Pletcher Ranch hosting “Heartstrong Classic” this weekend

There is a big event coming to the Yuma area this weekend, and it is something that has never really been seen here before.
Ronda Pletcher will be hosting the Heartstrong Classic, a stock dog competition, Saturday and Sunday, April 24-25. (The Novice competition will be Friday night.) It will be held at her ranch, located at 31228 County Road M, southeast of Yuma.
The Heartstrong Classic is part of the Mountain States Stockdog Association.
Pletcher said if things go well this year, it might become an annual event, adding there have been discussions with the Yuma County Commissioners about having it at the Yuma County Fairgrounds.
The inaugural one already is off to a great start before it even takes place.
“It’s going to be as big as the one at the National Western Stock Show,” Pletcher said.
There are 71 entrants, along with a waiting list in case anyone cancels. The participants will be coming from seven states — Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and even one from Memphis, Tennessee.
Pletcher said Yuma County, and many others throughout the region, have been very supportive. The county is supplying bleachers for spectators (admission is free), and is going to grade her road prior to the Heartstrong Classic. The 4-H Westerneers Club will be providing concessions each day. The competition will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 24-25.
There will be banners and sign recognizing the more than 20 sponsors who are helping make this a reality.
“The support from the community has been incredible,” Pletcher said, adding that the Heartstrong Classic has sponsors from all over the region. “It is humbling the number of people who want to bring something new to the area, and it is very entertaining.”

Ronda Pletcher and her Border Collie “Wick” will be hosting the Heartstrong Classic this weekend. (Courtesy Photo)

A steak dinner honoring the sponsors will be held following Saturday’s competition.
Pletcher has been competing with her Border Collie “Wick” in stock dog competitions for the past three years. However, almost all of them are far away from Yuma, which made it impossible for her mother Carol to go.
“Mom has never seen me compete,” Pletcher said. “I figured the one way for her to see me is have one in my backyard.”
And she literally is as it will be held at her home, which she said has plenty of space for the competitors, spectators and parking.
The Open, Nursery (dogs three years and under) and Intermediate classes will be competing on Saturday and Sunday. The humans and their dogs — which usually are Border Collies — will be put through an obstacle course involving six or seven maneuvers in handling cattle.
“The course will be set up to be realistic to what we actually do at the ranch,” Pletcher said.
Each human and dog team will have three head of cattle to maneuver through the course, needing to get at least one through an obstacle before moving on to the next one. Each will have an eight-minute time limit.
Competitors will get five points for each head they get through a maneuver. The combination of points and fastest times will determine the winners. There will be considerable cash prizes each day, and the winner of the average two-day combined scores will receive very attractive buckles Pletcher has had made for the event.
The entry fees and sponsorships make all that possible. Pletcher said there are some costs, such as paying for a judge and announcer, as well as a stock fee, but the rest will go toward prizes.
While Pletcher and Wick now compete, she first got a stock dog for a more-practical reason. She said she does a lot of the day-to-day work on the ranch and was in need of some help. She started thinking about using dogs, and got hold of Wendy Auzqui out of Wyoming, a renowned stockdog trainer and competitor.
Pletcher got “Wick” and some training from Auzqui.
“A good dog can do what two or three hired hands can do,” she said, adding that the dogs do it in a quieter manner, and in a way that is less stressful on the livestock.
Auzqui and her Border Collie “Frank” are among the best stock dog teams around, and will be competing in the Heartstrong Classic. The duo recently won the competition at the prestigious Calgary Stampede in Canada.
“Watching them work is like watching a magic show,” Pletcher said. “They have such a connection, it’s like he reads her mind.”
Pletcher finally became convinced she would like to enter herself and Wick in competitions. However, she told Auzqui her first one had to be far from Yuma, because she did not want locals to know if it was disastrous. She ended up traveling six hours to Auzqui’s house in Wyoming, and then another six hours to the competition.
It turns out her worries were unfounded as she and Wick reached the finals. They have been going hard at it ever since.
Now she is bringing her passion to the Yuma area to share with everyone else, and also to showcase what a great place is Yuma County.
“I want to make this event something to give back to the community,” Pletcher said. “Ag has been taking a lot of hits lately. I want to showcase eastern Colorado and what ag means to us. Bring people in, have a great experience while also seeing what a great place this is, and it’s a win for everybody.”
Don’t forget to mark your calendars and get out to the Pletcher Ranch sometime during the day on April 24-25.
It will be an event that goes to the dogs, but in a good way.