Nestled on an 80-acre lot 20 minutes south of Sylvan Lake could be the best horse trainer of Central Alberta.
Samantha Humphreys, who is originally from Ontario, is vying for the honour of being touted as Trainer of the Year with nine other horse trainer hopefuls from across Western Canada.
Horse trainers will be arriving and stabling their horses at the Fort Macleod Midnight Stadium for the Rocking Heart Ranch Colt Starting Challenge come Sept. 16.
“Rocking Heart Ranch has a very nice quarter horse breeding program in Waterton, so what they do with their two- and three-year-olds to promote their breeding program, the quality of horses and to get them all trained, is host a 60-day horse training challenge,” said Humphreys.
Horse trainers have the chance to apply through an application process, which involves showing a short video for judges to see how the trainer is with horses. The top 10 trainers are then picked to be part of the Rocking Heart Ranch Colt Starting Challenge.
The trainers started their journey to win the contest June 24 when they randomly selected their horses at the ranch and loaded them into their horse trailer.
“The horse is right out of their ranch horse breeding program, so we have from the day we pick them up to the day of the challenge to do as much as we can with them, and then we take them back on Sept. 16 and we show off a little bit.”
There will be a routine each trainer has to complete on their horse, to which they will be judged on how well their horse performs those maneuvers.
Humphreys drew a horse named Doc, and has been working with him at her new farm since June.
She said all the horses for the challenge are handled as minimally as possible so that all the trainers are given an even playing field.
“He was a little more on the unsure side. He wasn’t scared, he was just unsure of people because they haven’t been handled much, so it’s taken a little bit of time to get that foundation there, and now that he’s under saddle he’s doing really well.”
The only thing the horse knows before they go off with their trainers is how to be led around with a halter around their head.
“We have to do everything from teaching them how to pick up their feet so that the farrier can trim their feet and get them used to wearing a saddle as they’ve never seen a saddle or worn one before.
“They’ve never had a rider on their backs, so you go through the exercises to get them used to carrying a rider, and then it gets a little more particular after that because then you actually have to teach them, ‘move this foot over there and back up and go forward’,” she said.
Humphreys passion for horses started when she was 12-years-old.
She had bugged her parents enough that they finally agreed to pay for a few horseback riding lessons for her.
After that, the rest was history, with many more lessons that ensued after that first one. She said she wanted horseback riding to be more than just a hobby.
“I always wanted it to be that big part of my life that was going to help bring money in as a career.”
Humphreys later began entering into competitions when she lived in Ontario, and did very well.
She then took her love of horses a step further, making an education of it taking the equine science program at Olds College. She also double majored with western horsemanship and went back for a third year for western coaching.
“I have all my certifications to coach beginners and started to work on my license and certification for competitions as well,” she said.
Having done a bit of everything in the horse world from jumping to barrel racing to mounted archery, this won’t be Humphreys’ first challenge with Rocking Heart Ranch.
When she finished up her program at Olds, her instructor at the time brought in an example application for the students. That was in 2014. “At that time I didn’t quite think I was ready, so I went and worked for a couple trainers and worked with a few horses,” she said.
It was in 2015 that Humphreys buckled down and completed her first challenge with Rocking Heart, and ended up coming in third with the horse she had.
Flash forward to 2017, Humphreys now has her own facility, offers training, teaches lessons and of course is riding herself.
The training portion of her business is Dreamscape Horsemanship and the ranch is Wolf Hollow Ranch.
When it comes to the sport, she said she likes the horses themselves as an animal in general. She said with different breeds that are bred to do different things, the animal as a whole is very trainable.
From the training side of it, she said she likes to feel the change in the horse, whether she’s on them or just doing groundwork, and the same goes for when she’s teaching lessons, seeing that change in the riders.
Humphreys will head to the Fort Macleod Midnight Stadium Sept. 16 with nine other trainers from across the province, where one person will take home the title of Top Trainer, $2,500 and some bragging rights.
The Challenge begins at 1 p.m. and is free to the public to attend.
It includes a variety of activities, and there will be a sale, which will have all of the challenge horses plus a few other horses from the Rocking Heart Ranch herd.