Record Crowds Attend the SK Equine Expo

The Trainer's Challenge was a big hit with spectators at the 2013 Saskatchewan Equine Expo.

In excess of 10,000 horse enthusiasts passed through the doors at Saskatoon Prairieland Park for the second annual Saskatchewan Equine Expo in Saskatoon, SK, this past February 15-17, 2013.

The three-day event presented in partnership with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and the Saskatchewan Horse Federation, featured educational seminars presented by the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, clinician Paul Dufresne, 11 breeds on display, an industry trade show, demonstrations by the Saskatchewan Hunter Jumper Association, the Alberta Donkey and Mule Association, Trainers Challenge, and Friday and Saturday evening Equine Extravaganza.

New to the event this year was Canada’s Ultimate Cowhorse competition which saw participants from across the provinces showcase their best horses in three components for the championship buckle and prize money.

The Trainer’s Challenge, sponsored by NAERIC, showcased the talents of three outstanding horse trainers; Dale Clearwater from Hanley, SK; Clint Christianson from Bracken, SK; and Jesse Lussier of Ste. Rose du Lac, MB. All three amazing horseman amazed the crowd during each session with their individual skills. At the end of the event, hometown favorite Dale Clearwater was awarded the championship title for the second year in a row.

A clinic presented by Paul Dufresne from Pritchard, BC, was a big hit with spectators and pre-registered participants alike. Dufresne also presented exhibition performances at the Extravaganzas on Friday and Saturday nights.

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(L to R) Judge Les Timmons, Contestant Jesse Lussier, Dale Clearwater, Clint Christianson, Judges Geoff Hoar, Ron Hoffman, and the Kings from Diamond K Ranch.

Defending champion Dale Clearwater of Hanley, SK, returned to the Trainer's Challenge to contend against Clint Christianson from Bracken, SK, and Jesse Lussier from Ste. Rose du Lac, MB. Horses for the challenge were provided by the Diamond K Ranch, of Corning, SK, owned by Tom and John King. They included five, three-year-old fillies from which the trainers could choose for their sessions. The fillies were halter-broke as weanlings, accustomed to a barn, had their feet trimmed and were turned out until one week prior to the event. Each trainer had three hours and 45 minutes, over four training sessions to work with their fillies. They were required to then take the horse from “green” to work under saddle in an open arena and perform a required pattern for the final challenge.

Clearwater and JT Deuces Wild.

After the first session, both Christianson and Lussier had their horses saddled and were able to put on their first ride. Clearwater, on the other hand was only able to get his mare saddled. Noting that his horse was quite a bit “feelier” than the horse he competed with in 2012, he decided to take the extra time to build a firm foundation.

“If you don’t notice the little changes and let up, the horse will get heavy on you,” Clearwater explained during his session.

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Sunday evening saw a large crowd come to watch all three trainers work their horses to complete all the required elements. Such things as loping a circle in both directions, picking up the horses' feet, walking over a tarp on the ground, a bridge, and dragging a log. These were just some of the required elements that challenged each of the trainers. Each of the trainers accepted the challenge and were able to work their horses successfully because of the time they put into them during their prior training sessions. All three trainers were able to complete all the required elements in their allotted period of time, however it was Clearwater who put on an extra show for the crowd.

The Hanley trainer rode his horse into the trailer, steered his filly with his feet using his hat as a steering wheel, stood up on his saddle doing rope tricks, and executed his claim to fame – a handstand on the back of his horse. “I knew that my mare trusted me and I was really happy with how she progressed over the course of the weekend's sessions,” Dale said of his horse. “I feel like I was asked to be here this weekend not only to educate the audience, but also to entertain them and put on a show,” he said when asked about his final performance.

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Above – part of the sold out crowd.

Clearwater, doing his signature handstand.

When the judges sheets were tallied up it was Clearwater who once again claimed the championship. “The first year they asked me to come and do this I was really nervous and didn’t know what to expect,” the trainer said.

“Now with two years under my belt I can honestly say that I enjoy doing these challenges. It kinda gets into your blood. I love showing horses, but this is a different type of competition. It’s fun!”

Plans are already underway for the 2014 event.

Bill Wilm presenting championship spurs donated by Wilm Saddlery.