Mini horses, mega fun

Kids learn the ropes | Miniature horses small but mighty and a good way to learn control

SENLAC, Sask. — Smiles turned to alarm as a miniature horse bolted from the Senlac 4-H Achievement Day’s driving event on the sports grounds, squeezing between a ball diamond backstop and a parked car.

A handful of adults and 11-year-old driver Christopher Wiens got the runaway stopped in a ditch behind the spectators’ stand filled with family and friends. Five minutes and a few tears later, Wiens and his horse, Bailey, returned to the field with his mother, Miranda, in the cart.

“Learn to do by doing,” sometimes the hard way, is the motto for the 4-H program, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary in Canada this year.

Interviewed earlier this breezy May day while attaching the bridle, reins and child-sized cart, Wiens had conceded Bailey was a little finicky with the harness lately.

“He usually doesn’t mind,” he said.

Wiens, who grew up around horses of all sizes, also participates in a light horse project as a member of the Senlac 4-H Multiple Club.

He expects to tackle the driving project again next year and encouraged others to give it a try.

“I’d say to do it ’cause it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Despite the breakaway, Wiens held onto second place behind William Ganser, 12. That result was reversed in the showmanship and grooming event.

Miranda Wiens said judges have a lot to look for in the driving event.

“You’re judged on how nice you are harnessed, how you sit in the cart, how you hold yourself and how it’s rigged,” she said.

Ganser said a win in the light horse walk-trot event moments earlier probably helped boost his confidence going into the driving event with his horse, Chip.

“I wouldn’t let the horse take off, used my voice and had a steady rein,” he said.

Ganser called miniatures small but mighty.

“They’re built strong. A 200 pound man in a cart can be pulled,” he said.

“They’ll go through 10 foot snow drifts if they have to. If they have their hearts to it, they’ll do it.”

He said each one also has its own personality.

“My horse has attitude. His older brother is completely calm.”

Members get together each week to learn how to train, groom and control their horses and attend clinics.

Ganser said training includes talking, petting, resting and rewarding.

“Mainly you have to trust the horse and it has to trust you,” he said.

Project leaders Debbie Ganser and Gordon Krupka guide the horse and cart at first while members hold the reins and the horse learns voice commands.

“If your ground work and manners are learned first, it makes it a lot easier later on. You eliminate a lot of problems,” said Krupka.

“They have to respect the handler’s space or they can step on your toes.”

Miniatures are a good fit with younger 4-Hers.

“It’s easier to learn on these little guys. It’s a good entry,” he said.

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