Next Level Horsemanship


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.

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?

Pate Clinics

Curt Pate.

I wanted to let you know about two fantastic clinics coming up this weekend in British Columbia, both in the gorgeous setting of the renowned Nicola Valley. Curt and Tammy Pate will be leading two clinics at Stump Lake Ranch and Douglas Lake Ranch, B.C. on August  6 and 7.

For Curt Pate it’s a return trip to Douglas Lake Ranch. He will be conducting a Colt Starting Clinic on August 6 and 7 (with a 9 a.m. daily start).  Last year, 20 colts from Douglas Lake Ranch and other historical B.C. ranches were started under the professional guidance of this  AQHA clinician.

A Montana native, Curt Pate has been conducting demonstrations and clinics on stockmanship, colt starting, horsemanship and safety for over a decade now.  This, along with his experience in managing his own ranch and his effective communication skills, make him one of the most sought after clinicians on both the national and international scenes.  He was chosen by the AQHA to serve as a Professional Horseman and their Regional Experience Clinician, both highly prized endorsements.

Enjoy the scenery at one of the most beautiful ranches and country in the world for two very special days that could change the way you ride or handle your horse, or just for the great experience this clinic offers.

Tickets can be purchased at the Ranch at the cost of $35.00 per day, with proceeds going to the CN Woodward School. You can also get a free two-day pass when you purchase Quest or Quest Plus along with a West Nile Innovator Combo from your veterinarian.

For more information, please contact Gord at 250-299-8634.

Tammy Pate.

Simultaneously, with a 10 a.m. start, the Stump Lake Ranch will hold Tammy Pate’s Unique Yoga and Horsemanship Clinic.

Tammy is among the great Quarterfest clinicians. She is proud to be known as a cowboy’s wife. Born into a ranching family, Tammy grew up with a steer-wresting father and sisters that “rode from the time we could barely walk”. Her grandmother instilled in her the values of ranching life, a deep respect for nature and the practical skills needed to succeed. Tammy married Curt and together they deepened their horsemanship and developed innovative and gentle ways of training horses, keeping the stress levels low on horses, cattle and people. Over the years, Tammy discovered yoga and its parallels to horsemanship. She describes it as staying in balance in movement and centered physically and mentally for both horse and rider.

You can have a chance to win a participation in Tammy’s Unique Yoga and Horsemanship Clinic.  All you need to do is buy Quest or Quest Plus with a West Nile Innovator Combo from your Veterinarian and fax your Proof of Purchase to 250-828-7664.  You can also make the same purchase to receive your FREE attendance pass or purchase spectator tickets at the Ranch for $35.00 per day, per person.

For more information, please contact your Veterinarian or call Gord at 250-299-8634.

Relaxation for Your Horse

A two day Equine Massage course, designed for anyone interested in learning about relaxation massage techniques for their own horses, is being offered at the Regional Equine & Agricultural Centre of Huron (REACH) on Saturday, February 26 and Sunday, February 27, 2011 in Clinton, Ontario.

“The use of relaxation massage techniques will be of benefit to all horses, regardless of their job or age”, says Sharon McMaster, course instructor.
This two-day course is suitable for owners or caregivers of horses of any discipline, older horses in training and performance horses. This introductory course is a prerequisite for the advanced massage to be offered at REACH Huron in March. Hands-on experience using the REACH horses is provided in a safe, quiet, supervised environment. Classroom sessions will be in the Education Centre. This course is designed for anyone wishing to use massage techniques now or in the future on their own horses. More details about the course are available at
“Registration for this course closes on Friday February 18 2011, and registration is limited to ensure lots of instructor supervised hands-on work,” says Melanie Prosser, Director of Program Services at REACH. “Those who can provide proper relaxation massage to their horses have yet another way to ensure their well-being.”
The facilities at REACH include a heated teaching barn, high-tech classrooms, dorm rooms and a community kitchen. For further information about the course or REACH, please visit
The Regional Equine & Agricultural Centre of Huron (REACH Huron) functions as a “motel for education”, offering innovative programming, as well as recreational activities, to support the equine, agricultural and other industries.

Equine Reproduction Course at REACH

 A two day course “Equine Reproduction for Mare Owners” is being offered at the Regional Equine & Agricultural Centre of Huron (REACH) on Saturday February 12 & Sunday February 13, 2011 in Clinton, Ontario.

