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December 5, 2014: De spooking Clinic Troll

Five hours and forty-three minutes of daylight today. The daylight is going fast. I drove to the Saddle Up Arena out in the Butte, going both ways, in the dark. On the return trip I got stuck at the Buffalo Mine Road mailboxes – I pulled into the spot too soon – another car’s headlights were blinding, off the road, into the semi-slush I went. A really nice guy -- Chris, who lives on Murphy Road, pulled me out. A good thing because people were shooting off guns in the nearby target range.

It’s difficult, after a detail-filled day, to write about it. If I waited a few day I’d have an easier time of it. But if I did

Heather and Rio cross the plywood

that, I’d have far too many dispatches to write, and I’d never get caught up.

So today I attended a horse de-spooking clinic conducted by Bill Richie. He’s from Alabama, and his focus is on training the rider; this is why he calls what he does the confidence course. I waited far too long to sign up because I thought that at least the first day’s focus would be on de-spooking, doing groundwork the natural horsemanship way. I found out too late that this particular clinician focuses exclusively on work under saddle. I had to audit because we are so broke. A shame because Raudi would have liked being around the other horses, and as well, the obstacle work. In fact, she would have been a superstar.

I was initially glad to see so many people I knew present – Heather, Beth, Susan, Barb, Cathy, Jane, Kathleen, and Sarah – mostly competitive trail ride people. Early on, I was a bit concerned because most of the horses were feeling their oats. There was a whole lot of lunging and round penning going on. Made me think that these horses hadn’t (as ours have) had much trail time this winter. A real pity because the weather has been conducive to riding.

The clinic began with a slide show presentation on the subject of equitation – I paid close attention – I got it, finally – the outside rein controls speed and the inside rein controls direction. When sidepassing left, open the rein on the left side. Open the left leg. Close the right leg. Look where you are going. Displace seat bones to the left.

After, the 16 or so riders mounted up. A German shepherd named P.D. made his presence known, keeping horses moving and alerting them to his presence.

The riders then practiced walking and halting – hands low, weight in seat, and look up. I noticed that Heather’s horse Rio stopped repeatedly with his right foot back, indicating that there’s a balance issue going on here. Needs more body work. I pointed this out to G.O.B. (Good ol Boy) and he went and got on the horse – sans helmet. Not a good example. He then showed just how little it took to move Rio right or left.

After walking and halting, the group then practiced turning their horses – open rein in the direction you want to go – look where you are going – open leg in the direction you want to go in. Close other leg.

Lunch came next. The afternoon session began with sidepassing through poles – it’s most important to keep looking where you want to go – use less rein and more leg.

Next up was going through poles set in a square pattern with an opening. Then do this and step onto plywood. People that I thought wouldn’t have problems with this had problems. G.O.B. used the adage “make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult.” I could see, in going over the plywood, that the horses, in repeated movements, figured out that the plywood was safe. Head is up, don’t think that they can see this.

The grande finale was this – the horses had to go through, in and out, and around pink/orange signal smoke. It billowed out of the container, and then began to dissipate.

All the while, I tried hard to make myself useful – mainly by picking up manure – but I also held horses for riders as they mounted and carried their tack around for them

There were a lot of horses, so it took a long time to do each obstacle. If the clinic was half the size, twice as much would have been accomplished. And of course, the bad ass horses took up most of the time. Isn’t this the way it always is?

Looking forward to tomorrow – and even more so looking forward to trying to do some of this obstacle work here at home.

Next: 325. 12/6/14: De Spooking Clinic --- Day # 2 Animal Happiness