By Leigh Savage
Hannah Castellitto, a 27-year-old rodeo competitor and horse trainer from Saluda, said it all started with a friendly bet. Her 14-year-old brother wagered that she wouldn’t try out for Ultimate Cowboy Showdown, a popular show on the channel INSP.
With that challenge on the table, she had to send an application, “but it was totally as a joke,” she says.
Then she got the call, and the next thing she knew, she was in Carroll, Texas, sweating profusely in 90-plus degree heat, wearing long sleeves and a cowboy hat, sleeping in a tent and getting up at the crack of dawn to compete in grueling competitions.
Now in its second season, Ultimate Cowboy Showdown pits 14 cowboys - men and women - from around the country against each other as they undergo physical and mental challenges.
The winner walks away with a prize package that includes a herd of cattle, a portable corral, a cattle chute and the coveted Ultimate Cowboy Showdown belt buckle. The show premiered Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 9 p.m and will continue in that time slot.
Castellitto survived the first cut - host Trace Adkins sent cowboy Colten Angel home for not pulling his weight in a cattle-sorting challenge.
She can’t give away any secrets, but thinks she represented herself well and is looking forward to seeing how it all plays out on television.
“I made some good friends, and I would totally do it again,” she said.
Castellitto grew up around horses and cattle: her mom competed in rodeos, and her father, a former mounted police officer in Ft. Myers, Florida, eventually bought his own herd of cattle. They later moved to Saluda, South Carolina, where her parents own Legacy Ranch and Legacy Fence Company. Hannah runs Hannah Castellitto Horse Training and Sales LLC.
She started selling and training horses at the age of 18, and business grew rapidly. She says the pandemic has only spurred interest in horses. “I have made more money,” she says. “Everyone is at home, getting a check in the mail and bored.”
At the start of 2020, she told her parents she was creating a five-year plan that included qualifying for the World Championships in barrel racing, building a house, building a barn and producing “the best horses on the East Coast.”
Within a year, she had done all four, including qualifying for Worlds (which she has done several years in a row) and selling horses in the $65,000-$70,000 range.
A few weeks ago, she bought a stud horse whose father has offspring that have won nearly $14 million, mainly in cutting competitions, so her expectations for the future are high.
And on top of all that, she filmed her first reality competition show.
Despite the intense heat and lack of air conditioning during filming, Castellitto says the experience was positive.
“It was fun, but not super realistic,” she said. “It wasn’t the stuff we would normally do, and I wish there was more horsemanship stuff. But I love talking to people, meeting new people. I never thought I would be waking up and doing what I love every single day, so if I can help inspire one person, I would do it again.”