Saskatchewan Equine Expo 2017

The sixth annual edition of the Saskatchewan Equine Expo is set to take place this upcoming February 16-19, 2017 at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon, SK. The park, in conjunction with volunteers from Saskatchewan Horse Federation, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and various equine breed groups work together to facilitate this annual event. The objective is to present equine related lectures, presentations, demonstrations, entertainment and opportunities focusing on the equine industry. As a participant or spectator, you can experience the newest equine products, techniques and technology.

Tickets are on sale now and the show includes the extravaganza, tradeshow, demonstrations and clinics. Tickets are available online and can be found here: http://saskatchewanequineexpo.com/

A schedule of events can be found here: http://saskatchewanequineexpo.com/schedule

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Organizers of the event realized there was a need within the Saskatchewan horse industry for a quality event that showcased the newest technological advances, the latest developments in equine health, and a demonstration of horsemanship excellence that was equally entertaining and educational.

The Saskatchewan Equine Expo was the answer. On February 16-19, the event will once again celebrate the diversity of the equine industry with live demonstrations, breeds on display, and outstanding horsemen and women. Make plans to be there!

www.saskatchewanequineexpo.com

 

Next Level Horsemanship

BY PIPER WHELAN

Natural Horsemanship clinician Glenn Stewart leads this challenging event, culminating in the obstacle and task competition.

Natural Horsemanship clinician Glenn Stewart hosts this challenging event, culminating in the obstacle and task competition.

You’re in for a fun, stimulating weekend of schooling and competing at the Horse Ranch’s 2015 Extreme Horsemanship Challenge Clinic and Competition on Aug. 28-30 at Fort St. John, British Columbia. Now in its 13th year, this event is led by Natural Horsemanship clinician Glenn Stewart.

During this challenging and enjoyable weekend, participants have the opportunity to both improve their horsemanship skills and show off their abilities in an obstacle course and a number of tasks.

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Sharpen your horsemanship skills in sessions with Stewart, preparing you for the competition component of the weekend.

“I wanted to have an event that tested all four savvys: the two on the ground and two in the saddle,” says Stewart, who was the 2010 Calgary Stampede Extreme Cowboy Champion. “I wanted to see how people and their horses handled going all six directions: forward, which is (used in) most events, backwards, right, left, up and down. I wanted to test as many different areas as possible, looking for speed, softness, connection and understanding.”

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The entry fee for this three-day event is $600. The event is open to riders of all levels and disciplines, and entries will be accepted until all 16 available spots are filled. Participants are welcome to camp at the ranch, where they will enjoy campfires each night. Last year’s participant feedback included statements like, “I had no idea how much I could learn in such a little amount of time,” and “What a cool weekend filled with a lot of different aspects of horsemanship, and the competitions was so exciting.”

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This clinic and competition is a chance to “learn about the horsemanship skills that the judges will be looking for and how to prepare and develop a great horse on diverse obstacles, as well as build your fundamentals and skills” relating to elements of a variety of disciplines. Stewart’s clinics feature his particular method of horsemanship, in which he introduces horses to concepts in a way they can more easily understand.

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“The first two days are a clinic where we help them with the four savvys, and give them tips on how to get and lose points in a competition,” says Stewart. “It is also a chance to improve or get help in areas they feel could be better.” The third day begins with more horsemanship, and then moves into the competition. There will also be demonstrations throughout the event, on “anything from trimming, conformation, colt starting, liberty, bridle-less riding and anatomy. Each year is unique.”

As for what Stewart hopes participants will get out of this event? “I hope they have a lot of fun, learn something and bring their best chili for the chili cook-off Saturday night.”

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For more information, visit the Horse Ranch’s website. Also be sure to check out their Facebook and Twitter pages and Stewart’s YouTube channel for more on Natural Horsemanship and the Horse Ranch’s upcoming events.

Joining Forces

Story by Carrie Trout

They call him the Duke. Rod Olsen, Brent Trout and Kateri Cowley managed to help ten horses get a good start. All were ridden by their owners.

They call him the Duke. Rod Olsen, Brent Trout and Kateri Cowley helped ten horses get a good start at this June 5-6 clinic. All were ridden by their owners.

“It was a fantastic weekend!”

