Watching the Horsemen’s Reunion at the Paso Robles Event Center is a bit like watching a 3-ring circus. Three round pens and two larger arenas are overflowing with horsemen and women and horses! Today the action was happening in the Hearst Equestrian Center, even though by day 3 of the 8-day event some seasoned spectators were anticipating that the action would have moved from round pens to the grandstand arena. My conversation with one experienced trainer and former Re-Union colt starter revealed that he felt there were a lot more “green entries” than past years. When asked if he was referring to the herd of 40 or so colts being started, he smiled and said, “Yeah, them too”.
For me the highlight and the most exciting part of the action was watching Cristobal Scarpati and his dad Oscar from Argentina (San Luis coincidently). The barefooted son and father worked with their assigned colts using “Doma India” or “Indian Taming Methods” from their tribal heritage. Watching someone who is barefooted while an anxious colt dances around puts me on the edge of my seat and brings back memories of my big old grey lesson horse, Chico, landing his front hoof directly on my booted foot when I was about 13 years old.
Ed Robertson, cutting horse trainer and Bobby Ingersoll, 3- time Snaffle Bit Futurity winner, did a great hackamore demonstration. Watching Ed, who despite feeling a bit under the weather, work his horse, was beautiful. Like riding on air and with the softness of contact coveted by many of us.
Kelly Barker and Russell Dilday’s commentary is always funny, light hearted and keeps the spectators informed and engaged. I was happy that there is still some lighthearted jabbing toward some of the celebrity trainers. Missing this year was Pat Parelli. Mentioning Parelli’s name around experienced horse people always brings a mixed reaction, so when Barker and Dilday jokingly referred to one of the horsemen who had not yet mounted his colt as Parelli-like, they earned a roar from the spectators, all in good fun I’m sure. I overheard some spectators who were disappointed that crowd favorites Chris Cox and Craig Cameron weren’t at this year’s event as well.
Horseman Trevor Carter worked with Martin Black and a colt with some issues striking out from the hind. A great session in teamwork, trust, balance and humor with Carter mounted on the colt and Martin supporting and coaching him over the public address system.
Amber Wiese, Horsemen’s Reunion staff person, told me that this year was off to a great start. They made some changes to the schedule including moving the horse sale to Saturday instead of the final day, Sunday, April 13. The reason is to give the new owners an opportunity to one-on-one work with their new colt and the horsemen that started them. These sessions are open to the spectators and run between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Watching the colts and the men and women working with them, it is hard to understand how anyone would think that 8 days of colt-starting results in a horse a novice could continue with successfully, but there are stories swirling of colts and naïve new owners that didn’t work out.
Perhaps giving the new owner’s one-on-one time with colt and horseman will help bridge the gap.
There are also success stories such as owner Ashley Dillard of Santa Margarita, a distance competitive trail rider and long-time horsewoman, whose now three year old from last year’s sale is get ready to head off to a professional trainer for the next steps in his training process.
According to Western Horsemen Review, in 2013 the highest sale price was $6,500 and the average sale price was $2,500 (oddly, the site shows the exact same data for 2013 and 2012).
Watching twenty of the premier horsemen and women from around the world work 40 colts over 8 days is a lot of fun with some great learning opportunities mixed in!