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The Central Coast Riders took over the Santa Maria Elks’ Unocal Event Center over the weekend.

The organization, formally known as District 40 of the California Gymkhana Association, held its monthly Gymkhana competition on Saturday and Sunday in the Event Center arena.

Gymkhana is a series of obstacle races on horseback. Riders race against the clock. The champions have the lowest cumulative time over the day’s seven events.

The events are designed to display precise, controlled actions and tight teamwork between horse and rider at speed, and demonstrate many skills such as flying lead changes and sliding, according to the California Gymkhana website.

Over the weekend, riders competed in 13 different events in five divisions — Future Champions, A, Double A, Triple A and Triple A Plus  with champions crowned each day in each division.

“The Future Champions are our youngest competitors and they can have parents walk with them holding a lead line. We call them Future Champions because hopefully, in the future, they’ll be our champions,” said District 40 President Nathan Rowles. “In the other divisions, where you’re placed is determined by speed, not age.”

“We have barrel racing both days and then there are six other events,” said event organizer Janice Rowles, Nathan Rowles’ mother. “We welcome people of all ages but it is really geared toward youth. We have riders as young as 18-months old and we’ve even had riders as old as 90.”

Saturday’s events included Quadrangle, Speed Ball, Barrels, Poles II, Figure 8 Stake, Single Stake and Hurry Scurry.

On Sunday, the racing included Figure 8 Flags, Birangle, Big T, Barrels, Poles I, Speed Barrels and Keyhole.

“It’s a full weekend. We start early, around nine in the morning, and go until three or four in the afternoon,” said Erin Brummitt. “It’s family oriented and it’s very affordable. It costs $45 a day to compete in seven events.”

“At rodeos, barrel racing can cost you $100 to enter each event. Here it’s $90 for the whole weekend and you get to compete in seven events each day,” said Nathan Rowles. “And we’re all volunteers. Everything we take in  100-percent  goes back to the riders in awards.”

Top finishers typically win gift certificates to local farm supply stores, T-shorts and sweatshirts.

In Quadrangle, riders start in the middle of the arena. There are two poles, 75-feet apart, on each side of the timing lights and the riders have to race around the poles making two left turns and two right turns.

In Speed Ball, riders have to race up to a cone, drop a golf ball in the hole then race back to the starting line.

Barrel races are what you see at the rodeo with riders having to go around three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern.

In Poles II, riders race down the arena then loop back, weaving through a series of poles, reverse course weaving back through the poles then turning and racing back to the start/finish line.

Figure 8 Stake has riders racing down the course, turning left around one pole then heading to the other side of the arena where they turn right around a second pole before racing home.

Single Stake has riders racing down to a pole, turning around it then racing home.

Hurry Scurry is a jumping event where riders race down the course and have to jump over a low rail, turn around a pole before racing back with two more rails to jump on the way back.

In Figure 8 Flags, riders have to race around two poles in a figure eight pattern. They carry flags and have to exchange their flags at each of the pole positions.

Birangle has riders racing around two parallel poles making either two left or two right turns.

Big T has riders weaving through three poles, then turning around two barrels before weaving back to the finish line.

Poles I has riders weaving down and back around poles through the course.

Speed Barrels has riders weaving down and back through three barrels.

Keyhole has a chalk outline of a keyhole drawn in the arena. Riders enter the keyhole then have to ride along the edge of the keyhole without touching or going over the chalk line.

Saturday results

Allyson Shiffrar won Saturday’s Triple A Plus championship. Sara Rose Welby was the reserve champion.

Leia Larson won the Triple A division with Amy Odom winning the reserve champion title.

Price Swanson won the Double A title with Katelyn Becerra claiming the reserve champion’s crown.

Teresa Gerrity won the A division title with Cherie Holbauch earning the reserve champion title.

Julie Shiffrar won the Future Champion’s title with Braydon Tollen taking the reserve title.

In the Future’s 12-99 division, Annika Bernfeld won the championship with Laura Rice taking the reserve title.

And 3-year-old Trew Tollen won the Lead Line Rider title.

Sunday results

Leia Larson won her second championship of the weekend, this one in the Triple A Plus division.

Amy Odom won the Triple A title with Hallie Mitchell winning the reserve champion’s crown.

Cherie Holbauch won the Double A title with Westin Handy picking up the reserve championship. Paityn Lorenz won the A division with Emmersyn Brummitt claiming the reserve champion’s crown.

Hayden Acre won the 11-under Future’s championship with Braydon Tollen winning the reserve champion’s title.

In the 11-and-over Future’s division, Annika Bernfeld won the championship with Laura Rice earning the reserve championship.

And Trew Tollen won her second Lean Line Rider title of the weekend.

The Central Coast Riders will be back at Unocal in September.

For more details, visit their website at

Elliott Stern is the Sports Editor for the Santa Maria Times. If you have a story idea or photos that you would like to share, you can email him or connect with him on Twitter @SMTSidelines