“Can I quote you on that?” I laughed as I looked up into the elated face of clinic participant Jen Downey. It was June 6, 2015. The event: a colt starting clinic with Brent Trout, Rod Olsen and Kateri Cowley, held at Cheadle, Alberta. The two-day clinic, organized by Darla Connolly, welcomed ten horses and their soon-to-be riders, who were eagerly awaiting the opportunity to get a proper start on their colts. They were not disappointed – all ten horses were started on the first day and all the riders were able to get on them.

I asked participants what brought them to the clinic. “I found the clinic online and I have a little two-year-old filly who has never been really worked with at all, apart from the basic confidence-building stuff with her, and she is going to be my forever saddle horse, I hope,” said participant Erin Power. “I want to start her right on the ground. So I came here with the intention of ground work and the obstacles, so we can start building that partnership.”

Rod working the flag from one colt, while helping another.

Rod working the flag from one colt, while helping another.

Partnership was key to the weekend. Darla Connolly was the organizing force of the clinic, lining up the arena, round pen, obstacles, ground crew, food and horse accommodations. She was prompted to organize this clinic in order to expand her current knowledge of colt starting.

Brent Trout is well known for his partnership with his liberty horse, Chexmate. Together they have demonstrated their skills across Alberta by leading clinics and colt starting demonstrations. Darla met Brent when she was a participant of the Canadian Colt Starting Competition.

Brent helping a colt learn to lunge.

Brent helping a colt learn to lunge.

Brent has been following his vision of working with other trainers who can offer specialized training. After being asked to be part of Darla’s clinic, he, in turn, contacted Rod Olsen to join forces. Years ago, while living in southern Alberta, Brent was invited to do a colt starting demonstration at the Pincher Creek Cowboy Poetry Gathering. This is where he met Rod, who was also giving a demonstration, and it became a yearly event. When Brent became involved in the Canadian Colt Starting Competition, he encouraged Rod to participate. Rod has now won the event two times.

Joining forces helped in another way, too. On May 11, Brent had a kidney transplant. This was an opportunity that could change his life, but it would debilitate him in the short term. Rod was able to carry the workload at this event, and Kateri Cowley, recent participant of the Mane Event Trainer’s Challenge and winner of last year’s Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Challenge, was also invited to come on board.

Rod introducing obstacles to a colt participant.

Rod introducing obstacles to a colt participant.

Darla and the participants found that while the three trainers have different approaches, they complimented each other; seeing different methods in action added to the learning experience. Darla is looking forward to organizing other colt starting clinics in the future.

Vaquero Lore – The Spanish Spade

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By Rod Honig

Much maligned, misunderstood and sometimes even feared, the spade bit has been in the hands of horsemen in one form or another for centuries. The current versions we are familiar with date back to the vaqueros of Old California. So what makes a spade bit and how was it really intended to work in a horse’s mouth?

Spade bits are made with many different cheek configurations, with varying height to the mouthpiece or spoon. The size of the mouth is a combination of the spoon height and the staple height (the staple being the inverted U-shaped piece rising about the solid bar joining the cheeks.) The spoon can be found in a simple teaspoon or a shape that resembles a violin, sometimes referred to as an alligator mouthpiece. The common parts of a spade bit are the solid cannon bar, the staple with a copper “cricket” roller in the middle, the spoon, and braces arching from the cheek just above the bar to each side of the spoon and wrapped in copper or with copper beads on them. Either slobber chains or a slobber bar join the two cheeks at the bottom and rein chains are attached to stirrups or loops at the bottom of the cheek pieces. Named very traditionally, cheek pieces can be of the Santa Paula, Santa Susanna, Las Cruces or even cavalry styled s-shanks variety. The most traditional and prevalent design is some variation of the Santa Barbra cheek. Bit makers speak of this cheek being the most balanced as the shape itself lends to the bit returning to a neutral position quickly and easily.

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Many people question the form and function of the mouth of the spade bit. Before you jump to inhumane conclusions, perhaps consider a few facts. The intention always was and is for the horseman to first train the horse through signal via a hackamore and then transition to an under-bridle ‘bosalita’ in conjunction with a spade bit. It was all about teaching signal only, not the force of pull. To protect the mouth, the horse is able to pick up the bit with the tongue, therefore the solid bar (one that does not collapse like a nutcracker) and braces serve to give it more surface area. The horse could use the braces to hold the bit easily and receive signal clearly. By pure physics, the more surface are that comes in contact with the horses tongue, the more any weight or pressure would be distributed if deployed.

