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Teaching moments around every corner

Published: 3/4/2009
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Why Outings are Cool

By Maddy B. Gray

horse trailers The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
That could be said for a whole day of clinic work, an afternoon trail ride, or a specific riding movement.
At my stage of horsemanship, it applies to just about everything!

With NickerNews' sponsorship of the Cabin Fever Clinic Series, I got to thinking of how beneficial cllnic days can be.
Clinics cram everything into one event, making it a fantastic learning occasion:
- the trip
- the company
- the expertise
- the venue
- and those unforeseen events (or unexpected learning opportunities), all wrapped into one day!

Just make sure you have time to grab something to eat and use the bathroom!

The Trip:
Trailer-loading and unloading used to be a huge stress for me and my horses. I got keyed up and, of horsetrailercourse, my horses would feed off my bad karma.
It didn’t help that I lacked the little tricks of the trade:
- tying quick release knots quickly
- backing up the trailer well
- assembling all my gear quickly and before I load the horses
- troubleshooting the process when working with uncooperative horses
- incorporating Valium and mimosas into the routine (just kidding here!)

Organization has never been my strength.
But the more I do it, the easier it becomes.
At least now, I have my check list in my head:
Water, water bucket, treats, hay, hay net, tack, lead line, rope halter, extra lead line and rope halter, lunch, change of boots, purse, water, thermos of tea, and more.
And I have my protocol:
Load everything into truck and trailer. Attach trailer to truck. Get horses all set (but not loaded). Get the stay-at-home horses all set. Load horses last.

The Company:
Good or Bad, it’s all Good.
We can learn what not to do from Bad examples and look up to the Better examples.
horses and ridersI always try to remember how easy it is to find faults and how hard it is to work perfectly myself.

At clinics, there is usually a range of abilities and a nice, interesting cast of characters.
What would you do if your horse consistently bolted through entryways?
Or shied away from jumps?
It might be easy for you and your horse, but was it always that way?
What if it were you handling that horse? Would you be the pillar of good horsemanship?
Seeing pairs work through struggles can reaffirm your own approach to horsemanship and help hone skills acquired along the way.

I like watching those better than me, too. Some great horseman are patient, insightful teachers, too. They might not be labeled "clinician" but they still might have tidbits to pass along.
Plus, It’s always great to have something to aspire to!

The Expertise:
chris lombard
It's one thing to watch a DVD and say, "ok, I get it."
It's another thing to have that "aha" moment with a trainer.
I have had several "aha" moments which have proved pivotal in working through some serious sticking points with my rescued quarterhorse.
Chris Lombard, for instance, has helped introduce excellent strategies for this aggressive but sweet mare.
Experts can help with specifics. And they can inspire with overall good horsemanship karma.
It's a successful clinic if you can take those strategies and repeat them successfully at home.

The Venue:
horse relax
This winter, I brought two horses to Pinelands' indoor arena. It was a first for all of us. Great experience. We discovered spooky corners and spooky twins (those would be my horses reflected in the mammoth mirrors on the walls).
Just like the visits to Andwemet Farm earlier in the year, it was a good experience because it was An Experience.
You can usually tell the horses who don't travel much -- they seem to be the ones hollering most, trying to get to know their new, temporary comrades. The veterans are more chill.
Yup, lots of new friends to meet and others to steer clear of.
In the name of learning more lessons, it's all good!

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"A canter is the cure for every evil" - Benjamin Disraeli, The Young Duke