Obstacles no match for horse training family

On the Farm: Broken ankle the latest setback for Roberta and Cain Quam, but they ‘would not trade it for anything’

KENDAL, Sask. — Obstacles have never stood in the way of success for the Quams and they’ve had their share of them.

Challenges for the horse-training couple have come in the form of economic fluctuations in the horse industry, a devastating fire in 2009, their oldest daughter’s serious horse accident and now COVID-19, paired with another major family injury.

“The personal growth the horses have offered me has been tough at times,” said Cain Quam, a well-known horse trainer currently on crutches due to a broken ankle acquired while training.

“But it’s also been amazing and I would not trade it for anything. “

Cain and his wife, Roberta, have worked tirelessly over the past 23 years to build a thriving horse-training business with a stellar reputation. They started Cain Quam Performance Horses from the ground in 1998, establishing an indoor riding arena where Cain has trained some of Canada’s best barrel, cutting and cow horse prospects in Western Canada.

Cain has earned many accolades both as a competitor, and as a trainer, some of which have included being reserve champion at the Canadian Cutting Horse Association finals in 2007 and winning the first-ever Canadian Western Agribition Colt Starting Challenge.

Roberta and Cain Quam at Cain Performance Horses near Kendal, Sask. | Christalee Froese photo

His wife and children too have reached the top competitive levels, competing at nationals in cutting and going to the world stage in cowboy mounted shooting.

While Roberta did not grow up around horses, she quickly became adept at anything equine-related after marrying Cain and raising their two daughters on the farm.

In 2004, she quit her government job to work alongside Cain full-time as he trained horses for clients, and she now gives lessons as well.

In 2012 the entire family, which included their two teenaged girls, Cheyenne and Jaelynn, took a leap into the competitive sport of cowboy mounted shooting and quickly rose to the world stage.

While Cain has a slew of titles to his name, he said one of his best days in the horse industry was watching his wife compete in their first cowboy mounted shooting event in Arizona.

“Roberta was in over her head against seasoned and accomplished competitors and she tried to back out,” said Cain. “I encouraged her — and even fibbed a little telling her she wouldn’t get her US$200 entry fee back — and against amazing odds, she stepped up and won her class.”

But with all of the success has also come some disastrous events. In 2009, a fire consumed the Quams’ entire training facility and all of their tack.

“I thought, ‘I’m done, I can’t do this again,’ ” said Cain. “We had a really successful business, but it took so much work to build it up and operate it, that I had often thought that if I had to do it all over again, I never would.”

But six months later, hope rose from the ashes in the form of a brand new heated barn and a 14,000-sq.-foot riding arena. The Quams credit the generosity of their community, the horse industry, friends and family, who collectively raised more than $35,000 for the rebuild.

Just when they were back on their feet, a serious accident occurred that found Cheyenne on the ground beneath a bucking young horse she was training in the family arena.

Cain and Roberta call the scene the worst of their lives, as they watched their daughter being airlifted out of their farmyard by STARS. Cheyenne broke several ribs and a lung had collapsed, but fortunately she completely recovered.

Quam broke his ankle while training horses. | Christalee Froese photo

For the last several years, with the Quam girls now moved away from home, Cain and Roberta have focused on teaching others to hone their riding skills.

Cain’s colt-starting and horsemanship clinics are some of the best in Western Canada, showcasing the cowboy’s hard-won wisdom to understand each horse and each rider.

Rider Gaylene Kaip from Radville, Sask., has been attending clinics at Quam Performance Horses for three decades and recently drove two hours to bring her 12-year-old granddaughter, Josie Sauter, to a three-day clinic.

“In 1990, I heard amazing reviews about this ‘horse whisperer’ named Cain Quam so I attended my first of many of his clinics,” said Kaip. “Now I’m taking my granddaughter to his clinics and I’m still learning new things.”

Gaylene’s daughter, and Josie’s mom, Renae Kaip said her young daughter’s personality has emerged thanks to Cain’s knowledge, patience and communication style.

“Josie came here with a lot of doubt and uncertainty and she was insecure on her horse but her confidence as a rider, and even just as a person, has just blossomed with Cain,” said Renae.

“The things that he sees in horses and people, and the way he connects with them and describes things, has just been a gift for her.”

COVID-19 has heavily impacted business and clinic sizes have had to be far smaller. With Cain still on crutches and infection having set into the surgery site of his injured ankle, keeping to a regular training schedule has been a challenge.

“I’ve always enjoyed so much support from my family, friends and customers and I’m so fortunate as it has made the tough times a lot easier during COVID.”

Cain and Roberta added that while COVID has been an enormous economic challenge, it has also created some opportunities for their business.

“There seems to be more interest in lessons and clinics and it’s pushed us to start building an online business.,” said Cain.

Roberta is also a life coach, combining her horse knowledge and her people skills into a powerful practice.

“The people that have come into my life because of this lifestyle are some of the most amazing people,” said Roberta.

“I consider most of our clients as friends first, clients second.”

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