Saddle Up with Beth Eva: How to get the most out of Horsemanship Clinic

Hello again everyone! Beth Eva of Heartland Ranch Horse Training and Lessons here with some insight on clinics, why we all need them and how to make the most of attending one.

For those of you who may be unclear as to what a Horsemanship Clinic is, let me start by giving you this definition: a Horsemanship Clinic is usually a small group of horses and riders (6-15) that gather for personalized instruction under the tutelage of a highly trained expert for the purpose of gaining knowledge and increasing the performance of both the horse and the rider. Some clinics deal with groundwork, specific equine sports, working with cattle, problem horses, showmanship, general horsemanship or even tack and equipment. Clinics can help you find solutions to problems you are having with your horse, or problems that the horse is having with you! In addition to the individual lessons I offer, I also give small group clinics on specific subjects like groundwork, trailer loading, and horsemanship or horse problems. I attend clinics as well, to learn new methods of problem solving and ways to improve my horses and the horses I train. No matter how much we already know, there’s always room to learn from those with more, or different, experience than our own.

One such clinic I’m sponsoring and attending is the Les Vogt Performance Horsemanship Clinic on May 20 and 21 right here in Clovis.  Les Vogt is known as “The Trainers Trainer” and is an NRCHA Hall Of Fame competitor and trainer, 15-time World Champion best known for winning on Reining Horses and Reined Cow Horses, renown maker of Bits and Spurs, author of Textbooks for thee colleges, and creator of the Cowhorse U Performance Horse Training Programs. Needless to say, Mr. Vogt has a world of knowledge in riding and training performance horses, but also loves to help green horses and beginning riders in accomplishing their goals. As he describes it, he offers “a step-by-step recipe for people to learn to master perfect fundamentals with their horse, and practice exercises that will help each rider get exactly where they want to go with their individual horse.” I’m excited to learn new skills from such a master Horseman, and understand that as it says in Proverbs 27:17; “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

When asked, Mr. Vogt stated that the clinic isn’t rigorously bound to a particular curriculum, but rather that it’s custom tailored to meet the individual needs of those in attendance. While that is true, there is also a set of fundamentals that he teaches to all his students. Here is an example of his normal Performance Horsemanship Clinic Outline:

Clinic starts at 9 a.m.

I. Performance Evaluation (Rider Participation)

II. Communication

A) Understanding how to develop a program that works for you by using his Five Easy Pieces System

III. Foundation Body Control (Rider Participation)

A) Exercise #1 Lateral Flexions

B) Exercise #2 Shoulder Control

C) Exercise #3 Rib Cage Control

D) Exercise #4 Hip Control

E) Exercise #5 Circle Back-up Drill

IV. How to evaluate stiff spots, left side vs. right side. (Applicable to every type of equine discipline)

V. Turnarounds (Spins) (Rider Participation)

VI. Overview, Questions and Answers

VII. Circles/Lead Changes

A) The perfect circles (what is correct)

B) Staying in frame

C) Speed control

D) Getting set up for lead changes

E) Executing perfect lead changes

F) How to fix bad changes

VIII. Stops

A) Fundamentals

B) Run Downs

C) Weight Distribution (Horse & Rider)

D) How to keep your horse stopping

Mr. Vogt stresses perfect fundamentals, and therefore puts a great deal of the clinic emphasis on helping you attain that. Complicated maneuvers with your horse are nothing more than basic, fundamentals strung together in a series, so in order to achieve a proper canter departure or lead change, or spin or stop, you have to master the most basic controls of your horse.

I invite you to join me as a rider or spectator at this event, as I’m sure everyone in attendance will benefit from Mr. Vogt’s years of knowledge.  If you choose to ride in the clinic with me, then I have some suggestions so that you can make the most of the event. You should study the clinic outline above and walk your horse through it by yourself at home. While practicing these things, make note of mistakes made by you and your horse, and if you can’t complete some of the items on the list, then ask yourself why. Most of the issues you will have are based on two things: your lack of understanding of how to ask your horse for what you want, or your horse’s lack of understanding of what you’re asking. And, truth be told, when our horse doesn’t understand something it’s usually because we lack the knowledge to explain it properly to him.  Be prepared by knowing what you and your horse needs, and what specific goals you have so that you can get the most benefit from the clinic. If you choose to watch the clinic instead of participate, then get a good seat and sit back and pay attention to clinician. One way to solve our problems is by watching other people solve theirs, so make note of issues that you identify with in the horses or riders, and learn from the lessons the clinician shares with them. Once you have these “tools” you can go home and try them on your horse. Remember that a problem is only a problem if you don’t have a solution, so learn from the mistakes of others so that you can improve your horse and your riding.

If you would like to ride in, or simply watch, this Les Vogt clinic then please call or email me for more information. I will also be happy to speak with you about my own lesson program and my local clinics coming up this spring and summer!

As always, I wish you a blessed day.

Beth Eva

Heartland Ranch Horse Training and Lessons