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.”