As a self-proclaimed horse fanatic, I jump at any opportunity to totally immerse myself in anything and everything horsey. So when I found out that I was going to the Ohio Equine Affaire for work, I was obviously ecstatic (Ah, the perks of my job!). For me, the Equine Affaire is a paradise, no, a Mecca! Four whole days of clinics, demonstrations and, of course, shopping!
When I arrived Friday afternoon, I made a beeline for Richard Winter’s clinic on working with a young, unbroken horse through his first saddling, mounting and riding. With pen and pad in hand, I began jotting down techniques and tips that I could bring back to HI readers. Here are some of the tips I gathered.
Before Winters thinks about getting on any horse, he sends the horse through the full range of motion on the longeline and assesses every step. He doesn’t get on until he is satisfied with all of the horse’s movements and transitions. “Get her busy doing productive things so she can’t do unproductive things,” he said about the black-and-white pinto mare he was working with.
When the mare gave Winters a tough time about standing still, he said, “if there’s nothing I can do to keep her still, there’s something I can do to make her move–make her go somewhere.” And when she didn’t respect the trainer’s personal space, he told her, “I can walk into your space and climb on you, but you can’t walk into my space and climb on me.”
After inhaling a very greasy, too-small $4 slice of cheese pizza, I settled in to watch a clinic with Tommy Garland: Is it me or the horse? Evaluating and developing a plan of action to deal with the disrespectful or misunderstood horse.
Garland is the man behind CPR Horsemanship–confidence, patience and respect. He employs baseball’s three strikes and you’re out rule. For instance, when asking a horse to whoa, he will give the command three times. If the horse doesn’t stop by the third request, Garland will make him stop with a quick jerk on the longeline, or with his riding aids if he’s in the saddle.
One of Garland’s mottos that I like is “it’s going to be ugly before you get it right.” So don’t expect perfection. It takes time and dedication to work through a horse’s issues.
Next on my agenda was Craig Cameron’s Extreme Cowboy Race. I really like this competition because anyone can participate, regardless of their skill level and what type of horse they have. You don’t need to be a superstar athlete or have a $1 million horse.
Another reason I enjoy the Extreme Cowboy Race is because Cameron really gets the audience involved and talks about each rider’s performance as they go through the obstacle course, which features poles, jumps, sliding stops, roping and more.
Later, I also got the chance to talk to Colleen Kelly, who is renowned for her lectures about rider biomechanics–how the rider’s position affects the horse. She says that riders need to continuously remind themselves to look up, keep their heels down and keep their chest up while they ride.
“The funniest little trick I’ve got to fix up the body so quick is to stand on one foot, put the other foot out in front of you, and clean your teeth,” says Kelly. “And you wouldn’t believe how it stabilizes the ankle, the leg, the butt and the body.”
I woke up bright and early Saturday morning to see Craig Cameron’s clinic: Fun, simple exercises for developing any horseman from a backyard rider to a pro.
One of the things he said that I think a lot of horse people forget about is, “the whole idea of horses and horsemanship is to have a good time.” When riders focus so much on getting everything right, they can become frustrated and lose sight of what life with horses is all about!
A couple of the horses in Cameron’s clinic were a little high-strung, so he asked their riders to trot on the rail. And they continued that for the entire session. “You can’t ride a fresh horse and do well,” Cameron said. If you have to spend an entire lesson just trotting until your horse calms down, then that’s OK.
All of these trainers had many more great techniques and good, common-sense advice that I just don’t have the room to include here. But, you can always visit their websites to learn more!
Craig Cameron: www.craigcameron.com
Colleen Kelly: www.colleenkelly.net
Richard Winters: www.wintersranch.com
Tommy Garland: www.tommygarland.com
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