Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Mane Event draws record crowds in Red Deer

Another successful show has just concluded at The Mane Event, and organizers estimate that approximately 45,000 people attended the equine expo.

“We’ve had an amazing time here in Red Deer,” said Gail Barker, president of The Mane Event. “The crowd was made up of knowledgeable and enthused horse people, so it makes for a really exciting event.”

Barker attributes the show’s success to the multi-disciplined nature of the expo, as the public can watch clinics, see demonstrations and purchase products for all aspects of the horse world. “When you go to a regular show, you’re only exposed to one part of the horse industry,” said Barker. “At The Mane Event, you can enjoy learning about any discipline and breed. It’s an exciting opportunity for people, and they often travel for hours to come here.”

Throughout the weekend, the public packed three arenas, a lecture hall and a demonstration area to watch over 100 hours of clinics provided by 14 world-class instructors. Canadian clinician Jonathan Field, who has presented at each Mane Event, was impressed with the Albertan attendance. “I’ve seen this show grow every year, and it’s incredible to have such a large group of horse-loving people together,” he said. “When people come to the clinics, they have their notepads in hand and they’re ready to learn.”

Clinic riders are a key element in The Mane Event and, while learning from top-level clinicians, the participants also benefit from riding in front of an audience. “It’s such a non-competitive and supportive environment,” Field said. “As the riders are working on different tasks, the audience is riding stride for stride with them. It makes for a very powerful learning experience.”

When not attending clinics or the Trainer’s Challenge, the public filled the Trade Show area, where over 240 exhibitors had booths featuring everything from horse trailers to clothing. Jim Townshend, a regular trade show exhibitor, feels The Mane Event organizers have developed an excellent show. “Red Deer is a great location for this event, because it has a small town feeling but you’re getting a big town product,” he said. “People come to enjoy themselves and learn and have fun – that’s really reflected in the positive and neighbourly feel throughout the weekend.”

The Trade Show offered the public a chance to see and purchase products, and it was also an important event for the exhibitors, who rely on sales to support their businesses. “We were very pleased because we substantially exceeded our goals for this show,” said Townshend. “Overall, this is the best run show that I’ve ever been to, period. The organizers, the Westerner staff and the public were all great to work with. That tells me that they’re really onto something special here.”

The Mane Event organizers are looking to their next show, which will be held from October 22 to 24, 2010, in Chilliwack, BC. In 2011, the expo will be returning to celebrate its 5th anniversary in Red Deer. The Red Deer show will run from April 29 to May 1, 2011.

Trainer's Challenge finals conclude at The Mane Event

Ken McNabb of Wyoming took home the championship trophy at this year’s Trainer’s Challenge finals at Westerner Park in Red Deer.

“The Trainer’s Challenge is such a great opportunity for us to come together and learn from each other,” he said after receiving his trophy from Diane Anderson of Tymarc Art Studio. “It’s not about winning or losing, because when we can learn together we really all become winners.”

McNabb’s positive and encouraging attitude was evident throughout the weekend, and he kept this same mindset in the finals. “We’re on a time clock during the finals, but a horse doesn’t understand what that means,” he said during his ride. “So, you really have to take your time and hurry slowly. I’ve also got to make sure that I’m giving him as much as he’s giving me.”

Hurrying slowly paid off for McNabb and with his horse, Remedy, he completed all of the required elements of the finals in under the allotted time. “This is a really good horse,” he said. “He’s just giving me all the try in the world and in the end that’s all I can ask of him.”

Joining McNabb in the finals were Brent Trout of Alberta and Tom Forehand of Colorado. A strong relationship developed between the three trainers, as they learned from each other and spent time together between their training sessions. “It has been just amazing to work with trainers the calibre of Ken and Tom,” said Trout. “This Trainer’s Challenge has provided an incredible experience for me, and I feel very fortunate and very blessed to be here.”

During the finals, Trout and his horse, Jose, didn’t complete all of the required elements, but Trout remained positive about the gelding. “Jose is a horse with real potential,” he said. “In any situation, even in a competition like this, you have to keep the training about the horse.”

