Enjoying the Clinton Anderson Tour stop in Ft. Collins
Recently, nine members of our local Surface Creek Women’s Saddle Club (including myself), decided to hit the road in search of motivation, inspiration and horse training techniques that we could use with our own horses.
Many of us have explored a variety of other natural horsemanship teachers, but this particular trip to Fort Collins was for us to experience Clinton Anderson’s “Wahl Walkabout Tour.” Two other members of our club, Michele and Twna, occasionally worked behind the scenes at Clinton’s tour stops, so they provided tickets for all of us to attend. They both left quite early, in order to help set up everything for the clinic on Saturday. Friday morning, the rest of our group left the Cedaredge area for our drive to the eastern slope. It was a beautiful day, and we had really nice weather for the trip.
Saturday morning arrived, and it was a cold one! We’d been tricked by the weather, and once we arrived at the B.W. Pickett Equine Center on the CSU campus, we were in for a cold awakening. The facility was huge, and I think all of us drooled over the nicely kept indoor arena. However, the heat hadn’t been turned on that day, so throughout this first day of activities, I think all of us stayed chilled. Sunday brought a warmer temperature, which made us all happy.
We soon forgot to be cold (or at least tried really hard!) when Clinton Anderson came out with his mare, a dark bay named Mindy, on that first morning. He then proceeded to do a wonderful demonstration with her on-line, and then at liberty. Mindy performed everything Clinton asked for effortlessly, only requiring subtle signals of Clinton’s posture or his tools, in order for her to comply. He would later exhibit her beautiful way of going under saddle in Western tack, when his apprentice (Krista) joined him for the advanced riding demonstration later that day. Krista really showed her stuff as well, and did a fabulous demonstration with her horse using English tack. Krista warmed her horse up a bit in a bridle first (jumps and all), and then began a bridle-less demonstration. Eventually, Clinton urged her to try the jumps bridle-less. Her horse jumped bridle-less (for his first time) quite willingly, with just a little support by Krista. These demonstrations of what a true partnership should look like really helped to inspire our group to work on all of the groundwork basics (not just the fun riding part) with our horses. Groundwork isn’t necessarily fun for most of us, but it sure helps to create a more willing partner in your horse when you do finally get into the saddle! This was definitely a taste of what true horse-human partnership should look and feel like, a goal to strive for in our own horse activities back home!
Clinton worked through other exercises this day, from the basics of ground exercises and catching your horse. Here, he used a local horse that had some attitude problems. The horse really responded quickly to such a knowledgeable trainer, and by the end of the weekend, the horse was well on his way to becoming a safer mount. Sunday’s activities included classes on desensitization of spooky objects (always a topic of interest for our group), advanced groundwork, trailer loading and gaining respect under the saddle.
Clinton had quite a few question and answer sessions during the weekend, and he also posed for pictures and signed autographs. He seemed like a pretty down-to-earth guy, and he’s really worked hard in his life to get where he is now. His various stories told throughout the weekend also helped us relate to why he used particular techniques on horses in different situations. It was so much information to process, but I think we all enjoyed every minute of the demonstrations. His giveaways at the end of each session also had us up on our feet, but not a one of us was able to snag a prize!
Each member of our group gleaned little nuggets of information throughout the weekend, and we all definitely found ideas that we could use with our horses. The rest of the weekend was filled with shopping for more horse gear (we’re women, it’s what we do!), eating out at delicious restaurants in Fort Collins, and soaking in the pool during the evenings. The trip home on Monday was more sedate than when we had left, but we were eager to practice all that we’d learned over the weekend.
Many of us became so enthusiastic that we began taking weekly lessons with Michele, who has spent quite a few years using Clinton’s methods. In these groups, we not only get to work with our own horses, but we can also observe the challenges and triumphs that other students have in the lesson as well. This makes lessons fun for everyone, and you do tend to stay inspired to continue working with your horse on a more regular basis. Horses aren’t just push-button creatures, they do require lots of time and good, consistent training to become solid and safe riding partners.
Attending clinics as an auditor isn’t necessarily as fun as riding in the clinic (for most of us), but it is cheaper, and it’s definitely another way to get excited and uncover more information (and the same information, in a new way) for dealing with your own equine. So, the next time Clinton Anderson (or any other trainer) stops in your area, I’d highly recommend going to see at least part of the clinic. You’ll probably learn something new, and your horse will benefit by having a new game or technique to learn. It’s a win-win situation for everyone, and with trail season on the way, it’s really a good time to tune our horses up!
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