Then there is the physiology of the mouth. A human can fit their entire arm in a horse’s mouth, so at the point where the spoon could touch the palate, the horse’s mouth is quite tall in structure. With a properly adjusted curb strap to curb bit rotation, it is a system designed to protect not harm.

Lastly, an essential part to remember is that the educated bridle horse, at te stage that he is introduced to the spade, has developed a headset that is conductive to carrying the bit in a manner such that through balance, the spade points towards the inside of the mouth, not the roof.

As per the old saying, a bit is only as gentle as the hands using it and the classic spade bit was designed for skilled hands – hands with patience and time to develop a signal.

How To Crack a Whip

Have a hankering to whip-break your horse? Here are a few tips from professional cowboy, Sam Morrison for desensitizing your mount properly.

By Jenn Webster

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1) Start this process from the ground. It works best with a halter and lead shank, but as you can see in these pictures I am demonstrating the technique with a horse that has approximately three days of experience with a whip already. It can be done with or without a saddle. I start by gently swinging my whip one of two swings at first over the horse’s withers, without any sound. I continue repeating this process until the horse is calm and standing still and tolerating the touch of the whip laying over him. As the horse becomes better with it, I swing the whip over the wither three to four times.

If at any point the horse decides to leave, that’s okay. He may have to move his feet to help him become more accepting of the whip. Holding tight to my inside rein or lead rope, I simply allow the horse to move in circles around me and I start swinging the whip in a gradual motion in front of the horse’s front feet. I never touch his front legs with it, nor do I try and scare him with the whip. I simply want to use it to discourage any more forward motion. Then I can go back to swinging it over the withers. In the meantime, it gives him some experience with the sensation of a rope (or a whip) near his lower legs.

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2) Once the horse is quiet with the whip going over his withers three or four times in a row, I progress to constant swinging. I will finally add one crack of sound in and let the horse process what just happened. In doing so, however, I must ensure that I start out with a soft “pop” as opposed to a full-on crack of the whip and that the sound is always directed away from the horse’s face or ears.

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3) When the horse can consistently handle step #2, it’s time to work the whip down the horse’s body. Standing on the same side as I began, I gently begin throwing my whip over the horse’s back, just the same as I did at the wither. Once he can handle that, I advance to his hind end- gently throwing my whip around his hind legs and so on. I will do this repeatably in each spot and get the horse desensitized to the whip being tangled on, or around each part of the body until he is no longer afraid of it. If at any point the horse shows that he is uncomfortable, it’s best to keep going at it but retract back to a point on the body where the horse is comfortable with the whip being laid over. For instance, many times the wither is a great point at which to revert back. My advice is not to progress forward to the next point on the horse’s body until he is consistently relaxed with the last phase.

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4) After the horse can accept the whip being gently laid over each part of his body, it’s time to move forward and begin introducing the sound of the whip to the horse. Up until this point, I’ve only begun to acquaint the horse to soft “pops,” but as we all know the sound of a whip is much more piercing. Once soft pops are tolerated, I can begin making my whip sound much louder. I’ll start with one loud crack and then two loud cracks in a row, taking note to ensure my horse is comfortable with everything before I progress further. Once I’ve gotten all of these aspects really solid on the ground, even if it’s my horse’s first day with the whip, I could get on his back and slowly start swinging and cracking my whip around. By the next day, I would start on the ground again, before progressing to the horse’s back. The key is to work on everything at least three days in a row- three days ensures you get the information locked into your horse. After that, you should be able to work on cracking your whip loudly right off the at without any problem if you have properly worked to build confidence in your horse when introducing the whip into his training regime. Any shorter than three days, however, may not be enough to properly ingrain whip-brokenness into your horse.

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Sam Morrison has years of experience in feedlot situations, using a whip to ease the task of moving cattle. He has studied the art of whip-ology from Australian master whip maker, William Gough. Gough, now residing in Saskatchewan, has 41 accumulating years of whip handling and was the Australian Whip Cracking Champion for five consecutive years.

Smart Showmanship

NRHA Professional Jordan Larson gives insight and tips on how to prepare your horse for the “big day” and how to show smart.

By Deanna Beckley

Larson believes the key to success in the show pen is preparedness in your home arena.

