Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lesson Learned

I heard it from a friend who, heard it from friend who....

Once Upon an Equine sent me an email about a local horse trainer, Brent Winston, who was planning to have a winter workshop series. I signed up immediately. Brent asked us to send him information about our horses, and what issues we were having. I emailed him the following:

Here's a brief overview of the two horses. Maybe you'd have a suggestion of which one would benefit the most from the clinics:

The 'Go' guy:
8 years old
Carries his head too high, muscle on underside of neck is over developed
Unsure of having rider on his back - will 'see' me and startle, scooting his rear to the right
Has begun to lower his head at the walk when I ask
Responds nicely to backing with little pressure on the bit. His head is higher than I'd like, but not from resistance
Responds adequately to pressure for turn on forehand and haunches and sidepass, at least at standstill and walk
When asked to trot takes a while to settle into a slower trot, starts off quite fast - under saddle and on the longe line or in the round pen.
Carries his head high when trotting. I've been asking him to trot in a smaller circle to bring his speed and head down, then returning to the rail, circling again, etc.
I have only cantered this horse a few times. 

The 'Whoa' guy:
10 years old
Sometimes brings his head down really low to evade the bit, even though I try to use light contact or no contact
I sometimes find it hard to make this horse walk in a straight line - he drifts to one side, I'm thinking it is usually to the right. He won't respond to my legs or weight when I try to correct him.
Can do turns on haunches and turns on forehand. Can also do leg yields - but will sometimes decide he knows what I want and move, but doesn't necessarily move where or how I'm asking. He is slow to respond to my pressure
Will back, very slowly, without showing resistance
Seems to be very much on the forehand, especially when cantering. I feel like I'm on a freight train with poor brakes.

I loved Brent's response. He told me I could bring both, or I could bring whichever horse was causing me the most concern or the greatest problems when I rode, because he would be there to help me. What a smart guy. I knew, right then, that I was going to like this guy and enjoy the clinics. 

This past Saturday was the first session. I took both horses, knowing that I was going to work with Pippin (the 'go' guy.... in case you hadn't figured that out!) Doc came along for the experience of riding in the trailer and for a back-up... just in case I wasn't comfortable on Pippin. I apologize - I didn't get one single picture. Not one! I never took my phone out of my pocket. I was too busy - and to me, that means it was a great clinic! 

Brent began the clinic with the usual introductions. He did say that he would try to work with every horse during or right after the clinic. And, as he said, "Let's get started," he came over to 'borrow' Pippin. I knew, immediately, why he chose my guy. Pippin, despite our having worked on 'stand like a statue' was all over the place as we waited. He'd try to come visit me. I'd move him back. He'd decide to sniff his neighbor. I'd move him away. He'd walk forward. I'd back him up. I didn't want to distract everyone by being a little more insistent with my willful pony. Brent commented about my ADHD pony. He mentioned his philosophy of working with horses:
First you hint, then you ask, then you tell and finally you demand. So he said, "For example, I'm going to make a hint to Pippin," he said as he began to move his index finger back and forth in front of Pippin's nose, "that he back up." I think Brent was very, very surprised when Pippin backed up. Brent had to explain how he would have gone on to ask, tell or demand had Pippin not backed up. He asked Pippin to engage his hind quarters, which Pippin did, again, without more than Brent's hinting or asking. Then he lifted his hand, to invite Pippin to go around. Again, Pippin did it. Perfectly! Brent didn't have to go on with more pressure to move beyond the hint. So, despite my horse being so foolish while standing around, he did make me proud in showing that he did know some stuff and that we have obviously done some ground work! 

