By Anpeytu Neier
For several years, Translating Horsemanship, a clinic held in the spring and fall at Sage Creek Equestrian, has offered riders opportunity to create greater understanding of and with their horses. Martin Black and Donnette Hicks teach three days of concepts to build and refine the vital skills of timing, feel, and balance, which translate and apply to any discipline of riding. They provide much encouragement and thoughtful instruction, while challenging riders to think critically about what they’re doing for results they’re getting. Both have keen ability to break concepts down into step-by-step achievable processes. One concept that is forever instilled in my skillset is, for backing around a hind hoof, Martin’s “back, out, back, out” for each foot’s movement.
Each day began with discussion of individual participants’ hopes, expectations, questions, and struggles, interwoven by commentary and insights by Donnette and Jim Hicks and Martin. Discussion was just as valuable as instruction on horseback, fostering ideas applicable to practice once we were on our horses.
Martin’s knowledge of precision in timing, feel, and balance set the foundation for exercises coached by Donnette: shoulder-in, haunches-in, half-pass, circles, and half-circles. She’d say, “Raise this hand to get the haunches over more.” Sure enough, it happened! Martin set up and coached us through backing our horses without using our reins or hands and drifting along a straight line while turning our horses around a specific foot. Donnette fit these into having us ride serpentines and more circles, paying attention to bend and suppleness.
This is an amazing way to hone horsemanship skills because there is so much helpful support and information wrapped into Translating Horsemanship.