Larson believes the key to success in the show pen is preparedness in your home arena.

Becoming a good showman is an art that takes time, practice experience and feel, with a dose of confidence and a little “natural talent”. When you watch someone have a good run, it looks effortless and smooth – the movements flow into one another for a seamless performance.

That’s exactly how it looks when reining horse trainer Jordan Larson rides into the pen. Larson has worked and shown his way to many championships, and has earned the title of NRHA Millon Dollar Rider – the youngest among his peers. He has become known as one of the industry’s greatest showman – showing his horses to the best of their show ability and sometimes even beyond.

Home Preparation

Good showmanship and having good runs starts long before you ever enter the pen. The quality of preparation at home will be a factor in how well your horse shows. Larson practices each maneuver how he expects his horse to perform in the pen so they are comfortable with the pressure of the show pen.

“Practice the maneuvers like you expect them to show, but not every day,” explains Larson. “I do a lot of work at plus half speed in order to build their confidence and keep them relaxed. It is much easier to as a horse for a little more everyday then it is to have to back off if they become scared. Focus on the correctness of the maneuver and mental confidence before adding speed.”

“I try to realistically know my limits. I teach a horse how I want it to show by going to small shows and not asking him for his life every time. I make a game plan for each horse and how it need to be prepared.”

No matter what arena you are competing in, showing horses take a great deal of concentration and preparedness.

“I think about showing everyday while I am riding,” says Larson. “By the time a show rolls around, it should be second nature for all of the preparation that took place at home.”

Show Time

The level of competition today makes the reining discipline very challenging. Riders are expected to do things very quickly and crisp, while maintaining absolute control.

Larson builds up to showing by first visualizing each part of the pattern he is about to run. “Know your weaknesses and strengths and try to never take anything for granted,” explains Larson. “A great leaded horse doesn’t always change leads. It is your job to make sure your horse is in the correct position to be successful.”

Patterns that flow freely are those that are ridden every step of the way – not just from movement to movement. It’s all in the details.

“I have an idea of what position I need my horse to be in for each part of the pattern. I am more concerned with the little things like lead departures, approaches to stops, waiting to rollback, starting the turn-arounds, steering and setting up my horse for lead changes. If your horse is broke, the big maneuvers will take care of themselves. Take each maneuver and make it the best it can be for each horse.”

When it comes to showing, Larson puts emphasis on being in a positive mind frame. “Try not to react to a maneuver while showing, instead prepare for the next one. You will lose focus if you are thinking about what you just did, good or bad. Let the judges judge you; your job is to show your horse in the most effective manner possible.

“Stay relaxed and focused. I am very critical of myself, but I use that to drive me to get better. We have to learn from our mistakes and move forward. I have missed so many finals by half a point, but I let that inspire me to keep learning and use it as an incentive to get better. Trusting your horse is the key to a great run – you must have faith in your horse to be successful. Do you best and trust what you have worked for.”

Jordan Larson’s top 9 tips for showing horses.

1) Know your pattern.

2) It’s the little things that count. For example, a great stop is nothing without a great rundown, rollback or back-up.

3) Understand what the judges are looking for.

4) Don’t overlook pattern placement.

5) Don’t be scared to learn from other trainers.

6) Watch your videos and be optimistically critical of yourself.

7) Preparation is important.

8) Horsemanship. Learn to recognize lameness, sickness, scratches, etcetera.

9) Don’t be afraid of failure.

The Buckaroo Saga

BY ROD HONIG

Welcome to our new column on vaquero lore. In the future we’ll examine the impressive and functional gear and trappings of the vaquero and buckaroo, but first, a history lesson. The word “vaquero” conjures all sorts of images in one’s mind. But who were these skilled ropers and handlers of livestock?

By the 1760’s the trail of Spanish Missions on the El Camino Real was being established. That era heralded the booming livestock industry in California. With the establishment of trade based on hides and tallow to be shipped out of California the need arose for round-ups and the large scale tending to herds. The men tasked with this were the vaqueros. Originally, native Indians and the Spanish were of this class but with intermarriage came not only the Anglo influence but also from them, a new desire to learn the ways of the vaquero. The word vaquero was mutated to the English pronunciation of buckaroo, which many consider to be one and the same.

