Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Honest Horsemanship clinic

By useful coincidence, this clinic was on just across the river from us last weekend. Would have been rude not to go along and watch. Bob Reader was the clinician, he's the guy who used to be based in Northern France where a friend of mine sent her youngster for some training. He rides Western and does clinics to help people using western riding techniques to get a better understanding of their horse.

So the day started with him giving a quick demo with his horse to show just what you can achieve:

Yes, he has the big hat and frilly chaps, but he didn't seem to be selling us his "method" and a load of equipment/videos needed to do it and the stuff he says mostly made sense. So he started off getting his students into the school on the ground with the horses on long ropes. He had them lead them around a bit and then identified the ones who weren't "with" the handler and were doing their own thing. He showed them how to get the horse's attention by disengaging the quarters:
This horse, a Spanish cross I believe, really was not seeing his owner as a leader (and was mostly trying to mug her for an apple) and needed a bit of work, but he quickly reassessed the situation after a short sharp shock! He didn't hit him, just used his body language and a twirling rope to get the desired effect......after that, his owner took over and was able to move him quite easily:
Some of the others really struggled with the body language bit though, which is why I guess he teaches them the rope twirling.......After that, he had them leading with the horse behind them and stopping to see if the horse was paying attention and would stop too, pretty standard stuff - apart from if they didn't stop, he got the owners to back up into them kicking their feet out backwards, not to try and kick the horse (although the ones who really weren't paying attention and got too close to the handler managed to get kicked) but to show them they needed to keep their distance a little bit.

Next he told them all to jump up onto their horse's back. This resulted in some priceless expressions! He jumped up onto his little horse and showed them how.....

Then he took it step by step, as some of the horses weren't too keen on the idea either. He got them to jump up and down next to the horse, then he lifted them up for a bit, they gave the horses a rub to reassure them, then off again.
Next step, up again but plank along the horse's back, lots more rubbing and praise.
Then up again and sit up, rubs and scratches:
Some of the horses, like this palomino mare, were not happy about this at first:
Was very interesting to note that this rider was one of those having problems with the body language/control on the ground and how that followed on once she was on her back. The rider was tense and out of her comfort zone and so was the horse. But bit by bit they began to relax, Bob stayed with them as long as he needed to.

After a while, he let them go and everyone had to mount up and bend the horses one way and the other just using the rope and swinging it from one side to the other over the horse's head when they needed to change direction. The palomino still wasn't totally relaxed, but was getting better.
The bay, whose rider had nailed it on the ground, was good as gold:
We could see a lot of progress made in a short time. Some of them were even trotting bareback.
He left them to have a play with it for as long as they wanted, then we had a break for lunch. Sadly, not a two hour French affair, but we had stopped off at the new services on the M5 on the way to get some goodies for a picnic, boy did they have some gorgeous food. The wild boar sausage roll was great. They were also selling my brother's cider so we had to have some of that......

In the afternoon, they were allowed some tack. Most had western, but one horse was in a Pelham and 2 reins.......

Bob started with a quick lesson on western bits and bosals, then a technique to get the horse to respond to poll pressure, you squeeze the lump of bone at the top of the skull until the horse lowers its head.
Tried this on Sky earlier today and it did seem to be helping her release some tension.......

Anyway, they mounted up and started with a western style warm up. You slide your hand along one rein towards the horses head, leaning forwards as you do so, then take the rein out so the horse turns and bends, then sit back up. You do this on both sides a few times and it stretches the horse's back and gets them warmed up and supple.
Then he didn't give them too much time to think before getting them all trotting, moving with the horse, loose reins, no pulling, just opening the rein to turn. Before they knew it, he was getting them to canter and telling them to throw away the reins, the less confident ones were trying to hold on too much, but they all got there in the end.
(Discovered that the guy in this pic is French and lives down the road from me, who knew?)

Then he was working on getting the correct canter lead by pushing the quarters across before asking for the transition. Some of them weren't really getting this, so he got them playing with the reins and their leg aids to see if they could get the horses to move laterally in some way, I liked that he wasn't expecting them to do a specific movement, but just encouraging them to experiment.....
And yes, Bob reckons it's OK to cross the withers with the inside rein..... ;-)

So by the end of the day, people were really getting a sense of achievement and we could see the difference in some of them, even though they had a way to go. Well worth the £5 spectator fee. Also discovered they could transport my horses up there for the cost of the diesel, reckon we'll go and do a clinic or something one of these days. Would do Sky good I think!

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