Our June Horsemanship Clinic

Our June Horsemanship Clinic

With a varied weather forecast of showers and possible thunderstorms, we set about our June “Confidence Builder Clinic” at Te Rangi Horses last Sunday. Once the fog lifted we were graced with a beautiful day and we worked our horses in the winter sun, the Hunua ranges glowing their vibrant blues in the background.

Participants arrived eagerly by 9am and tucked their trusty steeds into the yards as we gathered together to talk about the day ahead. 

Confidence. It can be a loaded term - what is confidence? Does anyone ever truly feel confident all the time? If I google confidence I am told there are these similar words - trust, belief, faith, credence, conviction, reliance, dependence….

Are these not the qualities my horse needs from me….for any given discipline or life that we may choose to have together?

Our clinic commences with some shared thoughts on this idea of confidence, stories we might be telling ourselves ( positive and negative ), how to manifest confidence, and some ideas on how to embody it too.

After we are well-caffeinated and introductions have taken place we set off to the arena to start building our skills toolkit. Our first activity and discussion are around the concepts of “feel” and “timing”. 

One of the most pertinent lessons I have learned in my own journey with horses is the importance of timing and the release of pressure. We all know that horses learn from the release of pressure but, as humans, wrapped up in a desire to reach a target and living in a world governed by minutes, hours, time, goals, and deadlines, our motivations could not be at a more opposing end of the spectrum to our horses.

With timing and feel on our radar, we started our first ground school session. Each participant on a different journey to the next. The horses range vastly in age, breed, and experience and each owner also varies in experience and intention. 

Working with people and their horses reminds me of the importance of trusting in the process. As a coach, it is just as important for me to keep my attention on this as it is for the participant. Horses, like us, learn at different speeds and have their own strengths and weaknesses both mental and physical. 

I think Pat Parelli put this so well when he said “ take the time it takes now to save time later” This was something we discussed at several points throughout the day.

My belief is that when we get attached to an outcome or an end goal we can really get in the way of this. Sometimes the journey has to be the destination.

I know that if I can truly be with my horse, in the zone, and my intention is on the process, the outcome can appear quite seamlessly. If I focus too hard on the end goal it seems to just get harder and harder to get there. 

This reminds me of a great quote about focussing on the ideal take-off spot to a jump that I once heard a coach remarking to a rider “ that perfect spot that everyone looks for, the more you look the harder it is to find. Canter to the fence and let the fence come to you and it’ll just appear every time.”

I think the same can be interpreted to everything we do with our horses - whether your end goal is to ride a trick, work your horse at liberty, enjoy a beautiful trail ride, or ride competitively. The challenge is keeping our attention on the process and looking for those magic moments when our horses really ‘try’ for us then, quitting while we are ahead rather than pushing our horses to a place they aren't ready for in pursuit of the end goal.

Participants worked through the process…trial and error, learning and growing, and taking brave steps. It really is an act of bravery working amongst other people and being open to critique.

Have I got quality in my send so my horse will maintain some forward energy?

Am I getting softness in my turn on the fore and maintaining some forward movement and bend?

Should I ask for more or should I quit while I'm ahead?

Have I achieved some quality in the piece I am working on before I move to the next?

With bravery and learning comes risk-taking and there were many moments where people took a risk and problem-solved their way through the outcome - isn't this what it is all about?

It really is so satisfying being a part of the learning process and witnessing people introducing their horses to new objects, working through activities to create more softness and bend, problem-solving situations, and stepping a little out of their comfort zone whether working on the ground or under saddle.

As the day drew to a close, people and steeds loaded up and headed home - heads buzzing with the day's activities. The arena became quiet and the ranges started to dim. 

We look forward to the next one this July.