‘Somebody Get this Guy a Cowboy Hat’ – Tik Maynard Wins Road to the Horse 2024

Team Tik for the win! Photo courtesy of Paula Shook.

It was just before 9 AM, and the doors had yet to open, but the line of fans stretching down the sidewalk from the Kentucky Horse Park Alltech Arena was humming with excitement. My friend Lizzie and I were still waking up from our eight hour drive to Kentucky the night before, and while we would have loved to get a few more hours of sleep, nothing would keep us from watching the competitors work at the Road to the Horse competition.

Road to the Horse World Championship of Colt Starting brings together some of the best colt starters in the world, thousands of fans in person and online, and a panel of prestigious judges for a week of horsemanship, challenge, and excitement. While we typically see cowboys and cowgirls with a Western background in Road to the Horse, we saw the competition’s second ever English trainer participate this past weekend. Tik Maynard joined Vicki Wilson (2017 and 2018 winner) as a Road to the Horse English trainer – and winner – of the event.

Walking into the Alltech Arena, the excitement had spread like wildfire. It was impossible not to get pre-competition jitters as we wandered around, taking a look at the numerous vendors, chatting with competitors and other trainers, and meeting new friends decked out in gear of their team.

The Wild Card Competition, which selects the fourth and final competitor of the event, was on its final day. We saw Lindsey Patterson, John Baar, and C.D. Wilcox work their fillies before C.D. was crowned the Wild Card Champion to continue onto the World Championship.

The World Championships were ready to begin, as the four competitors moved their way towards the ring for the horse selection to begin. We saw American Ken McNabb, Australian Donal Hancock, Canadian Tik Maynard, and Wild Card C.D. Wilcox front and center as the colts were brought into the arena.

It was clear who the true celebrities were this week: the horses. Bred by Pitchfork Ranch, a herd of unhandled 3 year old Quarter Horses came barreling into the ring to thunderous applause. Once settled, the competitors took their turns walking towards the herd, observing which horse they’d like to choose as their partner. It was here that we saw participants form an early partnership with potential horses. As Tik moved towards the herd, he created curiosity and draw to shift the horses’ attention to him, and started his work there.


In the first two days of handling, competitors focused on creating a connection with their horses. We saw C.D. and Ken rope their horses quite early on, while Donal and Tik worked with their body language to create a shift of their horses’ attention from outside of the ring towards them in the middle. Tik, who will be the first to acknowledge his limited roping experience, was the last to catch his horse with the rope, but had spent a significant chunk of time at the beginning creating a connection at liberty with his colt, CAPERA CATT.

The process continued on quite quickly. While competitors only had a few hours each day to work with these horses, we saw the entire starting process unfold in front of us. While we still saw patience and a tactful approach from trainers in this competition, this condensed format certainly expedites the process, which can be hard to do in a way that allows the horse time to process and grow in their confidence. As Tik highlighted, he doesn’t start horses in this short amount of time at home.

However, in this condensed format, we were able to see the process from start to finish, from four different techniques.

At the end of the first day, Tik and Donal had haltered, saddled, mounted, and moved around on their horses. Ken struggled with getting his horse wanting to connect with him, but was able to saddle, mount, and unmount his colt. C.D. utilized a pony horse to get closer to his pick, but was unable to halter his until the second day. On the second day, Tik and Donal rode their horses out of the round pen, while Ken and C.D. had rides around their pens. All competitors started introducing their horses to obstacles in preparation for the final day.

Despite the speed of the nature of the competition, Tik worked to spend time to allow his horse to process. “You know, the biggest thing… is to be present and go with the speed of the horse,” Tik commented. Tik was able to secure the win over the first two days.

As we moved on to the final day, I had a basic understanding of what to expect: competitors would have time to work in the round pen prior to exiting the pens to ride around the entire arena, then start an obstacle course. However, I had no idea the intensity of the obstacle course. Between pole bending exercises, roping, gates, poles, and pool noodles, these very freshly broke horses were presented with questions I think my horses would have balked at… and in an atmosphere that was absolutely humming with electric energy, clapping fans, and music. “I’ve never felt anything like that,” Tik reflected on the pressure, intensity, and atmosphere.

All competitors found success in certain obstacles, and trouble with others. Ken’s horse moved up over the platform, Tik’s horse was able to pick up the Olympic rings and drag a cart. Perhaps thanks to Tik’s jumping training, his colt excelled over the poles, but we saw him struggle with the gate.

Tik carried the soft, calm connection between him and his horse into the final day. We saw his horse turn to him instead of worrying about the atmosphere around him. However, despite all his incredibly intentional, focused work, we saw Tik’s horse buck towards the end of the obstacle course: with the shift in Tik’s weight to grab the Olympic rings, and the rings held at his side, we saw the colt’s nerves spike, and a bit of a bronc ride. Impressively, Tik was able to stay on. “Somebody get this guy a cowboy hat, he earned it!” two time Road to the Horse Champion Mike Major commented.

Although he might not have been considered a cowboy prior to this week, he’s earned the title now. Tik sees that as an opportunity to further diversify his skill set: “I think the more different disciplines, different ways of doing things, and different cultures meet each other and watch what the other one is doing… and try to look at something from a place of curiosity and not a place of judgement… I think everybody has a place to grow.”

“I always think that, when I start a horse – I hope I did a good enough job for them. The start is such an important part if their life, if not the most important part… The beginning of their experiences and emotions affects how they view the rest of their lives with humans,” Tik reflected.

Hats off to Tik, who maintained his lead from start to finish throughout the week. We now see him rocking a new cowboy hat… could he also be adding a Quarter Horse to his herd? “I think it’s a really, really special horse,” Tik said – Stay tuned for updates!

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