Skye Liikanen is still beaming. The Queenslander recently completed “every little girl’s horsey dream” in taking out The Way Of The Horse (TWOTH) at EQUITANA Melbourne. Partnered with three-year-old Dylanglen Maya, Skye wowed a panel of respected equestrians when showcasing what she’d achieved with the filly after spending just 60 minutes a day with her over the course of the four-day event at the Melbourne Showgrounds.
“It’s beyond anything I could ever have imagined for myself. I still can’t stop smiling,” says Skye. “I have a photo of myself with Dan Steers and Dan James at EQUITANA in 2011. That was the first time I got to meet them, and I remember thinking, ‘I want be here one day, doing what they do’. To actually have that dream come true is pretty cool, especially to have Dan Steers – who I’ve now worked and trained with – saying, ‘You’ve got this’, it’s pretty cool.”
Beginning in 2005, TWOTH was created to demonstrate a kinder and more caring way to start a young horse and to showcase the training skills of our homegrown horsemen and women. This year, the horses were three-year-old Connemara cross fillies from Dylanglen Connemara Stud in Rand, NSW. After choosing their unstarted horse from a selection trucked directly from the paddock to the venue, this year’s three contestants – Skye, Steph Lancefield and Hayley Hinton – worked simultaneously in separate round pens, giving the public a unique opportunity to compare starting methods and training styles over the four days. The event culminated with a 15-minute showcase, where the judges awarded individual points for techniques used to determine the winner.
Skye recalls when she first laid eyes on Maya in the herd of three-year-olds: “She had to be separated out the back from her buddies, because they were picking on her. She was behind the fence, pacing. When they brought them out into the round yard, she didn’t like being left behind… she was running around calling out.” Skye says she knew the filly would be a challenge – certainly not the easiest in the bunch – but she was drawn to her.
A SENSITIVE TYPE
“I knew I had to make a connection nice and early. She’s a very sensitive type. I started on the ground just trying to catch her eye and draw her to me. Her connection to the other horses was quite strong, and I felt like I was getting in a bit of a ‘come to me, leave, come to me, leave’ cycle. Roping isn’t something that I would go to straight away, but what it allowed me to do was get my hands on her and find that little sweet, scratchy spot on her and let her know that I’m actually, ‘I’m your next friend in life’. Once that happened, that’s where I felt her personality really started to come out. She was starting to look for me, which was pretty cool.”