In later years, these cowboys were noted for riding saddles reminiscent of what we call the 3B or Visalia-style stock saddle. This contradicts the belief that the Wade saddle was part of their gear. (The Wade was popularized, although not created, by Ray Hunt at a much later date). Their ropes, fashioned of braided rawhide, were called La Reata, which the Anglos bastardized to the English word, lariat. The vaqueros were adept at swinging a big loop to rope cattle and dallying for leverage on their saddle horns. Even the word dally comes from the Spanish, dar la vuelta, which loosely translates to taking a turn. Horses were ridden using a braided rawhide bosal to establish communication through signal, coupled with a hand-twisted horsehair rein and lead called a mecate, now often called a McCarty.

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The training progression was to next take the horse into two-rein, meaning using a thinner under-bridle bosal and a spade bit or half-breed, which resembles a spade without a spoon on the mouthpiece staple. This was a transition stage. The final stage was referred to as straight up in bridle in which the horse was ridden solely in a bridle bit with a set of braided rawhide romal reins. As the bits had mouthpieces that were of great height the key, from the hackamore stage to the straight-up stage, was to use headgear predominantly as signal devices, not for leverage unlike many bits in other systems. The snaffle became an addition to the program for many in later years to speed up the progress of the training, but originally the method was all about time — time to develop finesse and exactness in both rider and horse.

Their gear was handmade by the very men that rode and roped daily. So, it needed to be fashioned of readily available material – rawhide, leather and simple iron for the bits. Today’s master gear makers take many of their cues from the older masters – Ortega, Mardueno, Visalia, Tapia and others. The cheeks pieces on today’s bits still remain very close to the original designs in the form of Santa Barbra, Santa Susanna and Las Cruces, along with other designs

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So the next time you see a rider with a flat hat, big loop and rawhide and silver adorning their gear, realize you are not seeing a new trend but homage to an old tradition brought forward to present day.

Clearwater’s Postscripts

BY DEANNA KRISTENSEN

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2013 was a whirlwind of a season for this year’s Futurity Road trainer Dale Clearwater and the team at Justaboutaranch, based out of Hanley, Saskatchewan. In the beginning of the WHR series, Clearwater aimed to have three promising 3-year-old prospects ready for the snaffle bit competitions in the fall. But in mid season the Clearwater team faced a frightening EHV-1 scare at their ranch, which unfortunately sidelined one of his team members from competing. However despite adversity, two of Clearwater’s horses came out on top of the futurity world this season, ultimately making it for one heck of a year for this cow horse outfit.

“Because of circumstances out of our control we were not able to haul our horses and expose them to different surroundings this summer. This was challenging, as I felt the horses were trained, but had to spend a lot more time at the shows just riding them around, letting them settle and get used to their surroundings. They never did totally settle at the shows and I realized that this is an important step to preparing a show horse. I always knew that it was beneficial, but never realized just how important those early outings are for these young horses.”

For next season, this horseman already sees reasons to adapt new techniques into his training program. After all, the best teachers never stop learning.

“As I have said before, I am a firm believer that you never stop learning and have to be willing to try different things. By doing so, I think we better ourselves and in turn can better train these horses. For my 2-year-olds, I feel like I need to brush up on my reined work more for next year. I want them to be a bit more solid. Faster circles, cleaner turn arounds and harder, more freed up stops. I think I can achieve this by getting them out into bigger pens and letting them learn that they can run somewhere and not be afraid after a certain point.”

From their first showing at the Alberta Snaffle Bit Futurity in July, to the Idaho Reined Cow Horse Association (IRCHA) Futurity in October, these horses progressed immensely. In the end it is evident from the scoreboard results, that Clearwater’s futurity duo truly have the capabilities to dominate the show ring competition.

Photo by Barb Glazer

Photo by Barbara Glazer

Ranaldo Pablo, “Rene: 
At the Alberta Snaffle Bit Futurity, in Claresholm, August 30th to September 1st, Clearwater’s futurity horse Rene, made some unfortunate moves and didn’t finish close to winning any money. However, in September the little powerhouse made a giant steps forward in training. At the Saskatchewan Reined Cow Horse (SRCHA) Futurity, he came in reserve place (under Lydia). But the big score was at the Canadian Supreme in Red Deer, where the bay colt rocked the competition and placed first in the aggregate.

