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Living her dream in Dacotah

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Many young girls dream of owning a horse, but Sarah Southwell’s dream was different: she wanted to be a horse trainer.

And now she’s living her dream, operating her own riding and boarding stable, Hi Point Horsemanship. Formerly Dacotah Performance Horses, the stable is located a half-mile south of the Trans-Canada Highway, west of St. Francois Xavier.

Southwell and her husband, Trevor Deeley, were living and working in Winnipeg in 2009, but Southwell was looking for a stable where she could begin to make her dream come true.

Originally from Claresholm, Alta., she’d grown up around horses and was an instructor at a riding stable near Winnipeg. When she first saw the facility in Dacotah, she knew ownership would involve a lot of hard work to make the improvements needed to turn it into a viable business.

"It didn’t even have fences — or proper ones anyway," she recalled.

The stable’s history includes a period where it served as an overflow site for the Assiniboia Downs. A half-mile track constructed back then can still be used.

The 28-year-old started by clearing out and cleaning the indoor arena that can be used throughout the year. Southwell said it’s pretty basic, but doesn’t have the problem with condensation that plagues other indoor riding arenas.

Another plus is the 15 horses boarded at her stable, and their dedicated owners who come out in all kinds of weather. Forty riders now take lessons, with some coming from as far away as Portage la Prairie and Ste. Anne.

Southwell’s expertise lies in horse training, and she’s now working with an assistant, Talon Phillips, who was named the 2011 Manitoba high school rodeo queen.

As well, she’s taking lessons from Shawn Seabrook, an accredited trainer who earned master certification from American Josh Lyons, acknowledged as one of the world’s top trainers. Seabrook has run clinics at the Dacotah facility for the past three years.

Equine first aid instructor Kari Hasselriis, from St. Francois Xavier, recently offered a clinic, and others have focused on nutrition, body alignment and equine massage.

"I think that education is really important. You can always improve on what you know," said Southwell.

She’s beginning to organize an intensive five-day clinic to be offered in fall of 2014 that will include a variety of useful information and techniques for horse owners. She wants to showcase many local experts in equine health.

Southwell is also committed to working to sustain the American Bashkir Curly breed.

Although the origin of this hardy breed is being investigated, she said their characteristic short backs, shallow nostrils, stronger hoof walls and bone density and thicker skin make them able to withstand cold weather more easily than other breeds.

However, it’s their hypoallergenic hair that makes them the first choice for many riders.

She has bred her Curly stallion, Prairie Pharoh, with paint and quarter horses, and the offspring have tested as hypoallergenic.

Most of the horses at her facility spend their days outdoors. With 30 acres, she’s able to rotate them on pasture, supplementing their grazing with a diet of hay and oats purchased from local farmers. Southwell believes that this outdoor life helps to keep them healthy.

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