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Colt Challenge FAQ

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

We're excited to announce plans for the 5th anniversary Devil's Garden Colt Challenge! The application link for the 2024 Colt Challenge are live as of September 20, 2023 and will close October 15th, 2023 https://ucanr.edu/survey/survey.cfm?surveynumber=35282


Image from Senior Halter class at the 2021 Colt Challenge.


What is the Devil's Garden Colt Challenge?


4-H and FFA youth in California and Lake and Klamath County, Oregon have the opportunity to take home and train a Devil’s Garden Wild Horse. In 2023, horses 0-4 years old will be available. The Devil's Garden Wild Horse gather occurs in September and October 2023 and there is a limited number of horses available from northern California. Youth trainers are given a 6 month training period with additional check in challenges, and then culminates in a live horse show where participants can show their horses progress through various show classes. Although the program is called the “colt” challenge, mares and geldings are available.


What are the Devil’s Garden Wild Horses?


The Devil’s Garden wild horses live on a high volcanic plateau in Modoc County in northeastern California. Today’s population is descended from the working horses of local farms and ranches, and cavalry mounts from the area. However, their current population is 5-10 times the appropriate management level of 206-402 horses. As with any other overpopulated species, this abundance of horses has led to a negative impact on the ecosystem through riparian habitat damage, annual grass conversion, and jeopardizes the rural economy. The U.S. Forest Service has gathered horses starting in 2016 to provide wild horses for adoption and sale to the general public. For more information check out the U.S Forest Service page on the Devil's Garden at https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/modoc/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5313078 .


When is the Colt Challenge?


The Colt Challenge will be held in June 2024, exact date is still to be determined. Below is a general timeline of events although subject to change as we work with our partners.


9/20 Applications Open

10/15 Applications Close

10/18 Application Review Begins

11/15 Notification and Horse Lottery Opens

11/27 Horse Lottery Closes

12/4 Horse Assignment

12/16-1/7 Horse Pick-Up

Spring Progress Update and Video Challenge

6/15* 2024 Colt Challenge


What is special about the 5 year anniversary?


This year we will be inviting horses and youth back from the last four years of training to attend the Colt Challenge. Additional classes and information below in classes. We are also expanding to Southern Oregon.


Where will the Colt Challenge be held?


The Colt Challenge horse pick-up will be held at the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals located outside of Alturas, CA. We have also partnered with the Ridgecrest BLM facility in the past for a Southern California pick-up location. This is available if we have enough interest. The Colt Challenge horse show will be held at the Alturas Livestock Complex in Alturas, CA.


How much is the Colt Challenge?


There is a $25 application fee for enrollment in the program. If you are not chosen, the fee will be refunded. There is no additional fee for the competition. Youth returning to compete in the teen riding will have a small fee. Youth are responsible for all other costs associated with transportation, owning, and training their horses.


Who can participate in the Colt Challenge?


Any California or Lake or Klamath County, Oregon youth enrolled in 4-H or FFA. You must be between 9 - 19 years of age. If enrolled in 4-H, you must also be enrolled in a horse project. (If you don't have a horse project in your area, your adult mentorships will be considered instead on your application.) To find your local 4-H club check out the 4-H website at https://4-h.org/find/.


What information is needed to apply?


Basic contact information such as name, address, phone number, another other questions on 4-H and FFA Club/County, available facilities and horse experience, and check or credit card information for payment.


What are the progress updates?


The progress update includes different challenges and opportunities for participants to show off the progress their horse has made so far. Youth are invited to participate in local shows to prepare for the colt challenge and have “meet ups” with other participants. The Video Challenge is a voluntary opportunity which takes place about four months after picking up your horse and highlights the progress the horse has made in a creative video format. Check out last year's Video Challenge winning video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=os1fBupEwuc&feature=youtu.be


What classes are at the Challenge?

At the Colt Challenge in June, participants will be divided into Senior, Intermediate or Junior and compete in a Showmanship, Halter, and Obstacle Course classes. Prior to competing, participants will be given a more detail of what is to be expected in each class.


Brief overview of what to expect from each class:


Halter - Looks at participants ability to lead horse through a variety of tasks in order to evaluate their health, grooming, condition and behavior. Mainly focusing on tangible horse skills such as being able to pick up feet, halter lead ease, and reaction to new environments.

Showmanship - Looks at how well the trainer is able to show, follow a pattern and set up their horse, while recalling basic general horse care and knowledge.

Obstacle Course - Focuses on desensitization, basic ground skills, and horse maintenance including picking up feet and loading into a trailer. Horses may have to weave around barrels, maneuver over ground poles and a tarp, and walk through colorful hanging pool noodles.

Trick or Costume - This fun class is open to all participants to show off their best trick, talent or costume. Prizes are fun items donated by sponsors.

**New this year**

Teen Riding - Applicants 14-19 years old will be able to pick up 2-4 year old (3-5 at competition) horses from the corrals for ground training and a basic riding pattern. This class is also open to teens (14-19) who have horses 3+ years old January 1, 2024 from past Devil's Garden Colt Challenges. More information on this class available soon.


Youth returning from prior years are invited to participate in any of the above classes with a separate returning participant overall awards.


The overall $1000 cash prize is awarded to the 2023 Colt Challenge youth with the highest combined score in halter, showmanship, and obstacle course.


Participant leading their colt through pool noodle obstacle at 2021 Colt Challenge


What kind of prizes are available to win at the Colt Challenge?


There is a wide variety of prizes available to win from cash, grooming supplies, horse feed, buckles, ribbons and more! The 2023 Colt Challenge had over $3,500 in cash and prizes to award.


How does the lottery work/can I pick my horse?


Youth are asked to rank their top ten favorite horses. Then youth are randomly assigned a number and horses are selected for them based on their top ten ranking.


Can I pick up more than one horse?


Devil’s Garden weanlings are reserved for the youth program but after all the youth have been assigned their horses, additional weanlings will be available through the Modoc National Forest adoption or sales program. Additional older horses are also always available for adoption or sale. Please contact the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals for more information.


How does ownership work?

After the lottery, youth are given a time period to pick up their horses. After pick-up, youth are contacted to check on progress and if everything is going well, youth will receive title in the mail for their horse.


What kind of health check is provided?


All weanlings are given health checks at the Double Devil Wild Horse Corral which includes vaccinations and deworming. Please note, horses available for selection have lived in the wild with no health care, until entering the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals. The Forest Service and Veterinary Staff do their best to diagnose and treat known health issues, however some issues may not have been observed/diagnosed. Additional information can be found by contacting the Double Devil Corrals at 530-233-8738 or SM.FS.modoc_info@usda.gov.


Who can I contact for more information?

You can contact the Modoc County Farm Advisor at (530) 233 – 6400 or email devilsgardenhorseinterns@gmail.com. Also check the Devil’s Garden Research and Education Facebook page for updates!


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Thank you to our partner organizations, the Modoc National Forest, UCCE, and all the judges, volunteers, and participants that make the Colt Challenge possible!


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