OGDEN -- The final four have been picked, and now they have just 60 days to take an untrained 2-year-old horse and make it competition ready for the Utah Horse Expo in March.
The Utah Horse Trainers Challenge takes the top trainers in Utah and gives them the challenge of training the young horses in just a few months' time. They then compete in basic training obstacle courses and challenges.
The challenge competition was created three years ago by the Utah Horse Council to be part of the Utah Horse Expo.
Matt Bartlett, president of the council, said the competition was created to help bring a more local focus to the expo.
"It was an opportunity to highlight trainers in Utah," he said. "In my opinion, we've got as high-quality trainers as anywhere."
Ten trainers competed Saturday to be one of the top four. The four finalists -- Shanus Haws, Brandon Thompson, Debbie Donason and Jason Romney -- will compete in the Utah Horse Expo on March 11 with the horses they trained.
The goal, Bartlett said, is to be able to control the horse's body parts and have the horse listen to the trainer's commands.
The young horses have received no prior training, he said, and have been running loose on a 1,000-acre field his family owns in Randolph.
The trainers received their horse in a drawing after finalists were announced Saturday. Six horses were available, Bartlett said, so there was an opportunity for trainers to trade for a horse they think may be a better fit.
"Some may not like the attitude of the horse," he said. "Or some would feel better with a certain body style."
After the March competition, the highest-scoring trainer will receive $5,000, a new saddle and the title of Utah's Best Horse Trainer.
The trained horses are then auctioned off to the public, with proceeds benefiting 4H, The Utah High School Rodeo Association and other youth organizations, Bartlett said.
On Saturday, the trainers were judged in three parts: an interview section, horsemanship 101, and a riding section. Each rider competes with horses they have trained, giving the judges an idea of how they communicate with their horse and how well-trained the animal is.
Judge Marty Simper -- who has won the last two years of the training competition -- said this is the first time they have had such an in-depth process. In years past, a committee reviewed resumes and picked the top four based on qualifications.
"Anybody can look good on paper," he said. "This way, we see how they are."
Many of the trainers competing for the top spot Saturday said they were doing so because they wanted a challenge.
Dave Treanor, of Escalante, has been training horses for 15 years. This is the first year he has competed, and he said he was up for a good challenge.
Treanor said it is most difficult to get the horse to understand what you are trying to teach it, but when it does, it's a great feeling.
"The most rewarding is when they get it, when they understand," he said. "We are really asking them to come into our world."
Chrystene Bussian said she has been training family horses for about 10 years, but has been professionally training over only the last year.
She said she has watched the last two competitions and was excited to be a part of this year's challenge.
She said her biggest challenge when training is learning to communicate with each horse in a different way.
"No two horses are the same," she said. "They are not going to train and do the same thing. You have to read a horse and do what is best for the horse."