Laughing and Learning Together at a SLO County Cowboy Dressage Clinic

Camaraderie, shared experiences, watching, learning and laughing with others, and above all taking home something new to try with your horse…these are all things that participating in a riding clinic can provide you with. Whether as a rider or auditor, participating in a clinic is a great way to receive valuable hands-on experience in various styles and levels of horsemanship, which can improve the relationship between you and your horse.

Participation in a Cowboy Dressage Clinic

Welcom signIt has been some time since I have had the pleasure of participating in a clinic.  My friend Jill von Ilten invited me out to a clinic she was hosting on June 27th at Dream Ranch in Arroyo Grande, CA. Thus, I was able to break my “dry spell” and observe HP Kind of Cowboy Dressage in Germany in action as he helped riders to apply principles of classical Dressage to Cowboy Dressage.

Transported Back to my Pony Club Days

I was immediately transported back to my Pony Club days. I could remember vividly the wind-blown pepper and pine trees against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, camping for a week with my horse and friends, learning principles of Dressage, Horsemanship and Jumping at the Portuguese Bend Pony Club Camp. I treasure the friendships that were forged with my fellow Pony Clubbers; laughing and learning together we created a life-long bond.

Riders try shoulder in down cenerlineBack at Dream Ranch, the similarities between my past experiences and those being shared by the riders and auditors around me were poignant. Huasna Valley was the back drop this time, and pepper trees were replaced by mighty Oaks, but the feelings were the same. People were interacting with each other and learning; they were building relationships. It was an experience that they would remember always.

The Nuts and Bolts of the Cowboy Dressage Clinic

HP KindHP Kind instructed riders for five days. Two of the five days were set up as a traditional clinic, while the other days were reserved for scheduled private lessons. During the day that I was able to observe, HP rode in a Dressage saddle and bridle, but the participants were all in Western gear. Basic classical Dressage principles were applied to the horses through their riders, and the horses varied in type from bull-dog quarters to the more typical Dressage prospects in Western tack.

Lateral Movement is Key

Demonstating the haunches inLateral movements on three tracks was the fair of the day, as HP spent his time helping riders to get the correct feel and balance for Shoulder-In, Haunches-In, and for the Intermediate group, Haunches-Out. All horses must be able to move laterally and forward in order to develop suppleness and the ability to track straight, whatever the chosen discipline. HP helped riders to realize that sometimes in order to move in a straight line, we must first learn to move sideways.

By the end of the session, HP was able to get each horse bending off the leg and seat aids applied by their riders, giving each a strong starting point to develop more suppleness at home.

Circle poleThough I am new to the concept of Cowboy Dressage, I am an educated observer, and yet, I had my own theories strengthened and challenged in observing this clinic.

Garrocha Pole

One of the most interesting “take-aways” for me was the use of the Garrocha pole as a training aid to develop perfect circles. Perfect circles encourage a horse to bend along the circle line to develop suppleness. My last coach was a stickler for accuracy and I realized that using a Garrocha would have been an asset in my at-home training sessions. I had never seen this concept before and was intrigued by its use.

Clinics Improve Horse to Human, and Human to Human Relationships

At the end of the day, I found myself musing about all that had been learned that day, as well as all of the relationships – both human and horse and human and human – that were strengthened by simply gathering together and working on a common goal. Clinics and horse camps provide riders, both young and old, with the opportunity to come together and focus on the same thing, and this is what helps to build bonds that will last a lifetime. Whether as a rider or auditor, in English tack or Western…if you have the opportunity to attend a camp or clinic, take it!

feetPhotos  by Sharon Jantzen Photos


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Former Pony Clubber, Eventer and Dressage rider who balanced training and showing with getting a college degree (from Cal Poly SLO), becoming a wife and raising a family.

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