For Trout, the most memorable moment of his work with Jose came during his final round pen session, when he rode the horse for the first time with the Olympic theme song “I Believe” playing over the speakers. “It was really a shared moment between me and Jose and about 1,600 other people,” he said. “People were emotionally connected with what was happening and how big of a moment that was. A lot of people were crying and some came up to me after and said how much that meant to them.”

Tom Forehand also had a positive experience during the Trainer’s Challenge. Riding his three-year-old gelding, Blue, Forehand was encouraged with his performance in the finals. “Blue did pretty good today,” he said after his round. “I knew that I wouldn’t try for the lope, but Blue did a lot of other things really well – he did the serpentine at a trot, he went over the bridge and he took the snaffle bit better than in any other session.”

The Trainer’s Challenge often provides unique connections between horse people, and this year was no different. Forehand’s horse, Blue, has been purchased by new owners, who will be sending the gelding to Trout for further training. “Blue will be going home with Brent, and it’ll be fantastic to see where he takes this gelding,” Forehand said.

At the conclusion of another successful Trainer’s Challenge, the feedback was positive. “The Mane Event is an incredible horse expo that’s filled with so many educated horse folks, it’s amazing,” Forehand said. “The organizers of the event are absolute sweethearts, and the trainers, clinicians and judges have all been just great. I feel very honoured and glad to have been here.”

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Groundwork for performance with Shawn Seabrook.

Shawn Seabrook led a round pen demonstration on Sunday afternoon to discuss the importance of groundwork leading to performance. Working with a two-year-old palomino gelding, Seabrook bridled and then worked on teaching the horse to give to the bit, cross over and back up.

“You want to teach your horse to be soft and, once you have it, you want to maintain that softness,” Seabrook said during his session. To develop this softness, Seabrook emphasized the importance of giving your colt when they achieve the desired result. “The little rewards are huge and they build the foundation for your training,” he said. “By rewarding for small things – like one crossover step – you’ll help your horse to learn and to retain what you’re teaching him.”

Working on one side at a time, Seabrook used rein pressure in a lateral direction to encourage the gelding to tip his nose and give to the bit. To teach the crossover, he directed the rein upwards and he shifted his body direction forward, to encourage forward momentum.

Throughout the session, Seabrook noted the great improvement in the young gelding. “This horse is getting to be finger light,” he said. “When we first started, I was using maybe 50 pounds of pressure, now it’s got to be at about two. This horse is getting to be very, very light.”

Mike Boyle shares lead change secrets.

In his Saturday evening session, Mike Boyle discussed the importance of body control in lead changes. "Getting control of your horse's body is really the secret to success," he said during his session. "You have to be able to control the front and back end of your horse independently and maintain forward motion to get correct lead changes."

Breaking the lead change elements down into component parts, Boyle taught the four riders in the session how to control their horses' hips and shoulders to achieve lead changes. When changing leads, the horse will be required to tip their nose and their hip in the direction of the new lead, so riders practiced this at a walk, and then progressed to the lope.

Once loping, however, Boyle emphasized the training needed to keep your horse from anticipating the change. "Changing in a straight line is a harder change, but it allows you to see how well you have control of your horse's momentum and hips," he said. "A directional change on the circle is easier, but the danger is that your horse could start to expect that every change in direction means a lead change."

Boyle encouraged the riders to use counter-cantering as a training tool, as this reinforces that a directional change doesn't mean a lead change. "One upper level drill that you can teach your horse is to do a counter-canter to counter canter lead change," he said. During this maneuver, the horse still changes at the centre point of the figure eight, but they hold a counter-canter on each circle.

"Lead changes are all about body control and forward motion," he said. "Once you have these tools, then you'll be ready to change."

On Sunday, Boyle will be offering his final clinic, which will be on the rollback and trouble-shooting.

Balanced horsemanship with Tammy Pate.

"When you're developing your riding, you really need to focus on balance and on developing a feel for your horse," said Tammy Pate in her Saturday session. "So often, we can get wrapped up in physical maneuvers and we miss the feel of horsemanship."

Pate discussed how yoga is one way to help you connect with your horse. "Yoga means to unite, and we all want to unite with our horses," she said. "It involves mental, spiritual and physical balance, so we have to think of these elements in our riding."

