Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Trainer's Quest 2008

Trainer's Quest was held Oct 24-26 2008 in St.Paul, Alberta at the St.Paul and District Harvest Festival. It consisted of a contest between 3 trainers*:
1. Shantel Perreal. Owns Martin Stables and has had over 25 years experience in ranching, training, and showing. Shantel studied Pat Parelli's program and completed Level 3 through the clinics of Don Holiday. She has also graduated from the John Lyons program. Shantel is a certified and registered massage therapist for both humans and horses and holds certification in Equine Chiropractics.
2. Katelyn Carter. She was the youngest of the competitors. In her few short years of training she has developed a style of training young horses that parallels no other and she will be the first to tell you her techniques are always in evolution as the horses she meets continue to teach her. Her website is here.
3. Myself, of course!

I was quite nervous going into the competition, particularly when going up against someone with more experience than I and with a higher level of PNH!! Turns out though that Shantel's methods followed John Lyons more closely than Pat Parelli's. While John Lyons' methods are certainly effective, having experience with both methods, I have to say that Pat Parelli's methods are more focused on the psychological and partnership aspect, in my opinion.

We were each given a 2yo Morgan colt, each of a different horsenality and each only halter-broke. Shantel's horse was very right-brained and reactive; Katelyn's horse was definitely your classic Left-Brain Introvert, and my horse was likely left-brain but had very right-brain tendencies. First session was Friday evening (I was 2nd to go), second was Saturday morning (1st out of the gates), third session was Saturday evening (3rd this time around), and our final session was Sunday morning (2nd to go) - all four sessions were done in a round pen. Our finale was Sunday evening and held in the open arena.

I started out with a little join-up but immediately started teaching my colt the 7 games to allow for effective communication between us. Initially I started out with a lot of obstacles (tarps, saddle, blankets, poles, ropes, bridges, etc) in the arena so as to desensitize my colt as quickly and easily as possible. Our first two sessions consisted strictly of ground work, our third session consisted of roughly half ground work, half under-saddle work, and our final session consisted primarily of under-saddle work with a good 20 min at least of 7 games. By our third session my little Morgan's left-brained horsenality was starting to shine through as he challenged my authority. I simply ignored him and we continued on our way.

The finale consisted of being judged on having our horses do the following under-saddle:
1. walk across a wooden bridge
2. drag a long heavy pole 25'
3. walk over a large blue tarp
4. trot through a series of poles
5. back-up
6. walk/trot/canter
7. have a lariat swung from the saddle
8. freestyle

#1/#3/#4/#5 were no problem at all; we had tackled these obstacles in the round pen during our sessions. #2 we had not yet had a chance to practise under-saddle during our sessions, though I had dragged it along the ground with him during one of our sessions. My colt and I performed flawlessly, though something spooked him just past that 25' line and he shot forwards. #6 we had been unable to obtain a canter in the round pen and the same followed in the space of the arena, whether due to balance issues on the colt's part or due to a not yet sufficiently high level of respect, it would be hard to tell at that point. #7 we did not have the chance to practise either, but the little gelding stood perfectly quietly as I swung the rope overhead! #8 I asked my gelding to do a turn on the hindquarter (either direction), stood on his back, slid off his rump, then also loaded him into a step-up stock trailer. I wasn't sure if he was prepared at that point to be sent into the trailer so instead I led him in, but I asked him to back out, which he did!

The judges took into account not only each trainer's approach and how they handled different scenarios, but also their horse's horsenality. They were not only judged on which tasks they could accomplish, but also which ones they couldn't and why. For example, I decided not to ask my colt to canter after a few shots and so was graded not just on being unable to accomplish said task but on handling the situation as appropriate.

All in all it was a close race and my gelding and I won!! I look forward to future challenges and experiences for sure and am thankful for the fabulous opportunity!

*trainers info as per Harvest Festival pamphlet

Check out photos of Trainer's Quest here!

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