Lethbridge horseman founds first equine-training college in Canada

Ernie Knibb is financing the $7.5-million project and expects to 
have the school up and running in late March or early April


It’s the first of its kind in Canada — and a labour of love for one Lethbridge-area horseman.

Would-be horse trainers are already beating down Ernie Knibb’s door, and he hasn’t even opened the door to the Lethbridge Community Equine College.

The private college, located just outside Lethbridge on Highway 25, will be the first Canadian school to certify horse trainers.

In order to receive government approval, Knibb had to prove that there would be jobs available for program graduates.

“We found 19 different jobs for horse trainers, in one day, in Alberta alone,” he said. “There’s a big demand for horse trainers, especially for good certified ones, who are guaranteed to be trained.”

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The electronics engineer and businessman grew up around horses, and following his retirement, was certified in the John Lyons method of horse training. Curious about other methods of training, he then worked with other horse trainers and decided to create a facility offering a range of methods.

“The people who will be graduating from our college will see a whole bunch of different methods, instead of one person’s,” said Knibb. “One method may not work for one person or one horse, but a different method might work better. You have more tools in your tool box than just one method. We’re offering a whole variety of methods so the student can deal with any problem.”

The response from prospective students was immediate — with Knibb receiving more than 200 inquiries following local media reports of the school’s groundbreaking ceremony last month.

It has the largest riding arena in the province and three two-storey barns. The pre-built barns, slated to be moved onto the site this month, will house 30 horses and have dormitories for 15 students on the second floor. A classroom and an office building still need to be constructed. Knibb expects the school to be up and running around the end of March or early April.

Students will take nine courses, and also interact with farriers, saddle fitters, acupuncturists, trick trainers, and problem solvers. Knibb has been in contact with 68 trainers from across Canada and the U.S., who will do short sessions at the school. The curriculum has been approved by equestrian foundations across Canada. About 120 students will be able to take the program each year.

The first part of the course focuses on groundwork, horse maintenance and classroom learning, but the second and third part is all in the saddle. Students can expect to be on their horses about eight hours a day from Monday to Friday.

“You better be prepared to ride a lot,” said Knibb with a laugh. “Eight hours is a long time in a saddle.”

The $7.5-million project is being solely funded by Knibb, even though he has some manpower help, and support from the City of Lethbridge, Lethbridge County, and Alberta Agriculture.

“Hopefully we get a lot of sponsorships and donations. There is money being donated to different colleges for different programs, and that’s what I am hoping. But as of right now, I’m the only person behind it.”

More information can be found at lethbridgeequinecollege.com.

About the author

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Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, she has also published two collections of poetry and a biography about a Sikh civil rights activist. Her freelance work has appeared in numerous publications across Canada.

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