As I write this article I’m about half way through my annual travel for horse fairs and promoting our camps in South Dakota and Arizona. This year has been a bit different in that I started the season by participating in the Equine Affair in Columbus, Ohio. I was asked to be one of the clinicians and got to do five different clinics focused on horsemanship, trail riding and traveling with horses. I had a fantastic time and really enjoyed the chance to help the participants and their horses. I also had some time to observe some other clinicians present their topics and found them to be very informative.
In the past I’ve claimed to know nothing about horses and I’m always learning from the horses I get to work with. I’m always able to learn from other horsemen, too. Now is no different.
While reflecting on my experience in Ohio I keep going back to questions I got prior to going to the event. Several folks asked me what I was going to talk about in my clinics. I had five topics for programs that ranged from forty five minutes to an hour and a half. For those of you that know me, talking about horses and horsemanship for that amount of time is no problem. My answer for those questions was always the same. The horses in the clinic will tell me what we need to work on and what I need to talk about. You know what? They did a great job and gave me plenty of things to work on.
For the two programs that were question and answer forums I had no problem using all of the time allowed because the folks in the stands had more than enough issues to visit about and in the end helped me cover a myriad of concerns.
In the trail riding clinic I had six participants and their horses join me on a trail ride. The arena was setup with several obstacles. We started out just like I do at our camps with everyone gathering together and introducing themselves while our horses are standing still and quiet. That was good so we started off on our ride. Not far into the ride we encountered a water crossing, and like our camp in South Dakota we had to get busy helping one of our guests get across a raging stream. Oh, I just told you we were in an arena, didn’t I? Well, maybe it was a blue tarp, yea, that’s what it was, a blue tarp. Anyway it seemed like a raging stream to the horse that didn’t want to cross. I coached the rider and after a while she and I decided to see if I could help her horse get across that stream and with a little direction from me he crossed with flying colors.
Next up I had a young man ask about his mare and what he should do to get her through some poles that we placed very close together. He worked through the issue and before you know it he was carrying one of the poles around and placing it in different locations all over the arena.
It was fun seeing everyone and their horses make their way around the arena and how they improved just by getting out and trying something new.
Another clinic focused on saddling and bridling the horses in the arena while being out in the middle and not tied to anything. In this program I was fortunate to have a participant that had a little gelding that didn’t want to be bridled. He presented a number of issues for me to help his owner with. This pony had a real problem with the bridle and therefore had center stage for most of the hour. Most of what he was telling me was he didn’t like the way he had been handled and that he was happy to be left alone. I had observed his owner remove the bridle earlier in the clinic and he had good reason to object to the process because it wasn’t done correctly and was hurting his mouth. I worked on getting him to give me his face and after doing so I was able to convince him that I wasn’t going to hurt his ears, his face or his mouth. By the time I was done he would give me his head and he opened his mouth and let me bridle him easily. While I worked with him on bridling I repeated the process several times so he could have a good experience several times. It’s rewarding to know that I was able to help the horse and his owner with a very important skill.
In another clinic I had the participants train their horses to hobble and to tie to a highline and we also worked on trailer loading. Hobbling the horses went very well, just like it always does. I’m glad that it did because so many folks don’t try to learn the process and don’t train their horses to hobble because of lots of misinformation and unjustified fear. It’s an easy process and is a great tool for horse and rider to have in their tool box.
Remember the little gelding I talked about earlier? I love that guy… he helped me with the clinic again. I got to the trailer loading segment of the clinic and that little dun didn’t want to load quite like he should. It really seemed like he wanted to be a student that day and that was fine with me. I knew the horses in the clinic would help me that day and they did a GREAT job. In the trailer loading section I was able to demonstrate a method that has worked for me every time and once again it didn’t fail me or my student. It involves 2 people starting out about 10 feet behind the horse with a long rope. They “animate” the rope, creating gentle waves and most of the time the horse wants to move away from the rope and will step into the trailer. Sometimes the rope “animators” have to move closer and get a little more rambunctious to get the desired reaction. When I put the practice to work my little buddy figured out the trailer was a great place to be. We did this a couple of times and by the third time the two helpers just walked toward the rope and he was in the trailer!
During the clinics I spent a lot of time talking about the horse and how they’re our best teacher. We need to pay attention to what they’re telling us. In every instance at the arena the horse told me exactly what help they needed. They were the ones that identified the topic for the day and they gave clarity to what they needed to learn.
It was through the horse that I was able to identify the issue and topic that the horseman needed to work on and the skills that they were lacking. It was THE HORSE that was the teacher at the Equine Affair. I was the clinician in the program, and I’m very honored and humbled to have been a part of the event. Once again the horses I’ve been blessed to work with have made me a better person and horseman. IT’S THE HORSE that was the teacher and I was the messenger.
If we listen to the horse and pay attention to what they’re saying we’ll get closer to the level of horsemanship we all aspire to. “It’ll be Fine” when we listen to our horses and pay attention to what they want to know.
Doug and Jody Lindgren own and operate Hay Creek Ranch, Nemo, SD and HCR-AZ, Oracle, AZ. Both camps focus on guests vacationing with their own horses. Doug rides year-round, training horses to be great trail horses.
Visit www.haycreekranch.net for more information about both locations.
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 5