In horsemanship, Pate described mental balance as helping to get your horse in a calm state, so that he'll be able to learn. Physical balance begins with proper seat, as Pate emphasized the importance of having a vertical line from your shoulders to hips to heels. Having this correct seat allows riders to develop a feel for riding, which starts in the core.

Pate encouraged the clinic riders to use their energy to establish movement in their horses. "Imagine that you're standing up to get out of a chair," she said. "Then, without using your legs, you can think this same thought and use the same energy to ask for a forward transition. This is a good exercise to help develop feel, because you start to realize how little you can do to create movement."

Being realistic about your riding ability is also a key part to maintaining balance. "We have to be honest riders and honest with ourselves about what we can do," she said. "Then, we'll know what we need to do to improve our fitness and we'll be able to prepare our horses for what we need them to do."

Pate will have her final riding clinic on Sunday, and she'll wrap-up her Mane Event sessions with a demonstration later in the afternoon.

Why we love the Equine Experience.

The Equine Experience is a must-see event for people at The Mane Event. If you look in any given Show Guide, clutched tightly in the hands of the audience member, you'd likely see the Equine Experience highlighted. It might be circled, it could be starred, it may be underlined. It will be attended.

What makes this event so popular? Why do thousands of people flock to the UFA arena to wait for hours before the event and then watch eagerly through each ride? There aren't any official statistics to point in one direction or another, but based on the audience reactions to last night's event, here are the top eleven reasons why we love the Equine Experience.

1) Breed parades are great. They give us a chance to see so many different horses and styles, from mini's pulling carts to Canadians under saddle.

2) The drill teams make us happy. Whether watching the 4Hers or the BC Icelandics, there's just something special about seeing so many horses and riders work well together.

3) Dressage demos are just so graceful and beautiful. Last night, the horse and rider effortlessly and beautifully worked through the crowd, the threat of cows and the applause.

4) It is possible to do clean, correct lead changes while riding in a side-saddle, and an Alberta Sidesaddle rider showed us how.

5) The crowd got to participate in the Australian national cheer while watching a reining and whip-cracking demonstration by the Australian Stock Horse rider.

6) We also got to see something new, fast-paced and exciting when the Alberta riders for the Canada Mounted Games flew around the arena demonstrating different events.

7) Draft horses are impressive. They had us from when the six horse team of Belgians came into the arena, and they kept us excited while this team was joined by another pair and two single drivers. This massive amount of horsepower continued to entertain us to the tune of "Thunderstruck" by ACDC.

8) Innisfail trainer Geoff Hoar put on a very impressive display of the skills, athleticism and horsemanship required for working cow horse tasks.

9) The Hearts of the West family are fearless. The four sisters, ranging in ages from 11 to 17, put on an amazing show performing trick riding at breakneck speeds. And, this year, their 7-year-old brother also showed off his fearless and impressive skills.

10) Ruben Villasenor demonstrated a graceful, fast-paced and incredibly skilled display of cowboy dressage. From spinning to rearing, sliding stops to dancing, this demonstration had it all.

11) Jonathan Field showed why we should all be inspired by horses. While riding one horse and doing Liberty work with another, Jonathan demonstrated a new form of equine poetry.

These are some of the reasons why we love the Equine Experience - what are yours?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Acting and horses a way of life for Amber Marshall.

Television celebrity Amber Marshall, who plays Amy on the CBC series "Heartland," was at The Mane Event on Saturday - much to the delete of a multitude of fans. Between her autograph signing sessions, we caught up with Marshall to discuss her background, her acting and her horses.

"I was born and raised in London, Ontario," she said. "I've been riding since I was little, and I started in English Hunter, then did Western Pleasure and some riding for fun. Now, I've gotten more into the western world, and in my time off I like to trail ride in the mountains."

In addition to riding, Marshall has also been acting since she was young, as she began in theatre and then moved into television. The opportunity to audition for the Heartland series provided an ideal fit for Marshall, and she soon moved to Alberta to start filming the first season.

"When we first started filming Heartland, it was a pilot, so we really couldn't have any expectations," she said. "We never expected it would take off like it did - it's like a dream come true."

On set, Marshall notes that her horse experience has been a definite asset. "My horse background definitely helped me get onto Heartland," she said. "It's really essential because you have so much time with horses on set. If you're scared of them at all, it would be far more challenging."

