By Anpeytu Raben
Traveling along the highway toward Heber, I mulled concepts about timing, balance, and feel learned last summer and felt eager to have a refresher and learn new skills. This was opportunity for me to continue practicing a level of horsemanship I had yearned for over 40 years. I arrived at Sage Creek Equestrian after our scheduled dinner and was greeted with “Park your trailer so that vehicles can get by; here’s your horse’s stall.” And, “Can I fix you a plate of dinner and something to drink?” Ah- Sage Creek staff is so, so welcoming and competent. My horse’s stabling, watering, and feeding, and my breakfast, snacks, lunch, and one night’s dinner were included so that I could focus on connecting with clinicians and other participants, learning all I could absorb, and having fun.
I had signed up for Translating Horsemanship: Martin Black and Donnette Hicks Fall 2018 Clinic and anticipated three days of discussion with peer horsemanship enthusiasts, observation, and coaching. Every day began with discussion of participants’ struggles, hopes, and expectations interwoven by commentary and insights by Martin, Donnette, and additional instructor Jim Hicks. Discussion is just as valuable as instruction on horseback, with the added ability to take notes during conversation.
Instruction each day included mostly walk and trot practice of rhythm, timing, balance, and feel, with emphasis on all, with my horse as a partner. Working Equitation obstacles served as framework for the first day’s lessons while riders were coached in smaller groups by Martin, Donnette, and Jim on riding various maneuvers: straight lines, circles and half-circles, moving forequarters and hindquarters, handling a garrocha pole (without whacking our horses!) Second and third day riding found me practicing lateral movements, ROUND circles, movement of my horse’s feet. It is one thing to know when the hoof is in the air and quite another to feel when the hoof leaves the ground. I’m sure I had the look of “you hafta be kidding me” when Martin told me to back my horse using one rein. Lo and behold- with his coaching, I did it! And it was easy!!
Martin, with his ranch background, is quite the mentor for learning how to position and use hands, weight, and legs for optimal hoof placement while riding. Donnette’s dressage background serves as inspiration for refining timing and rhythm. My valuable nugget from Jim is, “Don’t make an event out of it- go into it easy.” Oh yeah- I do make events out of transitions and maneuvers when I don’t need to.
When the clinic ended on Sunday, I wished for more. I’m happy to have practiced skills to enhance my partnership with my horse, to understand how to more effectively communicate. And, I look forward to participating in next year’s clinics.
See upcoming clinic dates here.