Chris Elbe takes on new challenges in Extreme Cowboy races
In early 2017, lifetime horsewoman and resident of rural Everton, Mo., Chris Elbe set a significant goal for herself when she set her sights on competing in the Extreme Cowboy Race World Championship in Hamilton, Texas later that same year. She didn’t want to just compete, she wanted to finish in the top 10.
With hard work, dedication and determination, Chris and her 13-year-old horse Gus not only met the challenge they exceeded it when they took first-place in the two-day go arounds leading up to the big event, where they ultimately took home the third-place title.
Today, Chris proudly wears a stunning silver-and-gold trophy buckle commemorating her win at EXCA World.
“I really feel good about my success at world,” Chris noted. “When a small-town cowgirl from Dade County wears a buckle that says, ‘world championship’ that’s pretty impressive.”
Chris admits her first EXCA event was nerve wracking.
“It’s like throwing a big fish from a small pond into a giant pond with lots of bigger fish,” she said. “I honestly don’t get nervous when I’m competing, and I believe that’s what helps me and my horse do so well. We know we have a job to do, so we go out and give it 110-percent.”
Chris admits she’s addicted to EXCA events. She recently returned from Nationals in Decatur, Ala., where she placed seventh in the nation in the Non-Pro Division. She also placed seventh in the nation in the Green Horse Division and third in the Intermediate Division.
The Extreme Cowboy Race is a multi-faceted equestrian sporting event that showcases both the horse and rider as they maneuver through a series of obstacles. Each obstacle demonstrates both their amazing horsemanship skills and incredible speed. Currently, the EXCA is the newest and most exciting equine sport sweeping the globe.
“I joined the EXCA to challenge myself, and to try something new,” Chris explained. “I’ve always loved barrel racing but I have to admit, as I’ve gotten a little older, those tight corners and high speeds scare me a little.”
The Extreme Cowboy Race is not just competitive, they also add speed to the mix. When you add speed, horsemanship can go out the window. The local saddle clubs walk and trot, but the EXCA adds speed.
“You can’t have a crazy horse or you will fail at all the obstacles,” she explained. “You need a well-broken horse to fly around the arena, then stop, and go over a bridge. Their motto is: ‘Speed with Control.’”
Chris also enjoys the camaraderie and like-minded horse people she meets at the EXCA.
“They’re really a great bunch of people.”
Chris raises, trains and competes on her own horses; she doesn’t pay a trainer to do it which, to her, is extremely rewarding.
“An EXCA horse is a very well-broken horse,” Chris explained. “They make wonderful all-around horses.”
Chris is also a firm believer in Joplin, Mo., trainer and two-time World EXCA Champion Annie Chance, where she takes lessons two to three times per week.
“She’s phenomenal. They just don’t make them like her anymore,” Chris said.
Chris’ mother, a life-long horsewoman and dedicated trail rider, inspired her daughters’ love of horses at just 1 year old when she hoisted Chris up into the saddle in front of her.
“I took my bottle with me,” Chris said smiling. “There’s just something about girls and horses. It’s truly in the blood.”
Chris grew up on her family’s Dade County farm, where they raised hogs, goats and grew row crops.
She currently lives on a 70-acre spread with her husband Wes, a chief inspector for a pipeline, son Tye, who majors in agricultural education at Missouri State University and is in the National Guard, and daughter Brady, who works for a soil testing company.
Chis is also a great believer in consistency in horse training.
“Consistency is definitely key when it comes to horses,” she emphasized. “If you do something today, then skip four or five days, and come back expecting them to know it – it just doesn’t work that way. Whether it’s 5 minutes a day, or an hour, consistency is the very best thing for horses.”
Chris is in her third year as president of the state’s oldest saddle club, the Everton Saddle Club, which recently celebrating its 60th anniversary. She admits to having real concerns about the current trend away from the smaller saddle clubs and outdoor venues, to the big, indoor arenas.
“Not long ago we used to have 40 to 50 riders at our trail rides, but that has declined substantially. They’re basically killing the little saddle clubs.” Horses are Chris’ life. They make her feel complete. She can spend a couple of hours riding down by the lake and everything is good again. Chris is a dedicated country girl, through-and-through and she doesn’t plan on ever leaving.
“I honestly don’t have the patience or tolerance to live in town,” she said. “I love the serenity, seclusion and freedom.”