The Texas-based association started in November 2008 with the goal of promoting good horsemanship throughout the United States and Canada. For Hull and the contests' certified judges, good horsemanship means speed plus accuracy. Riders and their horses earn scores between 1 and 10 for each obstacle on the course, with the top finishers going on to compete in the championships in Topeka, Kansas in November.
The event in Huntington Beach is part of the Family Fun Fair organized by Red Bucket Equine Rescue, a nonprofit that saves and rehabilitates starved, abused and neglected horses. All proceeds from the two-day event will go to Red Bucket.
In addition to the races, the event will feature pony rides, games, food, vendor booths and a silent auction, along with a barbecue and hoedown Saturday evening.
"This is old-fashioned, real old-fashioned cowboy tradition stuff," said Susan Peirce, the president of Red Bucket. "We say the Pledge of Allegiance. We say a prayer. It's good, old-fashioned American entertainment."
She noted that the course will be kept a secret until the races begin Saturday and Sunday. Last year's competition, Peirce said, drew about 40 competitors, with some coming from as far away as Temecula and Norco — and she advised that people reserve tickets in advance, as she expects a bigger crowd this year.
The maximum score in a single contest, Hull said, is 145 points — 10 for each of the 13 obstacles, plus 10 for horsemanship and five for speed. Still, he said, contestants shouldn't feel bad if they score quite a bit lower than that, given the judges' high standards.
"If they reach a score as high as 8 from me, they've hit a home run," he said. "Nines and 10s are almost unheard of."
If You Go
What: Second annual Surf City Cowboy Challenge
Where: Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center, 18381 Goldenwest St., Huntington Beach
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with a barbecue and hoedown from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday
Cost: $5 adult admission for the Family Fun Fair, children 12 and younger admitted for free; barbecue and hoedown is $15 presale only
Information: (714) 848-6565