Trainer’s Challenge Is Good Start For Ranch Horses

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Douglas Lake Ranch, located in central B.C., is Canada s largest working cattle ranch, which runs 20,000 head of cattle on 500,000 acres. All cattle work is done on horseback, with 16-18 cowboys on staff and 300 horses including three stallions and 30 broodmares.

For many years Douglas Lake Ranch has supplied the young horses used in The Mane Event s Trainer s Challenge. Cow boss, Stan Jacobs, explains how the horses, sent to the Trainer s Challenge, are selected and what happens to them after the event.

Douglas Lake Ranch has raised working Quarter Horses for many generations, so we can supply The Mane Event with a specific type of horse, Stan says. Each year we provide three two-year-olds that are very similar in temperament and breeding. This year all three are geldings, each sired out of the same stallion. Two of their dams are full sisters, the third is a half sister, so their genetic background is very similar.

Douglas Lake doesn t aim to produce show or trail riding horses; instead it requires true working ranch horses. Youngsters are started with this in mind. At around 10 months they are halter broke, having about five days of work put on them. Daily they re caught, their feet worked with, and put in the barn. At this age they re also wormed, branded, have their wolf teeth removed and gelded if colts. Then they re put back into pasture and left until they re long yearlings, when they ll be wormed again and have their feet trimmed if necessary.

In August of their two-year-old year, the youngsters are started under saddle, each getting about five rides. The horses selected for The Mane Event do not receive this under-saddle work, but instead are kept out in pasture. We don t do anything special with these three horses, Stan explains. We don t bring them up by the barn, or put extra time on them. So their trip to The Mane Event can be quite a culture shock. Some spectators want to come pet them and feed them horse cookies, but they need to remember these horses aren t used to that lifestyle.

People often wonder what happens to the young horses that are started during the Trainer s Challenge. Stan says emphatically, that the ranch has been pleased with the youngsters when they return. We appreciate that The Mane Event selects good trainers for the competition, Stan says. In all our years at The Mane Event we ve only had one horse that we thought we needed to do more work with as a two-year-old. Otherwise they ve fit right in with the rest of the group. The two-year-olds go into individual cowboys strings, where they are lightly ridden as three-and four-year- olds, and then put into full-time work. .

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