Midwest Horse Fair 2014 - 1 of 2

Another Horse Fair has come and gone. We typically spend three days trying to soak it all in, and this year was no exception. It was enjoyable, and productive! We get odd looks when we tell people we attend the fair all three days. On the other hand, I think it's odd how many horse people don't attend at all. Where else can you choose between eight different learning opportunities all at the same time, almost every single hour, from 8-5:30, shop until you drop, see barns full of different horse breeds with their people, visit with familiar faces, and then be entertained at an evening rodeo/show? 

The Fair was not crowded compared to years past, with Saturday being the busiest day. It changes every year. Friday was sunny, warm and beautiful spring weather! Saturday was not as warm but still pleasant, altho it rained for a short time while we were inside buildings. Sunny one minute, cloudy the next. Mother Nature gave us cooler weather on Sunday, but nothing bad. Forecasted storms didn't hit our area until Sunday night. We never did get wet! 

Saturday was the only day parking spread into the back 40.
The Colisium is the big round building that hosts the main events.
You can see some support building & barns between it and the sea of vehicles.
These support structures are getting torn down
and rebuilt in time for the September World Dairy Expo.

Equine Affair (in Ohio) was held the same weekend due to Easter being so late, and likely affected attendance. The EHV-1 outbreak didn't help either. Entire breeds chose not to attend, and I don't blame them. It was sad to see so many empty stalls, and most that did bring horses had plastic covering any open bars to stop people from petting and horses interacting. 

Pet Me Please

Below are the presentations that we attended in their entirety, and a brief review. We did see parts of several other presentations. Plans of action always change, and you learn to take in what you can. We never did end up seeing any Chris Cox clinics. 

• Dan James (Double Dan) "Fundamentals to Riding Bridle-less & Bareback" 
No worries mate, I don't plan on riding bridle-less any time soon! At the last minute we found out Koda's half brother (and Nemo's once removed) was participating in this clinic. He looks & acts nothing like Koda, and resembles Nemo in many ways. 

(out of Koda's Dam & Nemo's Grand Dam)

Altho the information presented was good, and Dan James is always fun to learn from, he had three local riders participating and only enough time to work one-on-one with a more advanced rider. The other two participants warmed up (and warmed up and warmed up) and got as far as bareback in the general arena area (vs round pen with Dan). 

Much of the instruction done in the round pen revolved around getting the horse to stop, and progressed to turning into the fence, with increased gaits. First with a bridle, then no bridle contact, bridle-less using a neck rope, and eventually with body cues only using hands as an aid.

• Ken McNabb "Overcoming Spooky Obstacles"
Ken landed on the bottom side of a horse several days before Fair, and therefore did very limited riding. His apprentices rode in the presentations, while he coached. He doesn't script polished clinics, instead works the subject with whatever issues surface. They are full of practical horsemanship, and infused with ranch stories that bring the point home. 

I tried to tweet some key points that resonated with me, but it was impossible to keep up. It was also distracting, so I only noted and sent a few (found in blue quotations). 

The local horse that was used, was a whooole lot of horse! The apprentice that rode him did a fantastic job. They started with ground work, close to the handler - his message "the horse you lead is the horse you ride"Ken began spooking (aka desensitizing) from the ground while talking the rider through it, and then added the dreaded white plastic bag(s). He had the rider face the horse up to scary objects, and give release & reward the smallest of positive efforts. They progressed to crossing a wooden bridge, where Ken had the crowd in stitches. 

His coaching continued "if you do not commit to your horse, don't be surprised if they don't commit to you". This was my favorite presentation of his from the weekend. 

• Ken McNabb "Demystifying the Flying Lead Change" 
Different apprentice, different horse. A newer apprentice rode one of their ranch horses who had never been cued to do a flying lead change. Much of this presentation was spent getting the horse & rider working together, and the horse to slooow down and not race around the arena. "the faster a horse moves their feet the slower you move your hands"

To cue a flying lead change, Ken suggests a slight shift sideways from the waist up only. He used someone from the audience to drive his point home. He had them shift their weight over to one leg and then asked him to lift that leg. Obviously he couldn't lift his leg with weight shifted on it, the point was riders can get in their horses way - and a slight shift is plenty. 

Once Ken got the rider going on the rail at a counter canter, he asked him to shift, lift his outside rein "everything that's pretty happens with the outside rein" and cue with the outside leg - on the straight side of the rail. 

