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Young horse trainers show off skills in friendly competition

PINCHER CREEK – It was the first friendly competition of its kind in Southern Alberta and a way for young horse trainers to build their skills working with horses.

Madisen Groves, a 16-year-old animal lover from Diamond City, AB, says after seeing other skills competitions, she knew it was for her.

“I always just thought [it] would be so cool to do a competition like that,” said Groves. “Then, they gave us this opportunity with the weanlings and I’m just like, ‘I’m doing it. There’s no question’.  I love to train horses.”

Rocking Heart Ranch gave 11 Alberta teens one year old horses to take back to their homes for five weeks.

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During that time, they were required to train the young horses to go through certain obstacles and perform different skills.

In addition to building their experience working with the animals, Melody Garner from Rocking Horse Ranch said they also want to get the teens back outdoors.

“That’s what we want to encourage with this kind of program and keeping youth in the saddle – is to get outdoors.  We all love our [technology] but there’s a time and a place,” said Garner.

During the freestyle component, competitors preformed stunts that are usually unseen during this level of trainingwowing the judges and audience.

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Groves got to work with a horse named Blue Hayes, but nicknamed her Sapphire after forming a special bond. 

“She did better than I thought she would,” said Groves. “A lot of stuff we were having trouble with, such as the trailer and the blindfold, we’ve only ever done that once before without obstacles. So, that was just kind of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of a thing.”

Five weeks is a short time to get to know anyone, or any horse, but Groves says it was the best five weeks of her life.

“It’s been an adventure every day, you don’t know what it’s going to do, what the day is going to bring,” said Groves. “Everything you taught her the day before, she could be freaking out at that next time.”

Hometown competitor Kayla Keilke from Pincher Creek, AB won the title, earning herself a new belt buckle and the trophy. 

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