Quick Home Search

Cowboy Pursuit – Cole Piotrowski

“Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so, he/she will have to accept that his life will be radically changed.” – Ralph Waldo EmersonFullSizeRender (21)

At 7 years old, local resident Cole Piotrowski asked his parents if he could learn to ride a horse.  After searching the internet, they found Fiona Laing at Skye Stables in Evergreen.  An accomplished horsewoman and a student of well-known trainer Chris Cox and his methods.  Cole began learning the fundamentals through weekly lessons on Fiona’s black and white paint, Ace.  Knowing that horses are much more than just riding, Fiona taught and exposed Cole to all aspects of horse ownership.  The spark of interest Cole had in horses soon turned into a full-blown fire and he was asking to do any chores that needed to be done at Skye Stables including feeding, cleaning stalls and unloading semi loads of hay in order to be immersed in this new life he found.

Cole continued to become a better rider and horseman.  Fiona has a gift of looking past her students fears and worries and challenges them to become better partners with their horses.  Cole’s confidence continued to grow and his family decided it was time for Cole to have a horse of his own.  Fiona helped Cole’s parents find a 5 year old gray gelding named Blu and they gave him to Cole for his 10th birthday.

From the beginning, Cole was drawn to all things “cowboy”.  He didn’t miss the Evergreen Rodeo or National Western Stock Show.  He couldn’t watch the ropers and riders enough as he carefully studied their every more.  When Cole was 12, he had the opportunity to attend a roping clinic with Krece Harris.  Krece took him way out of his comfort zone by having him ride new horses and team rope steers. Krece told him that roping is “80% horsemanship and 20% roping skill” and because Cole had put so much work into his horsemanship and so much ground work into practicing roping, he would be an excellent team roper! The clinic with Krece was a defining moment for Cole and his dedication and focus intensified.

Around the same time, Cole started Ranch Sorting with ERSA (Evergreen Ranch Sorting Association) in Pine.  Cole quickly picked up the skills necessary to move the cattle between pens in this competitive and timed sport.  However, Blu was not quite as interested in Ranch Sorting.  Blu was a steady, strong, and reliable partner when Cole visited the working ranches of friends. He would drag calves to the fire for branding, go on long drives, and work his heart out all day for his boy. But Blu did not possess the athleticism needed in the sorting ring.

Cole had a strong interest in ranch sorting, but needed to find the right horse for the sport.  His family decided to contact Chris Cox, to see if they could find the right horse through someone they trusted.  While Chris does not usually sell horses as part of his training business, he invited Cole to Texas to try out several horses that might be a good fit for him.  Cole immediately took to a 4-year-old bay gelding named Scooter and they have been an amazing team in the sorting pen ever since.

IMG_5054Cole and Scooter have competed in the Colorado state finals 3 times; finishing his first year as the Youth champion, second year 3rd in the Rookie Division and in December 2016 they finished 3rd in Colorado in the Novice Division and 2nd in Wyoming. He has competed in Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. Additionally, he and Scooter qualified first in Cole’s division the past two years for the World Finals held in Texas.

While Cole loves competing, he is most passionate about his horsemanship. Now 15, he rides and practices every day to increase his skill set. He has been attending Chris Cox Horsemanship Clinics for the past two years and will complete his Level 5 horsemanship this year. As Cole has heard Chris Cox tell his students, no matter who you are or how long you have been working with horses, they have something new to teach us everyday – Cole looks for and seeks those opportunities to learn. Chris went on to tell one class, “This will not be the last you hear the name Cole Piotrowski. I am sure he will make a career with horses and will go on to do many great things.”FullSizeRender (22)

Cole is already training horses and helping others to improve their horsemanship. He purchased three ponies to train in 2015, and has sold one finished pony to a delighted 5 year old girl who loves her calm and trusted new best friend. He also purchased a 2-year-old Palomino this past summer who is already showing promise under saddle to be great athlete in the sorting ring one day.

While horses have brought Cole and his family on an amazing journey in the past 8 years, one of the best parts of the adventure has been the opportunity to be involved in the “cowboy lifestyle”.  Through traveling and competing, they have forged friendships that will last a lifetime.  People who share simple family values, generous and loving spirits, and a passion for horsemanship and competition. All because of a 7-year-old cowboy who wanted to learn to ride a horse.  Heather McWilliams © 2017.DAE94CFB-B55C-4C2B-A056-DE104A8AB6E7

Evergreen Ranch Sorting Association (ERSA)

Ranch Sorting is one of, if not the fastest growing equine sport around the country, not to mention in our mountain area.  In true mountain folk tradition, a set of locals have started up their own ranch sorting group nicknamed ERSA, to enjoy this addictive and entertaining sport in our own backyard.

Evolving from the need to separate cattle into different pens for tasks like doctoring, transport or branding, the sport of Ranch Sorting is done in two equal, fifty to sixty foot diameter pens that are connected in the middle with a twelve to sixteen foot opening.  Eleven cattle, with large numbers on their sides are in one of the pens. Typically two riders (there are variations with one, two or three riders), enter the pen and as soon as they cross the opening/barrier between the two pens, the clock starts.

The two riders must then work in harmony to move the cattle in numerical order from one pen to the other.  The judge chooses the number that they start with and if they get one across the barrier out of numerical order, they are eliminated.  The fastest time wins.

There are different styles that Ranch Sorting teams utilize to sort the cattle.  For example, some teams choose to have one rider stay at the gate and fend off the wrong numbers, while the other rider attempts to bring the correct cattle in the right order.  ERSA teams take turns guarding the gate and sorting out the next number up to drive through to the other pen.  This gives each rider a chance to do both positions and helps to level the playing field during competition.

With a solid group of leaders and members, ERSA has created a fun, supportive and social environment for its members.  People new to sorting will find knowledgeable help to get them going and the group is small enough to ensure that each participant frequently gets a turn. One member stated, “I sorted for the first time last summer.  I had a great time and everyone was very helpful in assisting me to learn the skills I needed to sort.”  Coming from a different perspective, local horse trainer Tucker Black found that, “Ranch Sorting with ERSA gave me a great way to freshen the minds of my horses by giving them a reason to do the maneuvers we practice in training.”

Friendly on the wallet compared to other Ranch Sorting gatherings and groups, ERSA is $150 per year to join and $20 per day for members or $45 per day for non-members.   All of the money is used to care for the cattle and other expenses, as well as put on a Buckle Sort and barbeque at the end of the season, which starts the weekend after Evergreen Rodeo weekend and goes as long as the weather allows.  Any shape or size of horse is welcome as well as families who want to enjoy the sport together.

Pep and Jim Reffel have graciously offered their perfect place in Pine for ERSA to hold the Ranch Sorting’s.  The ERSA officers include:  Carl Heckendorf, President; Jerry Toman, Treasurer; and Linda Heckendorf, Secretary.  The Board of Directors as well as fencers, haulers and cattle number-er’s aka wranglers of the group are Bruce and Laura McReynolds, Rex Eaves, John Orlando, Al Chidester, Harvey and Laura Penland, and Porter Bennett.  Most importantly, Adam Shirley devotedly feeds and waters the cattle everyday to keep them happy, healthy and gaining weight for their owners!  Thankfully, Carl Heckendorf’s connections with feedlot owners have kept the cattle price at a feed only basis.

Tom Hushen has added a link to ERSA through www.evergreenrodeo.com. More information on Ranch Sorting can be found at the Ranch Sorting National Championships website, www.RSNC.us and through its sister discipline, the United States Team Penning Association, www.ustpa.com.  Copyright 2013 Heather McWilliams, MtnHomes4Horses.com.