Reality TV star and parade marshal Jet McCoy ready to Cowboy Up

CALGARY – An Amazing Race took him all around the world. An Extreme Cowboy Race now awaits Jet McCoy in Calgary.

McCoy and his brother Cord became the toast of reality television viewers this spring with their honesty, integrity, and Western courtesy during their runner-up finish on the 16th season of CBS’s The Amazing Race. Last month, they were named co-marshals of the 2010 Calgary Stampede parade, which kicks off the morning of Friday, July 9 — marking the sixth time the Stampede has saluted a working cowboy as parade marshal.

Jet McCoy’s involvement with The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth won’t end there, however. The horse trainer and professional saddle bronc rider from Ada, Okla., will also saddle up as a guest host for the inaugural Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Challenge, the first Extreme Cowboy Race on Canadian soil, which takes over the Pengrowth Saddledome from Saturday, July 10 through Monday, July 12.

“I’m definitely excited. Hopefully they’ll find a horse for me that can handle all the obstacles,” laughs the 30-year-old McCoy, “because I sure don’t want to do it all on foot.”

Extreme Cowboy Racing, sanctioned by the Extreme Cowboy Association (EXCA) of Bluff Dale, Texas, was the brainchild of Craig Cameron, known as the “cowboy’s clinician,” and originated as a TV program on Rural Free Delivery-TV (RFD-TV) in the U.S. The sport is currently surging in popularity; in 2009, its first official season of competition, EXCA staged 70 events in 22 American states, from Hawaii across to Maine, and EXCA’s first world championship, held in Topeka, Kansas, in mid-December, drew competitors from coast to coast. More than 100 events are on the docket this season.

Calgary Stampede officials were keen to catch the wave, adding the Cowboy Up Challenge to the Stampede’s slate of Western equine events for 2010.

A timed and judged event, Extreme Cowboy Racing demands both horsemanship and speed, and challenges both horse and rider with an obstacle course that may include such challenges as moguls, bridges, log crossings, tunnels, cowboy curtains, roll backs, and water crossings, among others.

Jet McCoy won’t be a full-fledged competitor in the Cowboy Up Challenge, but he will be working with Cameron at the start of each performance, giving Saddledome spectators an “extreme” tutorial. Both McCoy, on horseback, and Cameron will be equipped with microphones as Cameron talks McCoy through some of the obstacles involved in the race. A two-time International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) champion and trainer of reining horses, McCoy hasn’t yet tried his hand at Extreme Cowboy Racing — but like millions of Americans, he finds it intriguing.

“It’s something everybody can get involved in, regardless of their experience level,” says McCoy. “That’s one of Extreme Cowboy Racing’s biggest draws — it’s so accessible.”

In Extreme Cowboy Racing, judges award points for each obstacle, on a scale of one to 10, based on criteria such as horsemanship, cadence, control, and overall execution. Horse-and-rider teams are required to complete each obstacle within a predetermined time period to collect points.

The Cowboy Up Challenge’s first go-round starts on Saturday, July 10 at 3 p.m. The second go-round kicks off on Sunday, July 11 at 3 p.m., and the championship final gets underway on Monday, July 12 at 3 p.m. While EXCA’s sanctioned events in the U.S. feature Pro and Non-Pro riders, the Cowboy Up Challenge will field a maximum of 20 horse-and-rider teams going head to head, with no divisions based on gender or ability.

Ordinarily, Extreme Cowboy Race competitors would qualify for the sport’s world championship by collecting regional points. But EXCA has sweetened the Stampede pot considerably by giving the Cowboy Up Challenge champion a free pass directly to the 2010 worlds — drawing the elite of the sport, such as Robin Bond of Vista, Calif., Sally Addington of Polk, Penn., and Bill Cameron of Rosamond, Calif., to the Stampede City as a result.

Jet’s brother Cord, 29, will also be getting down and dirty at the 2010 Calgary Stampede. Cord is a professional bull rider who’s qualified to take part in this year’s Stampede rodeo and compete for a $100,000 pay day on July 18, otherwise known as Showdown Sunday.