There’s a gentler approach to horse training, and an experienced horseman is in Red Deer this weekend to teach people how it’s done.
Trevor Mertes, owner of Horses that Work, is at The Mane Event Equine Education and Trade Fair at Westerner Park to teach a type of natural horsemanship, where riders learn how horses think in order to make a connection with their animals.
“I find a lot of trainers kind of force the issue with the horse. A lot of the traditional horse training ways are to make a horse do something for you. Whereas what I’m trying to do is work with the horse and make it the horse’s idea,” said Mertes, of Cochrane.
Mertes has brought Desperado, a four-year-old horse from Rocking Heart Ranch Ltd. that he is currently working with, to demonstrate his methods, such as how to lead a horse.
“I’m not pulling on him. I’m setting him up and letting him come through it to make his own choice,” he said while subtly guiding Desperado.
“He didn’t take a step. But you could see him shift his weight as he’s getting ready to, so he’s trying. As soon as those muscles move, that’s when I’m going to quit.
“You just have to try smaller, littler things and watch for the change in the horse. Then they are more with you and it’s a better partnership.”
He said his training method also makes for happier horses.
“A lot of show horses end up with ulcers because they’re so stressed about having to go and be made to do things. Whereas these horses, they’re less stressed.
“They’re enjoying it. They’re willing to be there with you,” said Mertes, who is running sessions at The Mane Event on desensitizing a horse.
Melody Garner-Skiba, of Rocking Heart Ranch Ltd., located near Waterton Lakes National Park, said she is a huge fan of The Mane Event. She said it has something for all equine people, whether they are beginners or advanced riders.
“I just think this is a really cool gem we’ve got here in Western Canada, that not every other place in Canada has. They’ve got a great spot to come for education for everything about how to tack up your horse to training,” Garner-Skiba said.
It’s the 13th year The Mane Event has been held at Westerner Park. The three-day event runs until Sunday and features demonstrations and presentations from world-class riders and Olympians who are experts in their fields.
The trade show features more than 260 exhibitors.
Visit https://red-deer.maneeventexpo.com for more information.