Kearns and Sons RS Aesthetics

America’s Favorite Trail Horse competitors almost neighbors

Jo Young and her mule Splash, and Lori Silcher and her Marchador stallion Bali, are both finalists in America’s Favorite Trail Horse web competition this week. Young, from Stevensville, and Silcher, from Hamilton, hadn’t met each other before finding out they were finalists three weeks ago. Jean Schurman photo

Although they are finalists in the same contest, only different divisions, and are both from the Bitterroot; Jo Young and Lori Silcher had never met each other until a couple of weeks ago. But you would never know it to listen to the two. Between the giggles and laughter, their competitiveness, and of course their love of riding, the two seem like longtime best friends.

The contest the two are entered in is America’s Favorite Trail Horse which is sponsored by the American Competitive Trail Horse Association.  The competition is an online competition where viewers vote on the videos sent in by riders from across the nation. There are two categories. Young is entered in the professional category and Silcher in the pleasure category. Each video had to feature several components. The horse and rider had to execute a Figure 8 with a flying lead change, stop, side pass, go up and down a hill and go through a water obstacle. The video could be no longer than five minutes. The staff at ACTHA selected the top 50 videos in each category and then in early May, the voting began. Each week, five videos were aired on the website. Viewers then voted on their favorite who advanced to the final round.

The final round of voting features five horses or mules, and their riders in the pleasure and in the professional categories. Voting for the championship began Tuesday, June 19, at 7 pm, and will continue through Thursday, June 21st at 7 pm. Voters can vote up to 10 times from each email address they have in the 48 hour voting window.

Silcher is from Hamilton where she and her husband, She has always been involved with horses. As a youngster, she competed in horse shows, rodeo events and cow cutting. She did a lot of her own training on her own horses. She and her husband, Peter, competed in local cow cutting competitions for many years. Now, she spends hours in the saddle riding the range for the Rennaker Ranch, gathering cattle and helping out whenever she can. Both of the Silchers say they enjoy riding outside of the arena and want a horse that can be comfortable while still being able to do what is expected as far as trail riding and chasing cattle.

A few years ago, they found the Marchador horse. The Marchador horse is the national horse of Brazil. The breed is a surefooted, gaited horse that combines stamina and cow sense to be an ideal cowhorse in Brazil. Although it is a breed, each animal must also undergo an inspection to make sure the breed characteristics are not diluted. Silcher said she felt this was the horse for her lifestyle and brought several horses back to their ranch, the 4 Seasons Marchador Ranch on Little Sleeping Child Road.

Silcher uses her breeding stallion, Bali, in the video. She said she never wanted to have a stallion as her ‘go-to’ horse but this six-year-old stallion is wiggling his way into her heart. In her video, Silcher shows how much the horse loves the water. As they enter the pond to walk through it, the horse drops his head and proceeds to blow bubbles in the pond while walking through it. She has trained him to side pass over to a stump so she can mount easily. Silcher, who along with Peter, are well known for their music, used her own music to accompany the video.

Young’s path to the contest was a bit more varied. She has worked with and trained horses throughout most of her life. She’s worked with hunters and jumpers, trail horses, reining horses, trained horses for other people, and along the way, did some adventure racing with her husband also. She also worked with several different breeds including the American Quarter Horse and Tennessee Walkers. The one thing she had never done while doing all of these equine activities? Ride a mule.

But about a year ago, she found Splash. This molly mule had been raised on a cattle ranch in eastern Montana. Splash had been packed but not really ridden much. Young worked with her over the last year and now has a solid, well trained companion to explore the trails of Montana with.

“She’s easy to live with, kind of a combination horse and dog,” said Young. “I’m new to mules but she is my first and forever mule.”

In the video, Young talks about Splash’s life and how she got her name. In the background, you can see Young putting Splash through her paces to show how well trained she really is. Young drags a bag of garbage to the garbage can with cans rattling and Splash moving easily along the way, not spooking at all and just doing her job. One of the most obvious features of the video is the love Young has for this mule.

Although it is unusual that two competitors from the valley would end up being in the finals, both women agree the Bitterroot has helped them in the competition. With so many different areas to ride in, Bali and Splash have just gotten more and more sure-footed and trail savvy. Plus, the beauty of the valley plays well in both videos.

Both Silcher and Young were winners in the same week in the contest. When she realized Young was also from the valley, Silcher gave her a call.

“Oh my gosh, you’re just down the road,” Silcher told her. Since then, they have gotten together several times and are making plans for a trail ride once Young has recovered from a recent knee surgery. But for now, they are hoping the valley will get behind them and vote to have the two most favorite trail horses in the nation right here in the Bitterroot.

To cast your vote, go to before 7 pm on Thursday, June 21.


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