CALGARY — Fancy is a cutting horse more comfortable stepping around cattle than ducking under archways.
The 13-year-old Standardbred cross horse competed in Jeopardy Trail at the recent 4-H On Parade in Calgary with her rider, Jenna Beck of the Meadowbank 4-H Light Horse Club.
“The horse was scared of everything,” Beck said of Fancy’s performance in the ring that day.
Still, she said it’s important for the horse’s training “to do different things and not be skittish about it.”
The event involves coaxing the horse around and through obstacles such as hurdles, pool noodles, curtains, rods or lines on the arena floor and even a giant metal rooster.
Beck said the obstacles vary with every competition.
She takes a slow and easy ap-proach to training, beginning with introducing Fancy to these objects, letting her sniff them and gradually increasing the pace as the pair walk and then trot through the circuit of objects.
“It’s one of the hardest because horses don’t like stuff touching them,” said Beck.
Mary-Lynn Fraser, who volunteers as the club’s instructor coach, said these extreme trail classes show off what the horse can do.
She said riders must have an “amazing relationship” with their animals and never blame them for a bad outing.”
Training horse and rider is a progression that begins with the basics of horse care and anatomy, building from trotting and walking to more intricate patterns.
“The more you do with your horse, the more they can adapt,” Fraser said.
She mixes it up for her 4-Hers with roping, carrying pails with nails, dragging logs, jumping and playing games.
She also takes her kids on trail rides to provide an experience outside of riding arenas, where they typically train throughout the winter.
Citing the high cost and scarcity of arena rentals, Fraser said 4-Hers and their families have to be committed to this project.
Jenna’s mother, Lara, who serves as leader for the Meadowbank Light Horse Club, said considering and caring for the horse is key.
“We tell them it’s about the horse, making sure the horse is happy and healthy,” she said.