HONORA BAY—For the past three years in a row now, Honora Bay Riding Stable’s Kyla Jansen has booked world champion riding clinician Craig Johnson to come to Manitoulin to provide a high-end workshop, only to be thwarted the past two years by COVID-19 border restrictions.
“Here’s hoping three times a charm,” she said. “Craig is a 17-time NRAH (National Reining Horse Association) world champion in reining, ranch riding and working cow horse. He has so much experience and I still have a hard time getting my head around him coming here, to my little riding stable on Manitoulin Island. I had thought of trying to book him for years, but I always felt he was out of my league.”
But the answer to that conundrum isn’t all that hard to harness. “He told me that ‘your philosophy is the same as mine’,” Ms. Jansen explains. He said ‘I want to come to your barn.’ He is very down-to-earth. He concentrates on horsemanship. Obviously, showing is a big part of his life, but it is horsemanship before anything else.”
Ms. Jansen said that she is proud that those who have signed up for the three-day workshop are mainly her own Island clients and students, although a couple are coming in from off-Island, one all the way from London in southern Ontario.
Although Mr. Johnson stands at the pinnacle of elite clinicians in his field, Ms. Jansen said that he does not approach his students with an expectation that they are on an A-list track. “Some clinicians only want to teach those in the elite ranks, but he is not like that at all,” she said. “He understands that some people just want to become better riders, not necessarily so they can compete on the world stage.”
Although the cancellations over the past two years have led to some workshop attendees dropping out, the spaces quickly fill up again, despite the relatively high cost. “I want to keep it accessible for folks, but it is not a cheap option,” she admits. “The base cost is $900 and then there are stabling and horse care costs.” Even given that, there were only two spaces left on the roster as of last week (so those who are interested should not delay). “I am trying to give preference to people from the Island,” she said. “I want this experience to be for Manitoulin and Northern Ontario gets first chance. There are a number of people signed up from Sault Ste. Marie.”
Ms. Jansen said that she is looking forward to meeting Mr. Johnson in person. “I have never met him,” she said. “We know a lot of the same people, especially when I was training in Florida and Texas, but our paths have not crossed until now.”
Mr. Johnson operates the Rafter J Ranch of Shell Rock, Iowa, a fully working ranch where he raises and develops world class performance horses, trains a limited number of horses for the public, teaches lessons and conducts clinics all over the world—soon to include Manitoulin Island.
While Mr. Johnson continues to train and compete at the world-class level, his true “passion lies in teaching people how to bring out the best in their own horses. From recreational riders to fellow professionals,” his “tried and proven system, based on the discipline required and concepts of reining and ranch riding, will bring out the very best in a horse and rider,” notes his website.
Mr. Johnson has hosted over 400 clinics around the world on reining, ranch pleasure, cowboy dressage and general horsemanship. He has presented seminars and demonstrations at every major horse fair and equine event in the US, Europe and Australia. He also maintains a blog at www.craigjohnsonreining.com/blog.
His accolades include NRHA Million Dollar Rider, NRHA Derby champion, two-time NRHA Reining Futurity champion, NRHA Super Stakes champion, the aforementioned 17 times as World Champion in Reining, Ranch Riding and Working Cow Horse, over 40 NRHA Reining Futurity finalists, Team USA Gold Medal at the International Federation for Equestrian Sports Reining Competitions and four-time individual silver medalist at the US Equestrian Federation Reining competitions. For Island riders this spring will be very exciting times so book your calendars for May 22,23, and 24. Call 705-368-6032 or 705-368-6072 to see if there is still space available.