When it comes to filming, Marshall truly enjoys working with her equine partners. "I absolutely love the scenes with me and my horse, because they're as real as you can get," she said. "You have to work with the horse and work from them. It's just so real - and it's provided some of my best performances."

For Heartland fans, rest assured, the new season will begin filming in May. For complete coverage of Amber Marshall's interview, visit

The little bits that mean so much.

Sometimes at The Mane Event there simply isn't enough time. Sometimes you have to make some tough choices. Should you watch a suppleness clinic or a bitting lecture? Should you go pick up that special purchase at the Trade Show, or is it a better time to find some much-needed food?

Amidst these tough decisions, sometimes you'll end up catching little bits of sessions, little moments that make you smile. In the first two days of activity, I've missed some of the bigger items that piqued my interest, but I've also had the chance to catch some of those little bits. Here's a snapshot of my little moments that have meant so much:

1) Trade Show hugs. One of the booths in the Trade Show has a stuffed-toy horse who stands about two feet tall and automatically moves his head and tail. On Friday, not 30 minutes into the show, a little girl stood hugging this horse as if she'd found a new best friend for life.

2) Ruben Villasenor and the Spanish walk. In passing, I caught a little bit of Ruben's demonstration on beginning the Spanish walk. I was struck by the beauty and grace of his three-year-old buckskin horse, and by the relaxing, smooth partnership they displayed.

3) Jonathan Field and the extra lesson. On a chilly Saturday afternoon, Jonathan provided an extra lesson to his clinic riders, who had gotten moved from their expected time slot. He offered a longer lesson for the six participants and, despite the weather, there was still quite a little crowd to watch.

4) Curt Pate and his rope. Some people have strong skills. On Friday afternoon, Curt offered a clinic on introducing the rope. In his demonstration, he placed the rope around one of his horse's forelegs, and then he showed how to teach the horse to respond to the pressure by moving his leg. He calmly and gracefully moved his horse's leg forward, with his horse displaying complete willingness and moving the leg to the desired spot.

These are just a few little bits that will become a package of my Mane Event experience. What are yours?

Building on positives a way of training for Ken McNabb.

During Ken McNabb's second session with his three-year-old sorrel gelding, Remedy, focusing on the positive was the main message. "You have to find something that you like and then build on it from there," he said during his session.

To demonstrate this point, McNabb recounted his experience with a mule he once trained. "I was so focused on what I didn't like about her, that I couldn't see anything else," McNabb said. "Then one day my wife said 'What would you tell one of your students in this situation?'" That was the turning point McNabb needed, which allowed him to focus on the positive - a message he'd give his students - which led to a different mindset during training and an entirely different relationship.

Using this same positive, calm approach, McNabb worked with Remedy on the ground and under saddle. He emphasized that whenever a horse becomes agitated, it's essential to keep calm. "You've got to stay really calm with your horse, because you're the leader," he said. "Often, it's not the physical changes that scare the horse, it's the emotional changes. As the leader, you have to be aware of that and stay calm."

McNabb recognized that Remedy had challenges with having his mouth handled, so he simulated the bridling process using a lead rope looped to resemble a bridle. Frequent rewards for the small positive gains helped to encourage the young horse to accept the rope into his mouth. And, by the end of the session, McNabb was able to bridle Remedy with a snaffle bit.

The gelding also became accustomed to McNabb's foot in the stirrup and his full weight on the saddle - McNabb repeated this process on both sides of the horse. "Really this is a process of A to Z horsemanship," he said. "Nothing will change from yesterday, we'll just keep building on it and progressing as the horse is ready."

McNabb will have his third run later this afternoon. For more coverage of the Trainer's Challenge, visit

Tom Forehand begins the day with the Trainer's Challenge

It was session number two for Tom Forehand and his three year-old blue roan gelding, aptly named Blue. Forehand began the session by allowing Blue to re-establish himself in the arena and by assessing Blue's behaviour.

"Blue is a very kind, willing, calm horse," Forehand said during his session. "He really wants to be next to me." As they worked throughout the session, Forehand used a different sacking out methods, including used his rope, brushes and the saddle pad to acclimatize Blue.

