Story by Carrie Trout
“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.”
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 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.
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.