“Now is the time owners should be thinking about getting their mares ready for next breeding season” says Doug Nash, workshop instructor, “and what to do from nutrition to lighting regimes will be discussed.”
This two-day course is for those who wish to learn how to prepare mares for breeding, select a stallion and perform proper AI  or natural cover techniques. Hands-on experience using the REACH mares is provided in a safe, quiet, supervised environment. In addition to learning about equine reproductive anatomy, nutrition, health management and environment of the mare in preparation for breeding will be investigated. The stages of gestation, right up to and beyond foaling are discussed. This course is designed for anyone wishing to update their knowledge and practical skills in breeding practices, or to use artificial insemination in their breeding program now or in the future. Cost for the two days is $480, which includes HST, course materials, instruction, hands-on learning in our teaching barn, refreshments and lunch each day. Dorm rooms are available for those who travel from out of town for a small additional fee.  Details are available at
“This course is proving to be popular,” says Melanie Prosser, REACH’s Director of Program Services. “We are pleased to have participants from as far away as Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia in past course offerings.”
The facilities at REACH include a complete reproduction teaching lab, heated teaching barn, high-tech classrooms, dorm rooms and a community kitchen. For further information about the course or REACH, please visit

Setting Up For Clinic Success

Riding participants watch from the side.

I have to apologize for being away from My Stable Life for over a week. The last 10 days have been an insane time for Clay and I. I can’t believe it’s August! And I really can’t believe August is half over –

Spectators take in information.

On August 7-8, Clay and I hosted a reining / horsemanship clinic at our home, J. Drummond Farms in Regina, SK. We had a great turn out of people and an excellent group of riding participants! I admit, I ran around prior to the event like a chicken with my head cut off, but there was so much to do. And it got me thinking about how clinic hosts can best organize a clinic. Hence, I thought I would bring some of my best tips to the table, just in case there are any folks out there who are planning on conducting or hosting a clinic in the near future.

1. Advertise Your Event In Good Time – If you have some great information to offer, it’s likely your clinic will fill up fast, provided you have properly made interested participants aware of your clinic. With only so many weekends available in the year, there are many events vying for people – so ensure you give them advanced notice of your date and folks can book holiday time to attend!

2. Organize – Every clinician has preferences in regards to how they like their clinic participants organized. Some prefer to have riders bring their horses out twice in a day, some like their people arranged into groups and others have all participants in the arena at once. What works best for us to book a maximum of 9 people and then we put them into 3 groups of 3. Next, we ensure every participant is aware of their riding times well in advance of the actual clinic. That way, they can plan their day if they don’t intend to stay and watch when not on a horse (although we do recommend this!)

3. Clear Sound – One of the most frustrating aspects for clinic participants or spectators is an environment in which they cannot properly hear the clinician’s instructions. Conversely, a clinician can quickly lose his or her voice if they constantly have to yell or project their voice long distances. Having some kind of a microphone set up will eliminate these clinic success busters.

4. Lunch – J. Drummond Farms is located only 10 minutes south of Regina, but in a short lunch break, that’s too far for participants to travel for lunch in the middle of a clinic day. There are several different ways to host a clinic meal but recently we discovered one of the best options is to have a potluck lunch! I couldn’t believe the spread of food that came out from our lovely guests on August 7-8! No one had to travel to the city. We got to enjoy each others’ company. Plus, Clay and I indulged in homecooking, fresh salads, cheesecake and bumbleberry crisp… Oh my…

Tips For Retaining Clinic Information – Now if you are a participant in a horsemanship clinic of some kind, here are a few suggestions for getting the most out of your experience:

• Prior to your clinic, determine what concepts you would like to learn and take from it. Make a list of all the questions you would like answered – for example, how can I gain suppleness and collection from my horse? What bit would work best for my horse? How do I cue for a sidepass? Etc.

• Jot down notes and thoughts that occur throughout the clinic, or have a friend do so!

• Following the clinic, write notes down regarding the methods demonstrated and follow up by practicing what you learned. Keep in mind, it will take time to perfect the ideas you’ve learned!

• If allowed, bring a video camera with you and have someone tape your instructional session.

A Weekend with Leon Harrel

Taking notes from legend Leon Harrel at Thorlakson’s Bullpen Arena.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to take part in a cutting clinic designed for amateur cutters such as myself, and hosted by K&K Livestock, located near Strathmore, Alberta. The clinician was National Cutting Horse Association Futurity, World and Open champion and NCHA Hall of Famer, Leon Harrel. Though I was only able to partake in Day One of the three day clinic I kept in touch with the clinic progression and have to report, thoroughly enjoyed myself.

And, in a nutshell, the weekend was about just that, enjoying one’s self, as well as a fantastic dose of cutting and horsemanship education thrown in, with unlimited fresh cows, and topped off by fabulous hospitality and food. What more could a cutter desire, I ask?

Cutters came from all over Alberta and Saskatchewan to take part in the clinic.

Sherman travelled from Valleyview, Alberta and even before his first go, was given the dubious nickname of “Shermanator.” Of course, he was a good sport and took it all in stride.

Ingrid Eggertson came out to enjoy the barbecue with Christopher, who with that winning smile, appears to be vying for spot in our 2011 fashion shoot.

I know you’re going to see these two at the next cutting, and let’s hope they’ve learned to share cigars by then.

After two days of cutting instruction from Leon at Thorlakson’s Feedlot near Airdrie, Alberta, we all convened Saturday evening at K&K for a barbecue dinner, a bit of socializing, and most importantly, to draw up two teams of six for the following day’s event, which would include a morning of practice, followed by an afternoon “show,” complete with judge Marilyn Anderson.

