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A cowgirl's best friend is her pony-and $10,000

Like a growing number of Vermonters, Rosemary Root is passionate about all things equine. Riding horses western-style at a young age, Root eventually transformed her fondness for the genus equus into a profitable business-New Horizons Farm in Essex Junction, Vt. The farm was founded in 1986 and ranks among Vermont's top horse ranches.

Root's four-acre spread in the foothills of the Green Mountains provides healthy, professional boarding for up to 31 horses, a 63-feet by 160-feet indoor riding area, horseback-riding lessons, clinics, outdoor trails, and just about anything a horse owner-or future horse owner would like. Root's Vermont customers travel to the farm from as far away as Rutland.

Now the lady buckaroo is vying to become the next great American horsewoman through Project Cowboy, a unique reality T.V. show pilot project for cable television that would make her name, and her 19-year-old quarter horse, the Contortionist, household names. Both men and women will compete in the unique western event.

The Contortionist may sound like an odd name for a horse, but Root believes the name fits.

"Oftentimes people see the white 'A.L.' initial brand on Contortionist's hind; they ask what it means. I always say it means 'Awesome Legs'. Seriously, 'A.L.' is the breeder's brand, nothing more."

Reed points out that Contortionist's white-colored brand was made by using liquid nitrogen, a less painful method of horse branding compared to hot branding done in the old west.

According to Root, Project Cowboy will be held Oct. 8- 10 at the Will Rogers Equestrian Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

She first learned about the event when a friend and horse trainer Jack Brainerd, and a Project Cowboy judge, mentioned it to her.

What would happen if John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Tom Selleck, Dale Evans and Annie Oakley all competed in a reality show format to be crowned the best cowboy? Brainerd told Root that organizers plan to cram a season of "American Idol" into three days, and that fans will be entertained and awed. Well, Brainerd thought, Root could be one of the candidates-however, he cautioned her that friends of judges will get treated a tad harsher than other competitors.

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