Inspiration – The Mane Event Chilliwack

This past weekend we attended The Mane Event in Chilliwack, BC. This expo always provides great educational clinics, as well as impressive presentations and promotions. We discovered some great new products this year, and learned a lot from some very knowledgeable clinicians.

Ruben Villasenor was one of the clinicians that stood out to me. He is a calm, collected, and effective horseman who puts on a spectacular western dressage performance. He performed one of these routines in the Equine Experience show we attended on Friday night. The western dressage is a fun deviation of classic dressage; Ruben came into the ring with his Arabian stallion, “dancing” to new country music. The whole performance looked like loads of fun, for both horse and rider.


We also attended a couple of Ruben’s informational clinics, where he demonstrated how his custom bosal works on a horse. I’m definitely adding this hackamore to my wish list – I’m already a believer in hackamores (we use natural hackamores), but I like the way Ruben’s hackamores fit the horse. He explained why the noseband on his bosals sits so low on the horse’s nose (with one that sits higher, nerve damage can occur and cause your horse to become heavy on the reins). Ruben also demonstrated how much calmer a horse is when you take the snaffle bit out of his mouth. The horse is able to concentrate more on what you are asking him to do, and less on the uncomfortable, or sometimes painful, piece of iron in his mouth. I completely agree with starting horses on the bosal, until the rider is able to refine his cues and not have to use the reins much at all.

We also watched Doug Mills work with horses and riders of a few different levels. One of the mares he worked with had a similar personality to one of our older mares – calm and fairly unresponsive, until you ask her to do something unfamiliar. The mare’s owner didn’t seem confident enough to ride through the “panic attacks” the mare had (possibly from being thrown or scared from previous episodes – from the mares performance that I’m about to describe, I don’t blame her), so the mare seemed to be calm and a bit lazy. When Doug’s son, Kyle, mounted up and asked the horse to trot along the rail, she got very upset and started to speed up and come off the rail. Each time she did this, Kyle would turn her into the rail and head the other way. At first, the horse was an absolute basket case, and started into flight mode. She ran and ran, until she finally figured out that if she maintained gait and stayed on the rail, he would leave her alone. Slowly, her energy level started to come down as she figured things out. It was a great visual of how pushing a horse through her emotional phase actually allows her to work it out in less time than it would take if the rider were to hold her back and slap a bigger bit on.


My favourite clinician of the weekend was Steve Rother. Apart from being a very entertaining speaker and performer, Steve had some very informative things to say. I really liked how he described giving your horse a choice – he said, “you can do this, or you can do that.” This quote really hit home for me, because although I had been sort of doing that in my training already, I feel like my method was more “if you do this right, you can rest.” Sort of the same thing, but different packaging. Starting out with new things, I think that giving rest is good – the horse is rewarded for doing the proper thing, and he knows he’s right and doesn’t have to search for the right thing to do. Eventually, though, once the horse knows what he should be doing, I would switch to Steve’s method – he explained it as, once the horse is comfortable with something, it is expected behavior, NOT something that needs reward. So, if my horse knows he should trot on a circle, and he leaves the circle, I would help him leave and push him. When he decides that he should come back to his circle, I will bring him back – but he doesn’t need the reward to know he’s doing the right thing. When I leave him alone, he knows he’s doing the right thing. It’s expected behavior and he doesn’t need the rest reward. Leaving him alone is reward enough for expected behavior.


Steve also participated in the Equine Experience show, putting on a hilarious “all-breed all-discipline” show – all with the same horse! He took his horse, Professor, through all the moves, making a parody of all the different disciplines out there. Way to go Professor for keeping the “try” going!

Finally, Steve did a fantastic “doma vaquera” performance, western style. Doma vaquera is a beautiful horse and rider routine that is derived originally from daily duties on cattle ranches. Steve had a long pole which he dragged one end of on the ground, and did a variety of maneuvers, including spins! He had to rhythmically lift the pole over his own head, and then over his horse’s head. This looked pretty good when the spins sped up! You can see a similar performance in this video, from the Washington State Horse Expo in 2012.

Of course, we can’t forget about Francesca and her minis – they did a fabulous liberty demo, and had this Jack Russell ride out with them! Absolutely adorable and fantastic routine.


All in all, The Mane Event this year was a very informative and fun event to attend. We will definitely be back next year – hopefully with our own horses!

Did you attend this year? Who was your favourite clinician?


Inspiration – A Trip to Jackass Mountain

Over the weekend, we took a trip down to Washington state to see some of the most amazing Andalusian breeding stock in North America. Ami MacHugh, intriguing and witty owner of these wonderful horses, kindly invited us onto her ranch to look at her breathtaking horses (which she, adoringly, calls “ugly” – more on that later), and took us on the tour of our lives over her acres and acres of land to look at horse after horse. Funny enough, even after seeing so many horses, we never got tired of seeing more!

Our first stop was the barn, where we took a look at a few fillies she kept there, one of which was SO big she was actually taller than me at the lowest point on her back! Karamba was quite the sight, and at only two years old, I’m not sure I could mount her without a ladder, even now. (For those who don’t know, Andalusians are a later maturing breed, meaning Karamba still has another 4 years to grow.) She was quite the sight, and I have no doubt she will go far – her height makes her extremely athletic and her movement is to die for. Her personality is also a plus, which is extremely friendly and a little goofy.


It was around this point where we asked Ami what she looks for in her horses. She explained that she likes “ugly” horses – she wants them to be big boned, to have obviously strong muscles, and to not be dainty, “pretty” horses. Although she said her fillies are slighter boned than her stallions, they are still extremely well built and will likely pass that down in their genes.

Her stallions were even more something to look at – she described it well as “masculine.” She had quite a number of the boys tied quietly in their stalls for us to “ooh and ahh” over. They were very well behaved, and their personalities seem exceptional – she described them as the “Labrador of horses.”

Next stop was the pasture, where Ami keeps her mares and foals. It was really neat to see how many she had all kept in one pasture! I enjoyed this part the most, because it is so wonderful to see someone who keeps her horses in such a natural state. These babies learn from day one the rules of herd behaviour, which saves the humans from having to teach them later. It also is simply more natural for a horse’s herd instinct to be kept together. What a wonderful way to raise horses!

IMGP3059Overlooking the mares grazing on Jackass Mountain

Overall, we were very impressed with both Ami’s horses and her methods of raising them. She aims for the best in both conformation and personality, which is a common goal between her and Ledge End. We will definitely be going to visit her again sometime soon! Thank you to Ami and her horses for the wonderful experience.