I've watched flying lead change presentations before, and they are not only tough to follow but apparently tough to coach "your horses attention span is 1/10th of a second longer then yours". The apprentice did eventually get the horse to change leads, altho not always from cue. He was a good sport, and clearly Ken has great rapport with his apprentices. Ken rode the last few minutes of the clinic, and got a couple more changes cued on the fly "lead change happens in the hind end you see it in the front end". 

• Ken McNabb "Developing Lateral Movement Using Hands, Seat & Legs"
Ken chose to ride this clinic, my guess is because he used the "whole lotta" local horse from the spooky obstacle clinic. That horse was ready to come unglued in the new big white tent arena, over any and every thing. Much of the time was spent getting the horse to be present. Ken doesn't do much groundwork. I noticed what he does, is all done very close about an arm with reins distance away. 

He got the horse to pay attention to him and moving off his leg pretty good. Near the end of the presentation, the horse lost his mind (apparently some kids jumped off the end bleachers) and caught Ken by surprise. It almost bucked him off! 

We got an unplanned lesson on what to do when the bit slips out of your horses mouth in a heated moment...he used the rein, calling it "the cowboy way". He got the horse to stop bucking and crow hopping, and his mind back, before getting off to try and fix the bit. Eventually he was able to, and yes - got back on. Altho the audience was sitting on pins & needles, Ken kept calm and worked through a tough situation. This was surely not what he thought about covering in this presentation.

• Dan James "Long Reining & Lungie Bungie Fundamentals"
I am really interested in learning more about long reining, and have only done it once many years ago while warming up for a special driving lesson on a seasoned horse. 

This time Dan coached one local clinic participant, who recruited her daughter to help demo so she could learn the feel before long reining Dan's horse Swampy. Meanwhile Dan's apprentice worked with the clinic participants horse, who had never been on a long line.

I learned you start by using the rings higher up on the surcingle on new horses, and was reminded the stop is on the outside rein. They used a one "rein" bungie (so it has give) before moving onto two lines. They were working the local horse on the far end of the arena, and I was watching the participant work Swampy in front of us. I didn't catch as much as I would have liked on teaching a new horse to long rein. 

Learning how a horse feels long line cues, blind folded.  

• Ken McNabb "It's all about the Fun"
This was an interesting clinic, and not what I would have expected from the title. Ken had two apprentices working horses, the "Flying Lead Change duo" and another doing ground work.

The horse being ridden had been rounding and dropping it's front end at every stop during the Lead Change clinic. Ken worked on helping the rider fix that by coaching him to hold the horse, driving him more into the bit instead of just letting him drop down. The third and last vet I consulted on Koda's sore hocks returned my call, so I missed a good chunk of this part of the clinc.

The gal doing the ground work, started with a halter & lead and eventually worked up to liberty. All the groundwork was again done very close to the handler, I would call them quick short asks. While at liberty the horse would get distracted, and run off to be by the other horse. It was their first time in front of a crowd. Ken took over (because the apprentice had a knee injury) and worked the horse using the entire arena, talking through what he was doing by giving the horse a chance to find the right answer. It found it, by walking back to it's handler. First with Ken, and then when sent back to the apprentice. They briefly re-started the horse using the halter, and went back to liberty when the horse was tuned into them. The handler would snap her fingers, and the horse would turn on the forehands and side step closer to her - impressive!

We were enjoying ourselves at Fair, but tired after three days and opted to skip out watching the last late afternoon presentation we had planned.

Stay tuned for Horse Fair post #2 to include a special purchase, and rodeo pictures!! 

Thanks for reading along!


Grey Horse Matters said...

Sounds like a fun time.

I like all your quotes in the blue especially "if you do not commit to your horse, don't be surprised if they don't commit to you"

Shirley said...

Thanks for sharing- I love to hear about all the different appriaches clinicians use. Lead changes are my nemesis- and will probably continue to be so, because I don't lope much any more- too hard on my back.

Sherry Sikstrom said...

sounds like a great show. I had the pleasure of attending a Dan James clinic last year. I got a lot out of it and would certainly go again

4RRanch said...

Wow, that's a lot to take in in 3 days. sounds fun.

aurora said...

I wish I could have noted more of what Ken said, Grey Horse. He shared a lot of great things to reflect on.

Shirley, the different approaches are interesting. You take some you leave some, and develop one's own.

I agree Sherry. Dan is a great horseman.

It was a lot 4R Ranch, but such is Fair - gotta take it in when it's available.