Dinner absolutely hit the spot and was barbecued and served up by this colorful character.

Not only was he fashionably color co-ordinated, he grilled my steak a perfect medium-rare.

I can’t mention food for the weekend, without paying homage to these two.

These two ladies cooked throughout the weekend, primarily at Thorlakson’s arena. What a wonderful touch to the clinic – absolutely delicious home-cooked meals for breakfast and lunch and after-the-clinic appetizers. Ladies, those date squares. . . those date squares!

During the barbecue, the teams were drawn and congregated to opposite ends of the arena.

In this corner we have the Untouchables.

From left, Dean Ness, Esther Vanhoughton, Bev Martin, Becky Taylor, Christopher Eggertson and Sue Wemp.

And in this corner, the Bloody Spurs.

From left, Jack Taylor, Jardi Clarke, Sherman Minni, Barb Veldhuis, Don Smith and Wes Dehm.

As you can imagine, with this crowd, strategy ran amuck from detailed plays to “whatever it takes,” as one contestant revealed to me.

I won’t divulge which team claimed the championship title the following day, nor what sneakiness might have been employed to achieve the result, but I’m sure sooner or later, one of the above characters will surface and spill.

All in all, the weekend was a great time. Ken and Karen Mix showed absolute hospitality and made everyone feel so welcome, both at their home and at the clinic. A big thanks to them.

Leon is not only a wealth of information and a world champion, but an honest and humble mentor with a true love of the horse and cutting, a gentleman, and best of all, the kind of person who really wants to impart his lifetime knowledge unto anyone with desire to become not a good rider, but a great rider.

Leon will tell you he doesn’t teach theory. Alternatively, he will impart gems of knowledge throughout a lesson, and I took note of a few of them to share with you.

“You concentrate on horsemanship 80% of the time and cutting 20% of the time, and you are going to do well.”

“You want to be so clean and so smooth with this horse, that it will become an extension of you.”

“You can get so much more done with feel and compassion.”

“Warming up your horse at the show: don’t ride him for six hours at the show and expect him to perform, just have him relaxed and ready.”

“When somebody comes up to you at show with nine miles of bad road behind him, you give him an upbeat response, and he’ll either not approach you again, or come back with a better attitude himself.”

“Right to the face, cut right to the face of that calf.”

“If you focus on that cow, then you’re in the action, you’re in the energy.”

“If you’re out there having fun, pretty soon you’ll have people around you having fun too. And, that makes the whole experience great.”

Well said! Take some time and visit Leon at his website, where there is a good amount of information as well as videos and teaching tools to peruse.

Vern Sapergia Reining Clinic in the Chilcotin

Vern and Sharon Gates. Photo by Isabelle Macquarrie

On April 17-18, seven lucky riders from Kelowna, Armstrong, 100 Mile House, Hanceville and Alexis Creek eagerly took advantage of an unexpected opportunity to learn from world renowned reining competitor and coach, Vern Sapergia. Each rider rode three 1 ½ hour slots in the two-day clinic to achieve maximum benefit from Vern’s time-tested program. Outlining a logical, harmonious step-by-step program from warmup to competition strategy, Vern shared his considerable knowledge with clinic participants and spectators alike. Riders and horses refined techniques or corrected problems under Vern’s calm, no-nonsense approach to coaching and training.

Although Vern is not a stranger to B.C., having taught many clinics in the province in the 80s and 90s, he has not been available for clinics for many years because he is living in Austria. He squeezed in the Chilcotin clinic before competing in the CRI competition in Cochrane April 24-25, where he qualified for the World Equestrian Games Canadian Team Selection Finals!

Vern on Running With Wolves demonstrating training for the stop. Photo taken by Crystal Grier

The clinic was hosted by Wildwood Reining Horses near Hanceville, tucked into a wooded area off of highway 20 overlooking the Chilcotin River. Under Douglas fir and sunny skies, participants enjoyed shirt-sleeve weather for both days. Who would have thought that keeping the dust down in an outdoor arena in the Chilcotin in April would be a problem? Thanks to Bella Macquarrie for hose duty! For Sunday lunch, surrounded by horses, everyone roasted wieners and marshmallows on the open fire in the picnic area beside the arena.

Crystal Grier and Jill Imrie. Photo by Sharon Gates

Throughout the weekend, Sharon (and others) kept a watchful eye on her mare, ready to foal at any time. Though everyone hoped the foal would be born during the clinic, Poco Easter Lena waited until after everyone had left. The little sorrel filly, daughter of Running With Wolves (the stallion Vern demonstrated on during the clinic), was born at 2:00 AM with only Sharon in attendance!

Donna Boyce. Photo taken by Sharon Gates

Wildwood Reining Horses will be hosting more Vern Sapergia clinics in the future. Watch for them!