What I strive to infuse in my horsemanship is listed below via tips and progressions that I noted as fast as my (very slow) texting fingers could enter in my handy-dandy new horse fair app. Some of these things I already do, but could do much better, other things were completely new. Have you ever tried laying a horse down? There were approaches with different twists to age old problems, that made me think.
What you can't see with my notes is the impeccable timing and soft handling. It wasn't doing the obstacles that was so impressive, it was the handling. I've never seen horses so in-tuned with their humans, and I've been fortunate to watch some accomplished horsemen at fair. The clinics below are all Jim Anderson's, his demeanor is described in my first fair post. For all these reasons and more, we chose to focus on his clinics this year. I'm thankful for the experience he shared. I may not be riding through a cowboy curtain anytime soon, but anything and everything encountered with a horse is an obstacle. It's useful to learn ways to approach the otherwise unapproachable.
I blocked my clinic note section off, feel free to scroll past for the rest of my review.
Going over Obstacles:
• send horse over obstacle vs leading
• have forward over tarp, horses can scare if tarp pulls back
• look for horse to find obstacle
• it's key to spend more time resting on obstacles
• rest should equal working time
• if horse shows resistance, allow them to leave
• put them to work so the obstacle is the release
Working Progression: 1st using a lead rope, 2nd loose loop around neck, 3rd at liberty
A question was asked about how to handle a horse that rushes out of a trailer. Jim suggested trying bridge work before trailer loading, and allow them to leave the trailer. All of the above tips apply to trailer loading.
COWBOY CHALLENGE ESSENTIALS
The beginning of this clinic reinforced the above, but was done under saddle.
• get horse to do lateral release & neck to drop
• horse should be leading with nose not ears, before working obstacles
• when the horse looks away/turns right, put them back to work left (opposite direction)
Jim likes to use tarps, and added in another horse.
• Bunch tarp to make thin
• Start behind shoulder and progressively increase tarp width
• Gradually move up and past shoulder, paying attending to horses comfort
• Progress backwards if they show signs of concern
Going through a Cowboy Curtain
• remove middle strands and gradually add them back in
• he loped as an exercise (not a punishment) and then used the curtain as the release
• always give the horse the option to leave if getting bored
• doing the obstacles should be the horses idea
• try backing up & ask again before going back to exercise
Another question from the audience was asked if he was "directing" the horse to the obstacles for release. Yes, when he lopes he uses 2oz pressure on outside 1/2oz pressure on inside, from his knee down.
DEVELOPING A SAFE ROPE HORSE
• get them to want to hold their feet
• if the horse is worried and wants to move their feet, stop and distract them by moving exercises and then restart where you left off
Working Progression: desensitize standing still, dragging rope in a circle, dragging straight, dallying, tossing
• rope out to side while standing still (side is from cinch out) progress to front of horse
• start dragging with nothing on rope in a circle
• straighten rope so it's following behind
• make sure rope touches butt, both directions
• if horse gets worried about rope while dragging, try going straight or stop and turn facing rope with slack to let them relax
• for dragging things, likes to start with a bunched tarp working closer with more increased active tarp
• if rope goes under tail, move hip to undo rope
• dallying is next, used a gator & tracked it at back angle/corner. If the horse wants to leave, put it to work/exercise so he finds the gator is the reward
• to start swinging (roped a muck bucket in back of gator) stop gator after toss as reward
Ponying: look for release spot, give pressure when ponied horse is in wrong spot
Laying Horse Down:
• start with head & neck lateral
• sets neck down with pressure cue on top of head
• rope around foot then belly
• tap & lift foot, bend head lateral to ask for crouch and release
• let it be their idea to lay down
• upon rising, he asks for a sit and the horse to wait on us and trust, before getting up
Jim shared that he believes a handler should be able to lay a horse down. Because laying down is the most vulnerable position in the wild. Once achieved, confidence in handler goes through the roof.
MASTERING THE SIDE PASS
• face the fence, side pass, side pass, release & reward
• get impulsion, both sides before loping
• make sure horse is with you, can't be behind you, drive horse up first
• use a fence at 90 degrees, because you can really tell if hinds & front match
• good for lope off, moves hips in a little at 45 degree
• horse should wait for cluck or kiss
• shoulders: look for the reach
Working Progression: walk, trot and lope
• starts head & neck to the inside first, watches for crossover
• head & hip pushed towards direction going (small circle)
• breakdown: hip, then head & neck, walk out and increase
• inside leg off once you have forward
• they should spin on there own
• need to have the back up solid
• pick hands up & add soft legs until they try a little harder/faster (fixes the stop)
• if they stop to one side, fixes by side passing to opposite side
• head up, do lateral neck work
• spin fixes the rollback
• build speed gradually so they stay with you, after consistent at slower speeds
Jim stressed that putting the horse to work is not punishment, they are exercises. There is an exercise to fix everything.
"Good horsemanship is when we relax, they relax"
A fair review wouldn't be complete without mentioning shopping! There are a ton of vendors, and many are repeat. It's a shopaholics dream. Vendors come from all over the US. We get what we need on Friday, try to avoid "cattle herding" on Saturdays, and revisit on Sunday's. Pricing is not created equally, and neither is quality. But there are sooo many, many gems and rare finds. You just gotta look before you buy, but don't wait to long or - poof - it will be gone!!
Our take home goods: Horseshoers Secret (year supply) for Nemo, fly spray, show sheen, new straw hat (for me!), new stirrups ordered (for Brad), bell boots for Koda, show fan hangers, stitched show halter for Cierra, and much to my hubby's demise and by far the most fun, I got to pick out Cierra's handmade show slinky (& matching tail bag)!!
I'm a sucker for anything metal, and struck a two-fer deal on Sunday - heehee! Doesn't hurt to ask, right?! think I've been watching a little too much American Pickers!?! I'm not a TV person, but that show draws me in. I scored a hanging hummingbird for our yard, and a horse bell for our new future place...because we will find a new place to bring our horses home, eventually...
Our not so goods: The person that was supposedly buying my saddle at fair didn't call, turns out my custom saddle wasn't ready early as hoped (I knew before fair) and the boot wraps we really needed to replace were overpriced everywhere, so we are ordering them online.
Midwest Horse Fair set an attendance record this year of 61,000 (23,000 Friday, 25,000 Saturday, 13,000 Sunday). The local economic impact is estimated at 8.5 million. I'm thrilled the horse industry is being fostered and get's to shine!! In our many travels to/from the truck I saw out of state attendee license plates from New York, Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. No doubt there were many other states represented. It's a good time to visit Wisconsin, altho be forewarned our spring weather is a crap shoot!
Basking in the afterglow of all things fair finds us reminiscing about the friends we caught up with, the vendors we look forward to visiting with every year, the woulda shoulda coulda but didn't, the purchases we have/will be putting to good use, and the clinicians who left a lasting impression.