As the Cowboy Up Challenge celebrates ten years at the Calgary Stampede, it is also celebrating its first non-North American competitor. 

The sport, showcasing horses’ and riders’ skill and speed as they maneuver through an obstacle course, is gaining international popularity. 

Israel is not home to many cowboys, but Ashir Kol is drawing attention to the sport in his home country due to his skill.

Cowboy Up Challenge
Ashir Kol of Israel is the first non-North American competitor.

Kol is one of ten elite riders selected for the invitational competition at Stampede.

“It’s just new, just in the last three years but it’s very bigger and bigger all year,” said Kol.

He is one of ten elite riders selected for the invitational competition at Stampede.

Another is Ariana Gray from Calgary. She is the youngest competitor in the competition and the only one from Canada.

Ariana Gray
17-year-old Ariana Gray of Calgary is the youngest competitor this year.

“I just thought it was the coolest thing ever. You get to do obstacles with your horse and really create a bond with your horse,” said the seventeen year old.

Being the youngest hasn’t held her back either.

“Usually something Laska and I always hold is the fastest time,” said Gray.

Competitors face 80 possible obstacles in infinite creative combinations and only find out the night before. So coming with sharp skills and relationship of trust with your horse is key.

“So many different skillsets are required for this sport like roping, different maneuvers you see in reigning like spinning and sliding stops, jumping, like everything. It’s crazy,” said Gray.

Cowboy Up is the richest and best attended Extreme Cowboy Race in the world.

The overall winner gets $30,000 and $10,000 goes to the winner of the sudden death finals on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Nutrien Western Event Center.