While the gelding was continued to be quiet with the handling, he began loping and bucking when Forehand's rope was around his girth area. Blue recovered quickly, however, and Tom then began working toward bridling him. "He's certainly not headshy," he said. "His problem comes when you start to move in his mouth." The pair worked on bridling until Forehand determined it was time to change direction. "As a horseman, I'm going to have to figure out the timing and choose the time that will be right for him," Forehand said.

When it came time for saddling, Blue was undisturbed with the process. To end the session, Forehand got on the horse, using the lead rope tied to the halter for direction control. "It's so important with a young horse to read and establish what he's ready for," he said. "And it's important to know when to end the session."

Forehand will have his third session later this afternoon. For more coverage of the Trainer's Challenge, visit

Keep up-to-date with your Mane Event news

Haven't had a chance to visit The Mane Event yet? You can still keep your finger on the exciting happenings at Westerner Park.

Visit to read blogs on a variety of Mane Event clinics, lectures and demonstrations.

Or, you can visit to download podcasts of the Trainer's Challenge and other Mane Event activities.

For complete information on the clinicians, schedule and activities this weekend, check out The Mane Event website at

Dressage training with Jan Ebeling

On Friday evening, Jan Ebeling shared how to structure an effective training session for a dressage horse. While working with two horses and riders, Ebeling discussed how a typical training session would look and how you can apply specific techniques to target your horse's training level.

"The two horses in the session were very different in terms of their age, breed and training level," he said after the clinic. "Both horses were ridden quite correctly, and the second that they started trotting, I know this was going to be a really good session."

When training your dressage horse, Ebeling emphasized the importance of having rhythm, relaxation and contact, or connection, with your horse. "Once you pick up the reins, you want to establish a nice frame and have your horse accepting the bit," he said. "Really, the reins are like a telephone line - if you lose contact, your horse can't hear what you're saying, so you always want to keep a light, smooth connection."

After completing the warm-up, where Ebeling discussed the importance of letting your horse's back warm up and relax, the riders then moved into more advanced tasks. Using a variety of leg yielding exercises and changes to stride length, the riders worked on teaching their horses, while making the task enjoyable. "We always want to keep training sessions like play for the horses," Ebeling explained. "Extending the stride is one way to keep things fresh and playful for them." For any training activity, including changing the stride length, Ebeling emphasized the importance of maintaining the rhythm, relaxation and contact while riding.

"The riders in this session were able to show off their stuff, including lateral work, transitions, lead changes and pirouettes," he said. "They were also able to try some new movements that they don't have experience with. This worked so well, because the riders and the audience learned how to train for these movements, and it was really fun to see."

Ebeling will continue to build on these lessons as he continues with clinics and lectures throughout the weekend.

Jonathan Field shares groundwork training techniques

On Friday afternoon at The Mane Event, Jonathan Field taught six horse owners and hundreds of audience members how to use groundwork to develop a great riding horse. "I'm always looking at a horse with riding in mind, so everything that we do on the ground will eventually transfer to riding," he said in the session. "It's really a matter of communication, and teaching your horse to do what you want when you want it."

While teaching the six handlers and their horses, Field discussed how fear or dominance behaviour often results when a horse doesn't have a clear leader. "Horses are always looking for leadership and for someone to control their feet," he said. "This will happen in a herd, and it should also happen when your working with them. Every time I'm with a horse, I always have a plan for his feet."

Using a variety of exercises, Field showed the handlers how to clearly establish their space and how to teach their horse to find an appropriate spot to rest, or the "sweet spot."

Building confidence was also a key theme, as Field emphasized the need to reward your horse for the small steps in training success. "No matter where your horse is at, you have to recognize when he's working with you," he said. "Once you realize and reward these moments of confidence that he shows, then leadership snowballs."

Field will continue his clinics on Saturday, and he'll also be riding in the Equine Experience on Saturday evening.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Trainer's Challenge kicks off with Brent Trout.

Central Alberta trainer Brent Trout started off the Trainer's Challenge in fine form, as he worked with a three-year-old gelding named Jose.

