2015 Mane Event Highlights

Trainer's Challenge Mane Event
2015 Trainers Challenge competitors TJ Clibborn, Kateri Cowley, Patrick King, and event commentator Hugh McLennan.

In its ninth year, the Mane Event at Red Deer, Alta., was once again a huge success. From April 24 to 26, the massive equine expo took over Westerner Park and, despite a spring snowfall, attracted thousands of equine fans to south-central Alberta. This season, crowds took in 280 exhibits and more than 100 hours of informative clinics, meant to entertain and educate equestrians of all disciplines.

Mane Event Trainer's Challenge
Aussie born TJ Clibborn of Wisconsin, showcasing his horse training skills during the Trainer’s Challenge Finals.

In the main round pen ring this year vying for the 2015 Trainer’s Challenge Championship title were Alberta’s Kateri Cowley, Pennsylvania’s Patrick King, and Aussie native TJ Clibborn. Throughout the three-day competition, each trainer was successful in saddling and riding, their two-year-olds were supplied by Ace of Clubs Quarter Horses. Despite a tight race, judges marked King as this year’s victorious champion following Sunday’s finals.

After being awarded his title, King commented that the last three days were a whole lot more challenging than what people had witnessed from the stands. This was his first trip up to Canada, and somehow his training gear was lost on his flight. King said when his saddle was finally found, it had a broken tree.

Thankfully, he said his fellow competitors, as well as the vendors at The Mane Event offered to provide any gear that he required to complete the competition.

Cowley, the lone Canadian cowgirl in the bunch, said being awarded an invitation to this competition was certainly a life-changing opportunity. Cowley explained that this event has offered her a chance to showcase that a girl can be a horse trainer and just as good as any cowboy.

Kateri Cowley - Alberta
Alberta’s Kateri Cowley, circling her two-year-old stud around the main arena during Sunday’s finale of the 2015 Trainer’s Challenge.

“Having that opportunity to be that role model for young girls is huge. I’ve had so many young girls come up to me and want to learn a little bit more about horse training. I hope that I can be a role model and an inspiration to everybody else. There are not a lot of women in this profession and everyone at the Mane Event has had really positive things to say about my training style.”

Patrick King, Trainer's Challenge, Mane Event
Pennsylvania’s Patrick King, illustrating his horse training abilities with the garrocha pole, aboard his filly Aliso.

Despite being a newcomer to this style of horsemanship competition, Cowley is already a celebrity horsewoman. Cowley was the 2009 Calgary Stampede Princess and in 2014, she was the first woman to win the Cowboy Up Challenge at the Calgary Stampede. She is a former student of the Olds College Equine Science program and now offers riding lessons. Cowley also performs on-screen stunts and has wrangled on TV shows; such as Extreme Frontiers Canada, Party Wright Around the World, Changing Reins, and CBC’s Heartland.

This year was her initiation to the Trainer’s Challenge competition and she said this event could be the start of a new journey for her. Cowley said she will never forget the feeling of having everyone cheering for her in the Red Deer arena and that this competition has certainly launched her career as a horse trainer to a whole different degree.

More Highlights: The Mane Event also introduced a new youth essay contest this year, and the winner was presented a filly from the Rocking Heart Ranch as the prize. Seventeen-year-old Naomi Akkermans of Red Deer was selected from among the 60 entries, which came from as far away as the Yukon, Nevada and Ontario.

“I was definitely shocked and surprised,” said Akkermans, when she heard her name called.

Mane Event, organizers Ron and Gail Barker, commented that they are already generating ideas to make the next year’s 10th anniversary of the event bigger and better than ever.

“We’re looking at several things,” said Gail Barker. “We’re considering going to four days, or perhaps adding a competition. We want to celebrate a decade of the Mane Event in Red Deer.”

The next Mane Event will be hosted in Chilliwack, B.C., October 23 to 25. For more information, check out their website at www.maneeventexpo.com

Mane Event
Katie Connelly of Onway, Alta., performing in the arena following Sunday’s Trainer’s Challenge finale, aboard her three-year-old steer Dozer.