Red Deer Horse Trainer’s Challenge

Jay at the Mane Event Horse Expo

Wow! You want to talk about a journey! I’m talking about the Trainer’s Challenge that was held at the Westerner Park Grounds in Red Deer, Alberta. April 27-29 2007.

3 Trainers <> 3 Untouched Horses <> 3 Judges.

Jay at the Horse Trainer's ChallengeYes, the Mane Event Horse Expo came to Alberta for the very first time, and may I add, the event drew an enthusiastic and larger than anticipated crowd. Allow me to give you a brief overview of each of my training sessions. But before I get started, you may like to know that we filmed each of my round pen sessions as well as the final go around. The good news is that you can download parts of this video footage here.

That’s not all, Canada Equine was there and they followed my progress as I worked with my horse over the three days of the Trainer’s Challenge. They have posted four interviews on their web site and you can download the podcasts here.

Friday – Session #1 – My horse was nervous, worried, and fearful, and as I would later discover – very willful. To top things off I had also come down with a terrible flu. Despite these challenges, I spent as much time as I could in forming a connection with this anxious horse. Getting and then keeping his attention focused on me and away from the gate was definitely a challenge – he wanted out. As I proceeded, and I have to be honest with you, the combination of working with this fearful horse along with a personal goal of getting him saddled was too much for this little gelding. As I was moving along, I suddenly realized just how much this horse needed me to help him with a confidence-building program. I needed to draw on my integrity as a trainer; I needed to put the horse’s needs first, ahead of my personal desire to win the competition. I needed to help my little horse find a way to become a braver horse.

Saturday – Session #2 – Still not feeling like a million bucks, but I was feeling better than day one. The plan for this session was to continue to help my horse build more confidence as I worked on making a stronger connection with him to the right. This is when I found out just how willful or stubborn my little horse really was. It took me over half an hour just to get him to travel around the pen to the right. One of my goals was to show the audience the importance of not giving up and the real value of patience. I knew that once he came out the other side I would have a great horse to work with.

Saturday – Session #3 – My hard work paid off – I had completely turned my horse around – I had a new horse to work with. My little horse was a relaxed horse, a trusting horse and a confident horse that was learning how to deal with his fears. I got on and trotted around the pen.

Sunday – Session #4 – I brought in trotting poles, the bridge and a plastic tarp. My horse handled everything quite well except for the bridge. I didn’t want to over expose him to the bridge so I just planted a seed of confidence in him and let it grow in preparation for the finals.

Sunday – The Finals – My little horse was without a doubt the quietest, most relaxed horse – I couldn’t have asked for more. He performed with a flawless style; he even crossed over the bridge. As I’ve been saying all along, slower is faster with horses.

All in all, I took a very fearful and challenging horse and made the biggest change in him. I still have an inner glow burning within because I gave my little horse the best start any horse could have. If people were there for an education, if they were there for the horse, I hope they recognized I was there for those very reasons and not just a title.

I’d like to congratulate Steve Rother on a job well done and for winning the competition, as well as Raye Lochert for being a big part of the challenge. All in all I was very impressed with the sportsmanship and integrity of this year’s challengers and was happy everyone stayed focused on the educational factor and the well-being of these horses. I think we all had some serious fun. Don’t forget that success with horses starts with us. Until next time…

Jay O

Photo courtesy of Terri Mason – Canadian Cowboy Magazine

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