Trout's first priority was to establish a relationship with Jose and to encourage the gelding to develop trust. To achieve this, Trout allowed the horse to explore the arena for a few minutes, and all the while he was assessing the gelding's behaviour. "Knowing your horse's attitude is a huge part of training," he said during his session. "This horse is in a really calm and respectful state of mind, but I'll definitely have to keep watching and monitoring his behaviour."

Trout began the training by longing for respect, where he worked Jose on a long lead rope and encouraged him to move away and to gain forward momentum. In working with young horses, Trout related training to children's toys, in that both need to have movement and feeling and stimulus to create an environment for learning. As he worked through the longing exercises, Trout used movement to help reinforce his expectations and his goals for Jose.

The young gelding worked well and maintained a loose lead while longing, so Trout soon began working with the saddle pad. "Whenever I work with horses, I never cross anything over their backs until I've worked both sides," he said. In working with the saddle pad, it became apparent that Jose did have some anxiety, but Trout demonstration how to calmly stay with your horse until he has gained acceptance of the object.

Near the end of the session, Trout saddled the horse, working on both sides with an uncinched saddle before he tightened the cinch. And, after a brief period of bucking when the tightened cinch coincided with the first applause of the session, Trout began longing for respect with Jose under saddle.

"There's a real learning pattern with horses," he said. "First, learning happens by accident, then by coincidence and then by comprehension." As he moves through the next two days, Trout will continue to reinforce the fundamentals from day one, encouraging Jose to comprehend the training that he's learned.

For more coverage on the Trainer's Challenge, visit

Start with the feet to connect with your mule.

During his round pen demonstration, Jerry Tindell taught the audience the best way to build a connection - with your mule.

Tindell's partner in the demonstration was a very cute young mule, and the two worked through a combination of free work, rope work and halter work to demonstrate the basic steps of building a connection.

"I want all of my stock to be safe, comfortable and confident," Tindell said in his demonstration. "That starts with movement - you have to move his feet if you want to get his mind."

With this foundational point of connection-building, Tindell moved the mule around the round pen, focusing first on the forward motion and next on inside and outside turns. "When you do turns, it's so important to help the horse or mule relocate where he's going," he said. "You do this by getting him to change his eyes."

Throughout the exercises, the young mule would occasionally freeze-up and lose forward momentum, but this allowed the audience to see Tindell's training techniques and his philosophy on movement. "So many people misunderstand the lack of movement for control," he said. "If your mule freezes up and you don't have movement, you definitely don't have control."

As he worked through the exercises, Tindell also strongly reinforced the message of timing your release. Whether you're doing free work or halter work, timing the release is essential to reinforce positive behaviour, which helps to build the all-important connection and trust.

Tindell will be offering additional lectures and clinics throughout the weekend, so be sure to see him to learn more strategies and tips for successful mulemanship.

It's begun!

The Mane Event has officially begun! The first wave of attendees have entered the building, and they're busy checking out the Trade Show and watching the first clinics.

At this very moment, a horse is doing freestyle groundwork in the round pen, to the music of "West Texas Town of El Paso." It's a beautifully calming routine, and it really shows the diversity of this expo. What can't you find at The Mane Event?

If we don't see you here, be sure to stay tuned to The Mane Event blog, as we'll be providing updates after a variety of clinics throughout the weekend.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The big day is almost here.

It's now a mere matter of hours until The Mane Event begins, and Westerner Park in Red Deer, Alberta, is buzzing with activity and excitement. Exhibitors are bringing in merchandise and materials by the truckload, and clinicians are arriving from across North America.

What is the draw of this event? Is it the clinics and the learning, the visiting and the shopping? Perhaps all of the above. But, whatever your particular draw, The Mane Event is definitely something special. It's special because it crosses boundaries and it transcends disciplines. Whether you're a reiner or a jumper, whether you have mules or minis, The Mane Event has something for you. And, once you've learned more about your discipline of choice, you'll have a chance to learn so much more. You'll be able to look over the fence, watch another training style and say "I wonder." I wonder if I could do that? I wonder if there are elements of this that will help my riding? I wonder if that would be fun?

As we head into this weekend of horse-enthused excitement, take the opportunity to look around and soak up all that The Mane Event has to offer.

I wonder what new and exciting things this weekend will bring?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Who do you like.

Which clincian do you like of the line up in Red Deer and who would you like to see at future expos?