The 31st Annual Horse Breeders and Owners Conference in Red Deer welcomed hundreds of horse enthusiasts for a weekend filled with fun and education. In the largest turn-out since the 25th anniversary in 2007, a total of over 660 people were onsite, hailing from all over Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. The exhibit hall hosted over 50 booths sponsored by equine businesses and organizations.

The weekend started off with the 7th annual Stable Owners’ Seminar on Friday afternoon and included four sessions specifically designed for stable owners. Topics on risk management, attracting clients and working with veterinarians were presented to a crowd of over 100 people by Christy Landwehr, Gary Millar, and Becky Taylor, respectively. The highly anticipated last session was a Q & A with three representatives from Strathcona County, Red Deer County, and Rocky View County.

Friday night’s “Open Barn” Welcome Reception was hosted by Pfizer Animal Health’s Equine Division and provided the first opportunity to see sponsor booths set up in the exhibition hall. Early bird draw prizes were distributed to the lucky winners and delegates entered additional bucket draw prizes. This year, the “Open Barn” Welcome Reception extended an invitation for the general public to experience a taste of what the event has to offer.

Saturday’s sessions began with Frank Merrill from Oklahoma, who spoke about preserving the future of the equine industry, sponsored by Alberta Equestrian Federation. After the coffee break, generously sponsored by Western Horse Review, delegates had the choice of attending a session on equine vision given by Dr. Lynne Sandmeyer, Christy Landwehr on marketing equine businesses and Dr. Matt Randall educating about acupuncture and other alternative therapies. Thank you to break-out session sponsor Farmfair International, who sponsored Dr. Randall’s session.

After the lunch break, Dr. Stephen Peters shared his knowledge about the horse’s brain and nervous system, Dr. Sharon Spier spoke on the controversial subject of cloning and a panel of industry experts, Ron Anderson, Shauna Cook, Frank Merrill and John Scott discussed today’s horse market. After a quick ten minute break, Dan James took the stage speaking about liberty training, Dr. Bob Coleman spoke about managing horses on pasture, and Dr. Saundra TenBroeck presented strategies to maximize financial return from broodmares. Thank you to break-out session sponsor Morand Industries Ltd. for sponsoring Dan James’ session. The last coffee break of the day was generously sponsored by Canadian Horse Journals.

The News Hour is the last session of the day on Saturday, and offers information on current issues in the horse industry. Dr. Darrell Dalton from the ABVMA updated the audience on a new emergency euthanasia initiative, Dr. Larry Frischke from Pfizer updated delegates on West Nile in the province, Floyd Mullaney from AFAC spoke about the new emergency livestock trailers, and Jackie Wepruk from NFACC spoke about the Equine Code of Practice.

Saturday night, sponsored by Horse Racing Alberta, offered live music by Matt Robertson, a host wine bar and cheese and dessert, and an equine sporting event. This year, delegates were encouraged to form syndicates and “bid” using chips on cardboard horses. The horses were made by the Appaloosa Horse Club of Canada, Canadian Sport Horse Association (Alberta Chapter), Canadian Warmblood Horse Breeders Association (Alberta Chapter), Horse Racing Alberta, and three were made by Horse Industry Association of Alberta and were worn by a Board Member, Dan James representing the speakers, and a first-time conference attendee. Ron Anderson read the pedigrees and Danny Willows provided his auctioneer services. Peter Fraser designed an extreme cowboy obstacle course for the “horses” to run. Syndicates who bought the lucky placing horses came away with prizes and everyone came away with a lot of laughs.

Dr. Stephen Peters took the stage again on Sunday morning and presented to a standing-room only audience. Running concurrent to Dr. Peter’s session was Dr. Bob Coleman speaking about body condition scoring and Dr. Joe Bertone educating about equine sleep. The sessions were followed by the final coffee break, sponsored by Horse Publications Group.

The very important Alberta SPCA Fred Pearce Memorial Lecture, dedicated to the welfare of the horse, was presented this year by Dr. Temple Grandin who spoke to a full room packed with hundreds of people. Dr. Grandin, who is Autistic, is well known for her extensive work on the design of handling facilities and for developing welfare guidelines for the livestock industry.

Following lunch, Dan James took the stage again and presented training techniques for re-education, Dr. Peter Physick-Sheard shared his expertise on cardiac rhythm disturbances and Dr. Michel Lévy spoke about neurologic diseases.

The Horse Industry Association of Alberta thanks everyone who attended and sponsored the event as well as the 20 presenters who brought their expertise and experience to Red Deer, Alberta.