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Winter fair clinics look to pass the torch on horse skills

Attendees got the ABCs of how to ride and rope properly from local experts during the 2018 Royal Manitoba Winter Fair

Four-year-old Slone Brown helps his father in the ring during a roping demonstration at the 2018 Royal Manitoba Winter Fair.

Shane Brown grew up on rodeo.

A self-described third-generation cowboy, Brown was raised on his family’s ranch watching his father rope before entering competition himself. His family has been a stalwart supporter of the sport, often pitching in behind events like the Virden Indoor Rodeo, Manitoba Calf Roped Unlimited Finals, and other roping competitions. He and his wife, Robyn, are now working on cowhand generation No. 4 on their own ranch near Virden, and his own work focuses on training horses for roping and competition.

Now he hopes to get more kids in the saddle.

The Virden-area producer was one of the equine clinic instructors brought in for this year’s Royal Manitoba Winter Fair.

“Hopefully we can teach people the basics of roping and the basics of how to transition that to their horse and they can kind of go home and put it to work and go from there,” Brown said.

Shane Brown (left) demonstrates how to hold the rope with help from his four-year-old son, Slone, during a demonstration at the 2018 Royal Manitoba Winter Fair. photo: Alexis Stockford

Brown’s clinic was one, but not the only, agricultural education event during the fair. As well as a cattle-care clinic and the return of the Royal Farm Yard, the usual site for Manitoba’s producer groups to promote themselves, Brown was joined by Brandon local Christine Little, who ran a separate clinic.

“I focused on basic horsemanship, utilizing some of the principles that I use for my specific events — so trying to incorporate horsemanship skills that can transfer into whatever events that you’re doing,” the quarter-horse trainer and trail specialist said.

“I tried to emphasize really being patient and really instilling that foundation inside of the horse,” she added. “Taking that time and instilling confidence, making sure that horse, no matter what event it was doing, that it was prepared from the basics up.”

Like Brown, Little grew up in the same environment she now makes her career, turning her childhood experience on a quarter-horse breeding farm into involvement with the American Quarter Horse Association and her own business as a trainer and coach.

Both Brown and Little drew beginners to their clinics, although Little admitted that the turnout wasn’t what she had hoped. Both clinics registered only a handful of participants.

“We had more people interested in watching, so we’re going to take a second look to find out what we might need to change for next year,” she said.

Entering the ring

Clinics may have been poorly attended, but Brown and Little drew larger crowds when it was their turn in the spotlight. The two were among the performing lineup at the Ag Action Stage, an agricultural awareness platform the fair organizes each year. Brown and Little shared the space with miniature horses, equine assisted learning, horse breeders, farriers and junior cattle show competitors, among others.

Little first appeared during 4-H Day early in the week, and therefore geared that first demonstration towards engaging with 4-H participants.

“There were some really good questions on 4-H Day, so I could kind of pick up where they were at as far as talking about showmanship and some of the trail (skills), the trail gate and some of those issues that the kids would have and other levels of riders would have with the horses at those specific obstacles,” she said.

Shane Brown demonstrates roping basics at the 2018 Royal Manitoba Winter Fair. photo: Alexis Stockford

Her second demonstration was more focused on a single element for the more general audience.

For his part, Brown took it back to basics for his first demonstration with a plan to build from show to show.

The producer first let the public try their hand at dummy roping while explaining proper technique, something likely novel to urban audience members.

“Right now it’s just the basics of dummy roping, kind of a first step for roping for whoever was interested,” Brown said prior to taking the ring. “Break down how the rope works and what position we aim to be in and then, hopefully (transfer) that into how we transition into riding horses and roping machines and live cattle and being in the team roping event from there.”

The Royal Manitoba Winter Fair ran in Brandon March 26-31.

About the author


Alexis Stockford

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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