Only summer gymkhana in Roaring Fork rides into action Saturday in Carbondale

Teagan Rice carrying the American Flag at the start of a Sopris Gymkhana in 2022.
Sydney Horwitz/Courtesy photo

Gather up, cowboys and cowgirls. Saturday is the start of the 2023 Sopris Gymkhana Series, which includes five days of competition from June through October at the Gus Dairen Arena.

Gymkhana is a rodeo-style competition, of sorts, that has events to test a rider’s ability in pattern racing and timed games. Sopris Gymkhana typically has riders compete in a trio of events — poles, barrels, and flags — before a mystery event is announced to complete the day. 

A rider competing in the 8- to 10-year-old category at Sopris Gymkhana 2022 in the flag event.
Julie Bielenberg/The Aspen Times

“There’s no pressure at the gymkhana,” said Megan Truelove. Her daughters Ava, 13, and Sofia, 10, are avid riders and enjoy the community event. 

“Everyone is relaxed and having fun, and everyone looks out for each other,” she said. “My eldest daughter says she’s always learning when she goes to them.”

Ava Truelove before a gymkhana competition.
Megan Truelove/Courtesy photo

Sydney Horwitz and co-organizer Lindsay Rice took over the Sopris Gymkhana in 2021 and said they are excited for their second, full year of competition. This is the only summer gymkhana in the Roaring Fork Valley. Coal Ridge High School Rodeo Club hosted a winter gymkhana series this past winter.

In 2022, Sopris Gymkhana had 30 riders from Aspen to Rifle and even an international presence when children of the players from the Aspen Polo Club competed. 

“It’s a low-key event, and we focus on safety and fun,” said Horwitz. “It builds confidence and comradery. We had ages 4 to 40 ride last year. It’s for everyone — all ages and all abilities. Not all kids and horses can do rodeo. This is a great way to give the community an event to progress their riding skills.”

The Carbondale Wild West Rodeo sponsors the insurance portion of the gymkhana series. 

“Without this beneficiary, we would not be able to put this event on because of that expense,” Horwitz said. “We are very grateful.” 

Riders compete for awards for single-day gymkhanas and for the overall series come fall. 

Riders and their horses can sign up one hour before the 10 a.m. start time. The event is free to the public and $10 per event, per rider. There are onsite bathrooms and free parking.