Strathmore’s Jim Anderson takes wild card berth at 2014 Road to the Horse
From: Calgary Sun
By: Michael Platt
Some might say Jim Anderson has a horseshoe where his pants meet the saddle — but it’s what the Strathmore man can do with the four hooves on the ground that has the equine world buzzing.
They’re calling Anderson’s accomplishment the Cinderella story of horse training: an underdog, who fought for a chance to challenge the best on the planet, ends up with the world title.
“The best in the world? Yeah, I guess it’s fair to say that now,” said Anderson — and you can almost hear the soft-spoken 38-year-old blushing over the phone.
In Hollywood, they call what he does “horse whispering,” but the Pincher Creek-raised ranch kid says that’s strictly a term for the script writers.
What he calls it is training, and it means reading a untouched horse, and deciding how to coax and press a wild animal into doing exactly what you ask it.
And yes, thanks to his newly won title as Road to the Horse champion, Alberta is suddenly home to the best horse whisperer/clinician/trainer in the world.
Whatever you call him, it’s the kind of story Hollywood loves.
Anderson wasn’t even guaranteed a place in the 2014 Road to the Horse contest, being one of eight wild card competitors battling for a chance to enter the world championship of colt starting.
In what’s been described as a talent show for up-and-coming trainers, the wild card contestants had a daunting task, and only one would go on to compete with the world’s best.
Each had one year to train a specially selected wild horse, and then, prior to the main contest in Lexington, Ky., they were given a chance to prove their equine’s ability.
Anderson, who’s already shown his skills as repeat champion of the Calgary Stampede’s Cowboy Up Challenge, took his year-long project, a colt named Maverick, straight to the podium.
“Maverick and I have a really good relationship, and I was pretty confident in my horse — but nevertheless we were facing some of best people in the world, so I knew it would be a challenge,” said Anderson.
“Then we won the wild card. Going on from there, I felt pretty nervous at first.”
The horses and riders are given a series of obstacles and tests proving control and precision — and in the final, they have just three hours over three days to transform an untouched horse.
“Some are more sensitive, some are bold and pushy — the horse I got was confident and bold,” said Anderson.
For added pressure, trainers have to do all their work in front of a packed audience, complete with noise and distractions, before taking the horse through the final obstacle course.