What made the difference for this horse? After Claresholm, Clearwater said he came home and really worked hard on his reined work, practicing lead changes and increasing speed in his circles.

“In the herd work, I tried to liven him up and be more alert on a cow as he can tend to be a bit lazy. After Claresholm, I showed him in the SRCHA Futurity in Saskatoon. He was much better, and continued to mature as a show horse and by Red Deer he was dialed in. I think that extra show under his belt really helped him, just figuring out the game and what I was asking of him.”

Sometimes it isn’t always the horses’ fault. For Rene, Clearwater said he has some plain old bad luck at his first show.

“He lost a cow in the herd work, but I don’t totally blame him. He was trying and the cow just pushed over him. So that alone set us behind. In the reined work, he just felt like he was really unsure about everything, like he was thinking more about being in the pen by himself that he was doing the pattern. For the fence work, he went by a little bit and didn’t feel like he was totally in tune with his cow. He felt a little lost all around.

“By Saskatoon I was able to get him into the pen before the show and I think that really helped as he was much more in tune with what was going on and paid more attention to me. He ended up reserve behind Lydia there. Once Red Deer came along, he was very alert and read his cow so much better for both the herd work and fence work. In the rein work, I had time to school him in the reining pen a couple times and he felt like he was totally with me and trying to please me.”

Looking back, hindsight is always 20/20. In a perfect world, Clearwater said he would have liked to have been able to start Rene a bit earlier.

“I firmly believe that shorter consistent works make these young horses more solid in the long run. Ultimately, you deal with what you are given and after a not so successful show, you can’t dwell on in. You have to regroup and come back that much stronger the next time.”

Clearwater sums it up. “He does not shine in one area where he is going to ring the bell on the score board, but staying consistent in all three areas paid off for him in Red Deer.”

Dale Clearwater

Photo by Barbara Glazer

Chics Money Talks, “Lydia”:

Lydia has proven herself this season, as a little horse that could! By the end of October, this filly had claimed a win in Saskatchewan and two substantial reserve titles; in Claresholm and in Idaho. With a little more experience under her wings, Lydia has gone from being a promising filly, to becoming a fierce contender in the cow horse arena.

“As with Rene, the Saskatoon show and hauling a few times between Claresholm and Red Deer really helped Lydia. She is the one that needed the miles more than any of the other horses this year and she notices everything around her. In Saskatoon, she spent some more time in the arena and I think this helped her big time for Red Deer. She was still very “looky” in Red Deer but not as scared.”

What made it all come together? Clearwater explains that in Claresholm, the young mare was really good in the herd work but very ‘looky’ in the rein work.

“Despite that, we managed to hold a run together, and down the fence she just ran like the wind. In Saskatoon, I just worked at getting her shown and relaxed about being in the show pen. She had a good show, winning the futurity class. Then in Red Deer, she started strong, winning the herd work. She had a few little bobbles in the rein work, as can happen with young horses. This cost me when the scores were handed out. Then in the fence work she tripped going into her second turn because of ground conditions and fell right down in her third turn. There is nothing I hold against her for that. She was trying her guts out. Even after tripping, she still nailed her second turn and was in position for the third turn, there was just nothing there to hold her. We watched the video and you can see her scrambling but there was nothing there to give her footing. We were quite disappointed as I think she would have made money had she not fallen down.”

Looking back, Clearwater said Lydia has really good qualities in her reined work, but he would have liked to have seen more consistency in the whole package.

“Because she is such a looky horse, I felt that she was working each of the elements really good but I couldn’t get the whole run put together. More exposure beforehand would have given her more confidence in her surroundings, allowing her to think more about her job and less about what was happening around her.”

Clearwater felt that her herd work always seemed to shine, as she is so quick footed and alert on a cow.

“I think given time she is going to also be really solid all around. If I can get her reined work tweaked up, she is going to be a tough competitor.”

Dale Clearwater

Photo by Barbara Glazer

Northern Kit Kat, “Felix”: 

It was a bad run this season for this futurity competitor. He contracted the EHV-1 virus during the summer and was unable to compete during his futurity year.

Prior to being infected, Clearwater said Felix was right on track to show this fall as a top futurity horse. However, there is always next season.

