Two Western Bay of Plenty horse trainers have come together to help teach valuable life and training skills to horse-mad teens.

The Mane Priority is a not-for-profit youth programme aimed at teaching compassion, empathy and respect.

The workshop is the brainchild of horse trainers Ellie Harrison from McLaren Falls and Bex Tasker from Katikati. It will offer the chance for horse-loving 12 to 18-year-olds to watch Harrison and Tasker perform tricks with horses while learning how kindness can get the best out of their horses.

Tasker said they wanted to create The Mane Priority, and future events like it, because they were passionate about the more profound benefits that came from it and it was an excellent way for young people to meet like-minded friends.


"As the teens learn the skills and self-awareness needed to train horses in a kind and respectful way, this naturally leads to discussions and new perspectives on key issues such as consent, positive self-image, bullying, self-confidence, and more," Tasker said.

She has spent most of her life training domestic animals of all descriptions, and believes this helped her be a better mum to her 4-year-old son.

"When training a horse, you cannot reward them for good behaviour, unless you first notice the good behaviour. So reward-based training is all about practising mindfulness and gratitude. In order to be good animal trainers, we have to train ourselves to notice and acknowledge the good things that are happening all around us. This naturally spills over into our wider lives and becomes a cornerstone habit."

Harrison said there were lots of opportunities for young people to take part in mainstream competitive events but "our vision is to create a place where they can focus on the foundations of their communication with their horses".

"This means that if they choose to continue into traditional competitive environments, they will have a happy and willing partnership with their horse."

The Mane Priority has been well received, with 13 teenagers registering in the first 24 hours. Prize sponsors and supporters have also come on board.

The event will be held at the Tauranga RDA on Sunday, September 16 and the next event is planned for later this year.

• Tickets are $25 and bookings are essential. For more details visit #themanepriority on Instagram or Facebook, or the Clicker Training website.