By Anna Smith
Only 13 kilometres north of Elkwater, Rod Forsyth is offering a unique chance at the “Cowboy Experience.”
Forsyth has been a horse trainer for years now, but said that a hand injury last year got him thinking that he should consider trying to do more than just training horses.
“I’ve been training for quite a while. I bring my own horses that I train, but also train for clients. I’m kind of getting old, I get horses that are brought in that aren’t the friendliest horses, because they’ve had trouble with writing until they send them to me,” said Forsyth. “ I ended up hurting my hand, just as last year while riding a mule. But I mean, there’s other things I get hurt on, but it just made me start thinking maybe I should be doing something besides training horses, as I’m getting older.”
The idea for the Cowboy experience started while working with Karen Metz, the owner of Country Haven Stables, said Forsyth. The stable is primarily English Riding, with him being the only Western rider present.
“[Metz] has an AirBNB where they’ve been getting people from all over the world come in and stay, she has a really nice accommodations right in the arena, where you can where the AirBNB clients can just look out a window and see people riding in the arena, and it works really good for so she started offering the cowboy experience to them,” said Forsyth. “And that’s where I got started doing that, and then started really enjoying doing it.”
At the same time, Met had begun asking Forsyth to do Western lessons with children who were coming to the stables, further establishing what all would go into the “Cowboy Experience.”
Marketed as “not your average trail ride,” the Cowboy Experience begins with the fundamentals, instead of simply putting clients on a horse and instructing them to follow after the rider in front of them.
“We go over how a horse thinks, how horses understand gestures, how we can get a bond where we get the trust from the horse. And then once we have that trust, the horse calms down, the client calms down because they feel like that horse can be like a dog to them,” said Forsyth. “Dogs, you know, they’re so gentle, but a horse is so big and strong. As soon as they start acting like a dog, they calm down. We teach safety, which is very important, safety around the horse, picking their feet up, grooming, saddling, tacking up. And then once we’re on the horse, there’s a lot of different things we do with Western horses that we don’t necessarily do with English horses.”
The Western riding experience, aside from the different kinds of saddle used, offers some more versatile movements, such as going through water or backing the horse up, all part of the work Forsyth does while training horses. While this is his focus, Forsyth has worked to learn all he can about horses and different disciplines, from English riding to barrel racing and team roping, so that he can best understand the horses he works with.
“The first ride that they come in for is going to be a cowboy experience,” said Forsyth. “And then after that it’s going to vary for for various to all levels of how much experience that person has, they might already know a lot about how the horse thinks and stuff, but we will adjust it to however it’s going to fit.”
The Cowboy Experience is new, with only a few people having the chance so far to experience it, but the feedback Forsyth has received has been positive, and he’s looking forward to igniting the love of horses in more people, both from this corner of Alberta and further afield. He hopes to continue the experience far into the autumn, provided the weather holds.
Those interested are encouraged to reach out to him via text or call at 403-581-1435, or visit the Cowboy Experience FaceBook. No experience with riding is necessary.
“Make sure you will wear a boot with a heel. And if you’ve got a good helmet that you have for say biking, or snowboarding or whatever to wear it. I have helmets, but it’s always good for them to wear one that fits properly and everything and then bring a good attitude,” said Forsyth.