Much of the mounted portion of the clinic was working on communicating our interest in the horse speeding up or slowing down using our body. When we got to the trot Pippin was trucking along with his usual high speed, high stepping, high necked trot. He would scoot forward anytime anyone else kissed or clucked to their horses. Brent called me down on holding on to Pippin's mouth, too much, which I'm sure I was guilty of doing. Brent asked to ride Pippin. Oh, how I wish I had thought to take the camera out. Brent is out there, telling the group what to do and working with Pippin at the same time. He tells the group to speed up the walk. He suggests they go from the walk to a slow trot. I will have to say this for Brent, even though Pippin's version of a slow trot was not what my vision is, he was a bit slower than usual and Brent was able to check him and release and Pippin would maintain the slower version of the trot for a few steps at least! Brett asked everyone to increase the speed; to trot as fast as they could without breaking into a lope. This is where it was fun to watch Pippin. His little legs were pumping like sewing machine needles sewing a long straight seam. He was tearing around the ring and Brent even let out a, "Whooo-eee" as he zipped by every horse! Pippin trotted faster than the Mustang. He overtook the Spotted Saddle horses with ease. He raced by the Quarter horse. He showed the draft cross and the Percherons a thing or two. He was a speedy little bullet. The fun thing for me was seeing that Pippin wasn't doing this out of fear. He just seems to like to go....fast!

By the end of the clinic we were all tired. Our horses were all sweaty. Pippin wouldn't stand while Brent had each person tell what they would be focusing on over the next few weeks. But this time Pippin wouldn't stand because he kept looking at the arena's sandy floor, and he kept thinking how wonderful it would be to sink down and roll his sweaty body around. I would catch his hind foot coming up to his belly - something he does just before he lays down. I caught him with his knee cocked, ready to sink down on more than one occasion. So... we walked while others talked. All in all, it was  a great experience. 

Maybe I'll get some pictures.... next time!

(Does Blogger hi-jack your work, too? I tried to make the last part of this post single spaced, just like the beginning. But, would Blogger listen to me? Oh no, not at all! Blogger decided this is the way it's gonna be, and there is not persuading it to do anything else! Argghhh!!!)


  1. Lucky you, a clinic! Who knew Pippin was a racing Haffie! Bet he'd be wonderful in harness. Sounds like you both had a good session.

  2. Camryn here:
    Just like a Pippin to show off and do so good :). Sounds like lots of fun "for your human! And I don't have to picture your turbo trot, I do that too. When Mom and I do hills she yells "power on" and up we go. All the other guys have to canter though. She always thinks of the story of "The Little Engine that could"

  3. Sounds like an incredible experience -- and to see your horse doing things for another person has got to be amazing.

    It's funny how an expert at a clinic can notice small details that make a huge difference in the results.

    Good job at attending!


  4. Sounds like Brent is a real horse whisperer! It was interesting learning about horses from this post, especially the fact that you can really communicate with them with your body language, and without having to use force:) The way Brent got results immediately reminded us of Cesar Milan, the dog whisperer.

  5. How awesome! And that Brent used Pippin a lot! It has to be great to see what your horse looks like when someone else is riding, a view riders don't get to see too much. Sounds like a great clinic and that you learned a lot!

    And Shy does the tuck her back legs up under her before she goes down to roll, too!

    Blogger hi jacks my posts, too. So frustrating!

  6. No pictures necessary. You did a really good job describing the clinic. I could picture the scenes you wrote about clearly. Sometimes bloggers write about clinics and just make general statements like "It was good," "My horse was okay," etc, and I'm wondering what they learned from the clinic and how it was conducted... I'm glad it was a productive experience.

  7. Sounds awesome! and yes blogger does do that from time to time, I think just to be annoying.

  8. How funny. My gelding is the same way when it comes to stand and listen. He licks my coat, bumps my shoulder, visits his neighbor,etc. sigh. Give him and task and he gets to work. Sounds like your clinic was a blast!

  9. How wonderful!!!! And yes blogger can be that annoying!!!!


  10. Awesome! I love reading about others working with their horses and learning! =)

  11. Sounds like a good clinic! I am sure it is going to be a great experience for you all!

    I use Live Writer..it is a free download if you have a PC..it is not a Mac program. It saves your work..no hijacking:)

  12. Doood. I wish I could do a clinic with Mitch. Too bad the only clinics I'd want to do is with Buck Brannaman or Mark Rashid, (or heck, Jonathan Fields). And I don't got the $$$ for that.

    But good on Pippin for behaving.

  13. Glad you enjoyed the clinic. It was great fun to watch Pippin in his speedy trot. I recall brent exclaiming with glee that he was out-trotting everyone on the horse with the shortest legs.


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