In 1985, a few local cowboys formed teams to compete in authentic ranch activities that involved a scoring system used to determine who was the best working ranch. It was an event that not only challenged the participants but it drew a crowd and established a way to support a local charity.
Long before the name Western Heritage Classic was recognized, the ranch rodeo competition included five events – bronc riding, wild cow milking, team penning, team roping and calf branding. Points accumulated over a two-day period. The same format is still followed today.
As the event began to grow, organizers set a goal to build a prestigious event that would preserve western heritage traditions. Activities during the annual event are designed to embody the essence of cowboy lifestyle and history. Everything that happens during the four-day event ties back to the cowboy heritage and "the way it was" back on the ranch generations ago.
Today, the Western Heritage Classic is recognized internationally. Held on the grounds of the Taylor County Expo Center in Abilene, Texas, the three-day weekend event's showcase is the ranch rodeo; though it offers many activities that feature western interests as well as history. These activities include: the worlds largest bit and spur show, a chuckwagon cookoff, matched horse races, children's rodeo, cowboy poets and western artisans, ranch horse clinics, trade shows, and a giant western parade. All of these events add to the wide range that the Western Heritage Classic offers spectators each year.
In 1998 the Ranch Horse Association of America added another special event to the Western Heritage Classic schedule. RHAA holds the National Finals Ranch Horse Competition during the WHC weekend. The top class finalists compete for the national title Saturday afternoon before an energized crowd.
The WHC Invitational Ranch Horse Sale was also added to the Saturday schedule. This exclusive sale features working ranch horses offered from a select group of historic ranches.
The idea that started with a few cowboys gathering to have some fun and show off what they do for a living has turned into a spectacular three-day event and is enjoyed by thousands of western heritage enthusiasts.