Mane Event heads east and south

After expanding to Red Deer 11 years ago, B.C.-based Mane Event is adding shows in Ontario and Arizona

The Trainer’s Challenge is one of the most fascinating — and popular — features of the Mane Event. 
Contestants have just a weekend to train a young unbroken horse.
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As organizers of the Mane Event return to Red Deer for the 11th time, the show is jumping to new heights this year.

The equine educational expo, which began in Chilliwack, B.C., is now a four-stop tour after expanding both east and south this year — adding shows in London, Ont, and and Scottsdale, Ariz. “It was actually only going to be one more show this year,” said show founder Gail Barker. “The day we were signing the documents on the Arizona show, we got a call from the people in London, and they wanted us to take over their venue and run what had been the All Equine show. We’d wanted to go to Ontario for a long time.”

There are a number of elements to a Mane Event Expo that contribute to its ongoing success. The Trainer’s Challenge is always popular. In this event, three different trainers take a young unbroken horse (just familiar with a halter) to being ridden by saddle, throughout the course of the weekend in narrated sessions. There’s also a wide range of clinicians offering their perspectives on working with horses, a variety of speakers, and a trade show with everything related to horses and the horse world.

“We want to stay true to the model that we follow in Red Deer and Chilliwack, so we’re only allowing equine-based vendors in the trade shows,” said Barker. “We want to stay true to our roots, and that’s been very successful for us.”

Another unique aspect of the event is that clinicians cover all horse disciplines, bringing together equine enthusiasts of all types.

“We’ve got barrel racing, the reining, the horsemanship, as well as the driving, the jumping, and the dressage,” said Barker. “Why mess with a successful formula?”

The Arizona show will be held in the WestWorld of Scottsdale facility, home of the famed Barrett Jackson car auction extravaganza and a horse mecca during the winter (with close to 200 equine events). But while showing their horses there, Barker and husband Ron noted all the events were competitions, and the learning aspect was missing on the calendar. They were thrilled when the May dates opened up at the venue.

“It’s a huge trade show to fill, but we’re really happy with the way it’s going so far.”

The early tickets sales have been encouraging, with purchasers not only from the western states, but also places as far away as Florida, Chicago and Tennessee. The show’s emphasis on education over entertainment and using local riders for the clinics separates it from other large equine expositions, said Barker.

The Mane Event remains very much a family enterprise, with with the couple’s two daughters — who were the original motivation for the show concept — now involved. Nicole is working full time for the business, with Tamara working part time, as she finishes school. Adding the Red Deer event 11 years has been key to the company’s success, said Barker.

Red Deer is now billed as the largest equine expo in Canada. This year’s event, which runs April 21-23 at Westerner Park, will include a feature introduced last year, the Youth Pro-Am. Young people apply and are selected to bring in their own horse, and they’re teamed with a clinician. Both take the youth’s horse through a timed obstacle/trail course, and everyone had so much fun, more clinicians have volunteered to take part this year. Youth support remains an emphasis, with the third annual youth essay contest, awarding the winner a yearling filly from the Rocking Heart Ranch of Waterton.

The lineup of horse know-how and experience in the more than 100 hours of clinics and demonstrations is extensive.

“I think we have a couple of what I would maybe call ‘sleepers’ up here in Canada this year in Red Deer,” said Barker. “One would be Van Hargis, and the other would be Kalley Krickeberg. It’s nice to see an up-and-comer like Kalley, because she’s a woman and there aren’t that many well-established women trainers. And Van Hargis has been in the horse industry for years, but maybe more in the background, and I’m glad to see him stepping forward.”

This year’s Trainer’s Challenge features Glenn Stewart of B.C., Martin Black of Idaho, and Shamus Haws, who operates a large cattle and horse ranch in Utah.

The Equine Experience night is back and the trade show is full, which is encouraging in an economic squeeze.

“We’ve actually got some different vendors we’ve never seen before. I think it made us feel pretty good to see the equine economy is still pretty strong. Advance tickets are still going good. We’re not noticing a difference.”

She laughs when asked if she and her husband ever dreamed their idea for a learning expo would become so big.

“We had no clue that this was ever going to grow beyond maybe a dozen booths and 100 people. We thought we’d be doing good with that,” she said. “I think we just appeal to a lot of people who just want to learn more.”

Program details for all four Mane Events can be found at

About the author


Dianne Finstad

Dianne Finstad is a Red Deer based reporter and broadcaster who specializes in agriculture and rodeo coverage. She has over thirty years of experience bringing stories to light through television, radio, and print; and has a real passion for all things farm and western.



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