“It’s not easy, and it ain’t all done in a day.”
– CAIN QUAM
For hockey fans, there’s the Stanley Cup.
For the 400 horse fanatics occupying the bleachers at the Keystone Centre’s third annual Horse3 event, there was the eagerly anticipated Naeric 2010 Horse Trainer Showdown.
The event, which comes on the final day of a weekend of seminars and workshops aimed at helping riders learn more about their sport, offered a thrilling insight into the art of horsemanship, as well as a chance to pick up training tricks and techniques.
The showdown is a 40-minute timed event in which competitors score points for making the most progress through a series of challenges and obstacles. It’s the culmination, however, of four, one-hour round pen training sessions aimed at familiarizing an untrained horse with the foundational skills it needs to accept the rider and assorted riding equipment.
NO PRIOR TRAINING
Horses with no prior training are hand-picked by the competitors out of herds owned by local breeders, D-5 Performance Horses of Miniota, and Bridgeman Land and Livestock of Rapid City, in the days prior to the event.
Judging is based on how successful the trainer is in getting the horse to perform required skills and display training progress, which includes coaxing the horse into a trailer, walking the animal across a spooky tarp, picking up all four feet, saddling up, accepting a bridle and bit, riding a figure eight around barrels, breaking into a canter, executing turns, and backing up.
Spectators are able to watch and listen as the trainer explains his personal strategy – and cracks jokes – via a wireless microphone headset linked to the sound system in the arena at the Westoba Agricultural Centre of Excellence.
Cain Quam, from Kendal, Sask., came out the winner over competitors Nathan Day, from Australia, and Jason Patrick, from Colorado, with the most points overall.
To the amazement of spectators, he finished off his 40-minute display by twirling a lariat and throwing a loop onto a steer – all after just four, one-hour sessions in the round pen.
In a gentlemanly hat tip to his competitors, he expressed his admiration for the prowess of Day and Patrick.
“These guys are so good, if you give them an opening, they’ll be ahead of you,” said Quam, as he stood with his winning mount outside the ring. “But it’s really more about having fun and good horsemanship than it is about winning or losing.”
From the round pen sessions up until the showdown it’s “anybody’s game,” he said, adding that although his mount may have seemed a little easier to handle during the final event than those of his competitors, a horse with a calm nature may prove to be a bit more stubborn in training than the flighty ones.
“It’s not easy, and it ain’t all done in a day,” said Quam, with a broad smile.
Winkler couple Laura and Terry Penner, who spent the entire weekend at Horse3, said that the event represents an opportunity to get out early in the season and see others in the horse community, as well as learn a few training tricks along the way.
“It really piques our interest and gets us ready to roll,” she said. “It inspires us and gives us ideas of things we can do with our own horses.”
From watching the trainers and the horses in action, it’s obvious that there is more than one “right” way to train a horse, and that individual horses can have widely varying personalities that must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Chas Lambert, event manager of the Keystone Centre, said that attendance at Horse3, billed as Manitoba’s largest equine educational event, has steadily grown over the past three years, mainly through word-of-mouth advertising.
“As a lot of folks go home and tell their neighbours and their friends about the event; it seems to be growing by leaps and bounds,” he said. “We look forward to moving ahead with plans for next year.” [email protected]