“He was started early and was on our consistency program and I think that he will pick up where we left off quite easily as long as his body will allow him to do so. I am hopeful that he will be out next year. He is continuing to get stronger. You can still see a bit of weakness when he is running around the field, but he is much better than where we were sitting July 1st. So as long as he continues to make progress we will begin to prepare him.”

At this point, Clearwater said Felix’s health is good and that the young horse is getting stronger.

“He has put weight back on and his coat is shining like a healthy horse should. I plan to begin to start riding him lightly after returning home from Idaho (Idaho Reined Cow Horse Futurity). This will be more rehabilitative than training though. I feel he will benefit from being asked to place his feet and use his body. We will begin with short rides and hopefully help his muscles strengthen and help his overall coronation. This will give us an even better idea when and if we can start training. I don’t want to ask too much too soon though, as we don’t want him to injure himself. So slow and steady will be his program for a while.”

Buck Brannaman in the Foothills

Buck Brannaman. Photo by Billie-Jean Duff.

Thanks to Billie-Jean Duff for contributing both the photos and text for this post about the recent Buck Brannaman clinic held near High River, Alberta. See more of Billie-Jean’s work at Roughstock Studio. 

With regular frequency, I pop into the local video store to rent a copy of The Horse Whisperer, starring Robert Redford and Scarlett Johansen.The awe inspiring scenery illustrated throughout film, along with beautiful feats of horsemanship moves me to tears every time I curl up to watch it. As many of you know, Buck Brannaman played a significant role in the production of the movie, both behind the scenes, in addition to being Redford’s stunt double. The horse whisperer extraordinaire himself was in southern Alberta recently.

Held at the High River Agriculture Society’s rodeo grounds, located on the outskirts of High River, Buck Brannaman hosted a Horsemanship 1&2 clinic. Two groups of riders, 25 riders in each class over three days took part in the clinic, with Horsemanship 1 receiving instruction during the morning and Horsemanship 2 filling the afternoon time slot. The clinic was sponsored by Denise & Keith Stewart, owners of Key Ranch, located southwest of High River.

The clinic isn’t limited to horses with people problems, though. Spectators of all ages came out in droves, braving the almost blizzard like conditions to claim a piece of real estate in the bleachers, so they could listen to Buck coaching and addressing concerns that riders had with their mounts. Comprised of mostly young horses, riders of both English and western disciplines participated in the school; they all had one thing in common, they were all in attendance to learn to understand and connect with their equine partners.

The group learns from renowned Buck Brannaman. Photo by Billie-Jean Duff.

Having never experienced a live Brannaman clinic before, as the morning progressed, it became quite overwhelmingly clear; he is a master at his craft. He speaks without beating around the bush, phrasing ideas and concepts in a way that even the most novice of horseman can make sense of the information, often filling his wisdom he shares with witty remarks and a no-holds barred sense of humor. When a spectator inquires as to how Buck would handle a one-rein stop on a half-broke colt while riding on a steep slope, Buck’s response was to ponder why anyone would ride a half-broke colt on a steep slope to begin with. With a hearty laugh, he said he calls this “natural selection.”

Buck Brannaman. Photo by Billie-Jean Duff.

Everybody will take home horsemanship knowledge from a Buck Brannaman clinic, it may only be one key piece of wisdom that pertains to a particular project you have in the round pen at home, or it may be a whole new mindset in how you approach that round pen. For me, three elements took root:

  • On Soft Feel…It’s not about how much pressure you put on, it’s how good you are at taking it off. This phrase was used while talking about giving to the bit, or soft feel. You must be able to respond with the subtlest release so that the horse may give you. The release is the reward to the horse.
  • On Backing Circles…With the young horse backing circles, a spectator inquires about the nose being tipped to the outside. Buck explains this is simply because he’s thinking ahead, for when he asks the horse to turn, moving forward out of the circle. It’s the progression to the next step, like looking to the third barrel while coming around second.
  • Learn more sooner, you won’t have to correct more later. Do things correct from the start. Don’t rush the training process. You won’t have to spend time correcting problems in the future.

No matter your level of horsemanship, arm yourself with a thermos of hot coffee, a cushion for the most uncomfortable bleachers, lots of pens or pencils, and plenty of paper to take notes. Don’t try to watch the progress of each participant, hone in on a handful of horses/riders to follow their progress. You will see significant improvements in both horses and their riders by day three. And, do observe Buck – after all, he’s why you’re there, right?