AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — On Tuesday, college students from eight states came to the Tri-State Fairgrounds to compete in day one of the National Intercollegiate Ranch and Stock Horse Collegiate National Championship.

According to Jill Dunkel, the executive director of Stock Horse of Texas Association, which is managing the competition, 15 teams are competing.

“These students have worked for years, especially all this year up for this event. This is their national championship,” said Dunkel. “They have had competitions in their part of the country through the fall and the spring all gearing up for this. It’s really the culmination of what they’ve worked for.”

Those students competed in four events, including cow work, reining, ranch trail, and ranch riding.

“Each measure different abilities and different skill levels and so depending on which class they’re competing in, they may be going hard and fast and trying to control where a cow goes. Or they may be showing some finesse in a trail course,” said Dunkel. “So it’s all about that dance with their horse.”

Bobbie Walton, who works as an instructor and the director of the equine center at Tarleton State University, said she brought six students to compete.

“You know, last year, we weren’t able to compete very much. And so we’re really excited to be here,” said Walton, noting many competitions were pushed back or canceled because of COVID-19.

Walton also said the skills they hone with their horses transfer to their futures.

“In learning how to communicate with their horse and learning how to control their emotions and just the communication, the camaraderie that they get with being a part of a team, all of that leads on to what they do afterward,” she said.

Macy Zentner, a student at Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, said the competition on day one was fierce.

“So far it has gone really, really well and I’ve been really impressed with how my horse has handled, especially the long trip and then the competition,” said Zentner. “There’s a lot of talent here and so it’s really fun to be competing against everybody. And I mean, we’re all giving each other a run for our money.”

For Zentner and her teammate Connor Crumbliss, the competition is also about networking.

“There’s tons of opportunities that come from here,” she said. “You’ve got tons of networking, opportunities, all that kind of stuff. So tons of benefits from competing here.”

“It’s important to me because I get to meet a lot of different people and a lot of opportunities arise for me for a career aspect,” said Crumbliss. “Just being able to learn more, you always are learning no matter what it is. You can always learn and a lot of people here are willing to help you and that’s what I just love about it.”

For many of these students, the competition helps them to plan for their futures.

“We have several students that have gone on from collegiate competition that are professional horse trainers, others have gone on to be coaches,” said Dunkel. “I would say probably almost half of our coaches here were students at one time in the same competition. So there’s lots of career opportunities.”

On Tuesday, students were given a dinner by Coolhorse, where they were able to network more.

Dunkel also noted the competition would not be possible without the support of their sponsors. She also thanked the City of Amarillo and the Tri-State Fairgrounds.

There are also prizes for winners. Dunkel said the winning teams will receive horse trailers, and on Tuesday after day two of the competition, one outstanding freshman will win a $6,000 scholarship from the Fort Worth Stock Show.

Day two of the competition is Wednesday, April 20 from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.