Thousands of equine lovers are heading to Red Deer’s The Mane Event this weekend in hopes of improving horse-human relations.
Glenn Stewart, one of the trainers at the 13th-annual horse expo at Westerner Park, offers this tip: To gain a horse’s trust, quit your predatory behavior.
“Horses are prey animals,” said Stewart of Fort St. John B.C., a former Calgary Stampede champ of the Cowboy Up Challenge, who’s worked across North and South America.
When they see a person striding purposefully up to their face, looking them boldly in the eye, horses understandably flinch and start pacing, he explained.
Stewart’s advice is to move slowly and “laterally” around them, generally exhibiting less aggressive body language. “And you always need to be reading horses,” he added, since a lot of problems happen out of misunderstandings — on our part.
For instance, Stewart said there’s no point getting upset if a horse won’t immediately go into a horse trailer, since you’re essentially asking a prey animal to enter a “cave on wheels.”
And don’t get angry if a horse doesn’t want to cross a puddle. With eyes on either side of their face, horses have poor depth perception. “They have a hard time telling how deep it is.”
Stewart showed what can happen when a human and his horses are in perfect sync — and it earned him applause Friday afternoon. He whispered something to his three horses during a demonstration — and all three animals simultaneously began walking backwards.
This year’s Mane Event, which runs to Sunday, offers tips and demonstrations from 11 trainers — mostly Canadians, said show organizer Gail Barker, who wanted to spotlight horse experts from this country.
With clinician demonstrations, a trainers’ challenge, a large trade show, speakers, and a new demos on equitation (different ways of riding horses), Barker expected the Mane Event to draw a big crowd. Friday was very busy, and she expects the three-day attendance to surpass 2017.
Barker believes people want to get out in the warmth after a long, cold winter. “I think they all had cabin fever.”