored by MFA, Inc. Huff competed against Missouri horse trainers Dennis Cappel of Silex and Steve Atkission.

Cecil’s thoughts right after the competition “This was the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life.”

Friday night, three trainers drew for their colts from performance bred two year old horses provided by Dr. Kent Haden of Columbia,  and were assigned round pen placement.  They would have a total of two hour and fifteen minutes of training with their horse over a 25 hour period.  Three trainers, three horses and three round pens going at the same time in front of an audience.

Cecil Huff has developed a technique over the years of bonding and communication, described by some as a dance between the minds of horse and man.  Cecil was the first trainer to halter his horse, and first to saddle. When his horse bucked like a rodeo bronco for about 30 seconds with his saddle Huff reported he wasn’t surprised. He was the first to bridle, and then spent a few minutes driving his colt but changed his regular process due to the time element reasoning the bit was distracting the colt from progressing. To proceed in a timely manner he switched to a rope halter and mecate reins. Years of experience starting and training colts allowed Huff the patience to properly prepare him for his first ride! Cecil used a 34" beach ball bounced all around his colt and he knew just when the colt was ready to accept the ball onto the saddle area and held there for a moment. Huff explained “The ball bounces better than I do.” And yes, Cecil was riding his colt well before the other trainers. The first 45 minute training session he accomplished a walk, trot and a few strides of canter.

The next night during the pre show training, Cecil was able to get his horse to lope first with just a little bucking to show he was happy or excited but not trying to get rid of his rider.  Huff explained he knew that the only way to win the competition was to build a trusting relationship with the colt. 

Cecil expressed his great pleasure, and honor to be competing with such accomplished trainers as Dennis Cappel and Steve Atkisson, both did amazing things with their colts! All the trainers are Christians and had an opportunity witness to the audience about their faith in God.”

Show Time: Round pens came down and the trail course was setup. Colts were required to climb up on a 12" high square pedestal which is 3 feet wide and 5 feet long and walk cross it; then drag a pole with lariat rope attached to it and step over 3 ground poles. Cecil and his colt finished the course in order of instructions on the first attempt of each obstacle. When the colt completed those tasks you had 10 minutes for free style riding. Huff choose for his free style to walk, trot and lope both directions and then back up. Then he did a serpentine between the ground poles and figures 8’s at the walk and at a trot in the middle of arena. The colt was ridden in a rope halter with a mecate reins. He did so well that it took very little signal with the reins, mostly leg yields to get him to turn. Notability, no bit and no spurs!

The relationship with the colt had its pay off. Cecil truly had a developed a soft and willing partner in two hour and 15 minutes. The connection that passed between horse and man was based on a total trust.  Cecil demonstrated this connection between horse and rider and showed us all how rewarding the end result can be.  

Congratulations, Cecil on a challenge well done.

Huff commented: “When I think back on it I feel God blessed and used me in a special way and I am humbled by his power and grace.


Thank you Rylee Fuerst for assisting during the training and to her parents Lisa and Bill Fuerst for their support they came form Lawrence, Kansas.  Special thanks to Joe and Wilma Hamby, Joe Christwell, Georgia and Forrest Dunn, Katherine and Delbert Lewis and all our friends who are encouragement is invaluable! Thanks to wife Sonny and daughter Kim. Also, son Dustin and Kristy Tomlinson and Darrell Cornett who held down the ranch. Thank you.         

Cecil Huff and wife Sonny manage Bucks and Spurs Guest Ranch
HC 71 Box  163
Ava, MO 65608