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Turning tricks at the Mane Event

Niki Flundra expects two totally different types of people to attend her trick riding clinics at the October 2012 Mane Event. The first group will be those seriously interested in learning how to trick ride. The second type will be horse people who just want to try something new with their horse.

“You can gain benefits from trick riding even if you don’t go on to be a professional exhibitor,” Flundra says. “Anyone who learns to trick ride gains a better connection with their horse. Trick riding is 90 per cent good horsemanship, anyhow, and who doesn’t want to improve their horsemanship? You’ll learn to trust your horse in a different way, and you’ll learn to work together as a team.”

The majority of people attending Flundra’s trick riding clinics are eight to 21 years old, but Flundra has had participants of all ages. “Age isn’t an issue,” she says. “But riders should be active, fit and have some horse experience. A good older rider is going to find it easier to do tricks than a younger, but less experienced horseperson.”

Horses can be any breed, but should be quiet, well broke, non-spooky and safe in a busy arena atmosphere. “Your horse doesn’t have to be experienced in trick riding,” Flundra says. “But he needs to be the type that’s comfortable if you wave your hand from the saddle, or move into odd positions.” Flundra personally prefers Quarter Horses and looks for those that stand 15 to 15.2 hh, and are solidly built, level headed and quiet.

“I’m a big believer in giving my horses a variety of jobs,” Flundra says. “My husband and I live on a ranch at Pincher Creek, so my trick riding horses also do cow and ranch work. I think it’s good for a horse to be experienced in many different disciplines, even if they’ll never use those skills competitively.”

Flundra will be bringing five clinic-type trick riding saddles with her. “These saddles are essential for anyone wanting to try the sport,” she explains.

“Participants will need to bring their own saddle blanket, and their horse’s preferred bit and headstall. Riders will need comfortable, stretchy pants, a comfortable shirt that isn’t too baggy, and some type of shoe that can easily slip in and out of the straps. Riding boots won’t work for trick riding, but running shoes, or better yet, wrestling shoes, are ideal.”

Flundra also encourages riders to bring their own helmet, although they aren’t mandatory.

One of the most important things taught at Flundra’s clinics is safety. “If someone has an interest in trying trick riding, they need to first take lessons,” Flundra emphasises.

“It’s an exciting, daring sport that is a lot of fun, but no one should just jump on their horse and try it without assistance; that’s a good way to get hurt. We’ll start by working on tricks while the horse stands still, then I’ll lead riders at a walk.”

“I think spectators will find my clinics fun and interesting,” Flundra says. “And anyone that takes up the sport will gain a new relationship with their horse.”

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