The World of Living with Horses

Western Rider: After the Clinic is Over


by Terry Berg

Picture this: It’s morning, Day 2. Before you make your way to the barn, you need to understand that your horse thinks the clinic was an amusing diversion from his usual routine. He doesn’t understand that the clinic was the start of a new “norm,” a new relationship with you. Before heading to the barn, you need to create a plan.

Here’s how I would start:

·        Review any video of the clinician working with you and your horse. Make notes on cards or in your cell phone of what you were told to do differently, so this becomes your new mantra.  Watch the video again looking for what you’re doing differently with your hands, legs, seat and even voice.

·        Read through the copious notes you took and write down repeat phrases and instructions.

·        Go over any books or DVDs you might have purchased from the clinician. Check out the pictures of what your main problem areas were and, again, try to come up with a simple mantra of a fix provided by the clinician. Here are some I’ve learned:

On the stop: “Legs in; say ‘Whoa’ as legs go out.”

For the lope departure: “Hip over, sit back, lift with your calf or spur and ‘smooch’.”

By having simple mantras you’re engaging your mind in what you’re doing. I can even hear my voice as I “talk” my way through the exercises.

·        Replay mentally the “ah-ha” moment when you tried what was demonstrated and it worked.

This is a really important part of what I do. I might hit the replay button when I’m sitting on my horse letting it air up after a wonderful attempt at a sliding stop.  It didn’t have to be a perfect stop; just an instance when my horse tried so much harder than he did before.

What did I do that made the difference? Maybe I squared the corner to the run down and worked my outside leg harder so my horse stood up better and was underneath himself and was able to melt into his stop.  The point is my horse got it.

Now it’s time to write out your plan. It helps to start the way the clinician started, with groundwork in the round pen or on the long line. Write that down and include the spots where you had problems, the fixes and the mantras you’ll use.

Figure that you’ll move on to mounting up and riding, either in the round pen or arena. Again note the exercises you learned at the clinic and specifically their order – what came first and how that led to the next exercise.  Now you have a written plan for today’s ride.

NEXT: Implementing the plan. 



Terry Berg

Terry Berg has been a performance horse trainer and judge for the past 35 years. Currently she is the on-site manager of the Santa Fe Equestrian Center in Santa Fe, NM. The Equestrian Center is a multi-discipline equine facility that hosts polo, hunter, 3-day event, dressage and Western events. She has trained in New Mexico, Germany, Italy and Nevada, finally returning to Santa Fe in 2010. Over the course of her career, Terry has won numerous National and World championships in Western Pleasure, Hunter under Saddle and Reining, including Freestyle Reining.

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