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June 16, 2017: Trail Clinic, Day

Off to a great start on this three-day clinic. 10 riders signed up for the trails class and 10 signed up for the equitation class. Susan got back from Seward late last night, and the clinic started so we didn’t have much time to prepare for her trail class. I didn’t panic, instead I kept reminding myself she’d been doing clinics for many, many years and if need be, would be able to pull a rabbit out of her hat.

So at 8:30 a.m., I gave her obstacle-related input by presenting her with a list of things that I thought good trail horses should be able to do, by writing out my ideas on paper and putting them in question form. Some included, will your

horse cross a bridge? Will your horse go under an overhanging? Will your horse walk through strange stuff? In doing this I drew upon Vanessa Bee’s Over, Under, Through: Obstacles for Horses book. Corresponding obstacles thus included (among others) a bridge, noodles held aloft by two on each side of the rider, and a scary corner.

My final list included twenty or so questions. Susan wisely whittled it down to just a few. I had hoped to include the bridge and teeter totter in the first day’s activities, but this was not to be because Gregory (the owner of Saddle Up arena) hadn’t yet moved them into the outdoor arena from the. So with my assistance, yesterday, he and I moved them outside with the tractor and chains. This alone was quite the production.

A few of the riders assisted me in taking apart the adjacent panel. Gregory hooked the bridge, with chains, to the tractor and went to raise the tractor bed. The first group of riders, who were on their horses, stood and watched as the chain slipped and the bridge hit the ground, hard.

Susan, seeing that getting the bridge alone into the arena would take time away from the lesson, instead suggested that we wait on the bridge and teeter totter. I was initially disappointed. I later concluded that I was off Center and speculated that it’s easier to be on center when things are going good, but harder to be on center when things going bad.

As it turned out, there were enough obstacles in place, so the lesson went as planned. Two groups of four and one group of three successfully dealt with going over poles, going through the noodles on the saw horse, and walking around cones.

This was way fun to watch. I liked it how Susan asked the riders to put what might ordinarily be commands into request form – for instance, rather than ordering a horse to walk over a pole, she suggested that the rider ask the horse to walk over the pole, as in “Will you now walk over this pole?”

Getting the course together was a lot of work, but it was well worth the effort. I learned as much as the riders did.

Next: 164. 6/17/17: Second Day of Clinic #Two

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