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Confidence Cliinic 16th June with Kathy and Aaron - Dee


Hi all! You may remember me from the ride around Fox & Fanke’s Road earlier this year. I was on the smallest ride there, the little paint pony.  For those of you who weren’t there, my name’s Dee, and I’m probably the most nervous, unconfident rider that you’ll ever meet. (Not kidding, just ask Jean!)

Sunday the 16thJune 2013 found me at the Yinnar South Pony Club grounds with Jean as a spectator (and my support), along with Rogan, a 15.1-2hh Quarter horse/Arab cross who I’d never ridden. Too big and scary for me, but that’s who my ride was for the day, thanks to Jean.  She’d talked me into taking and using Rogan for the day, instead of my little pony Annie.

There were four of us participating in the clinic: Di Sharman along with her daughter Erin, Jill and myself.  All with a four legged friends, and all with our own issues regardless of whether they were with the horse, riding ability, confidence, or in my case, all of the above.

After earlier personal introductions from Kathy and Aaron to each of us riding, the four of us brought our horses out into the arena, just in headstalls and long leads.  We were each given a long whip with a small plastic bag tied to the end.  My initial reaction was ‘oh s**t’, followed by ‘this is going to be interesting’.   Kathy then proceeded to show us with these same items and her horse, how to keep our equine friends a safe and respectable distance from us on the ground, at the same time showing and ‘telling’ the horse that we, (the humans) were in charge, were to be respected and ‘listened’ to, in the same manner as the horses would a paddock boss or the pack’s lead.

There were three steps in this process: 1, moving the horse away through the hind quarters (hip); 2, backing up; and 3, having the horse moving around you through the shoulders.  Step 1 was achieved by holding the long lead in the left hand, standing on the left of the horse’s head, & raising your left hand up and toward the horse’s left hip/hind quarters. If the horses moved from this along, we all released the pressure from our horses by dropping our hands.  If the horses did not move from this alone, we would tap the ‘bagged’ whip lightly but firmly on the ground at the hind feet.  If the horses still didn’t move, tap again but firmer. If the horses still didn’t move, a firm tap on the side of the hip/hind you wanted to get moving did the trick. (Similarly to asking a horse to walk off when in the saddle; squeeze, kick, boot/crop).  We then had to repeat the same process on the right side of the horse.  Once done correctly, the horse moved their hinds around, and stopped, each facing their respective human.

 Once we had this step down, we were shown the backing up. Now just so you know how respectful Kathy’s horse was, she only had to look and move forward towards her horse and he’d move back, no probs. It was pretty amazing to see and watch this happen.  Kathy showed us how she’d achieved this, by, after having the horse face you from moving the hind quarters away, she would either shake/wiggle the lead rope in one hand, whilst swishing the bagged whip from side to side at the horses feet and walking towards the horse at the same time, or, by marching toward the horse, lead rope and whip moving along with her arms, the bag ‘hitting’ towards the horse’s chest, moving the horse back.  Some of our horses responded to the ‘swish’, and some responded to the march. And let me tell you, this worked very well, for all of us, whichever way it was done!


The third step was moving the horses away from and around us. This was done by holding the lead in the left hand, pointing up and to the right of the horse.  If the horse moved away and around when asked like this, again, rewarded by release of pressure (drop the hand).  If the horse did not move away, the same pressure with the whip would be applied, tap, tap harder, whack on the neck. This worked really well with Rogan, but after a fashion he decided to try and avoid it, pulled his head up and had a little rear. Scared the crap out of me, but along with Kathy’s instruction, I kept my lead hand up, whacked him on the neck again, and he moved off.  Now what I haven’t mentioned before is that while the four of us were doing this ground work with our respective horses, both Kathy and Aaron were coming around and working with and helping us each individually with any problems we were having, correcting and improving our technique and answering our questions, all at the same time.

We broke for morning tea, following which, we saddled up, brought our horses back into the arena, and repeated the three earlier steps, this time introducing our horses to the blue tarps on the ground, and asking them for the same movements over the tarps.  This was a great exercise to do, we were all pretending that it was a river or stream, and using the techniques shown to us earlier, the four of us were pushing the horses through the exercise.  Mind you, I was so busy worrying about Rogan’s reaction to the tarps and how I would react, I didn’t at first notice that he’d just gotten on with it and did the exercise.

After this, Kathy and Aaron showed us how to flex our horses on the ground, which would also be applied when in the saddle. They also explained how important flexion for the horses was – similar to us stretching before doing any major exercise or going for a run.   Then, it was time to get in the saddle, and apply the techniques we’d been shown on the ground. The reaction that the horses had, I thought were pretty good, in this exercise.  Following this, we were asked to flex the horse, keeping them still.  Some moved firstly, others didn’t. The more we practiced, the better it became, as the point of this was to flex the head around to the rider’s knee, without the horse moving at all.  This then went further, as it turned into the one handed stop in the walk, trot.  Really amazing to see how quickly the horses ended up responding to this.  Even with Aaron cantering and galloping around us to give the horses (and a rider or two) a bit of a fright, just to enable us to put this technique to use in a simulated ‘bad situation’.  It felt pretty damned good to be able to do this and have your horse become controlled in one quick action.  Then we were asked to do this again, while cantering.  I hadn’t cantered much at all since I’d had lessons a few years back, so Kathy kindly put me on the lunge.  Walk, easy peasy.  Trot, no probs.  Canter…’hmm’ thought Rogan, ‘I don’t really think so.’  Try as I might, even with Kathy’s assistance, Rogan just wasn’t going to canter. It was just about time for lunch then, so Kathy got on Rogan (after I’d gotten off) and got him going, but he really initially didn’t want to. She told me that after lunch, she was going to put me on Aaron’s horse, Trap, and get me cantering.  Which she did. With LOTS of persistence. She asked me to do a few exercises in the saddle, too : one hand on the saddle, the other straight out/up in the air.  Then bending forward in the saddle, rubbing the horses head, then backwards, rubbing the rump. Then with both hands out.  That was and felt pretty good, considering I was on a forward moving horse.  It was at the canter that I started to struggle with.  But again, Kathy had lots of patience, but did give me a push and said YES YOU CAN, even when I thought I couldn’t and said so.  But there I was, doing those same exercises on Trap in the canter, right down to the complete hands free.  It was THE MOST amazing thing Id ever done on a horse’s back, all in the name of getting good balance, and relaxing the pelvic movement in the saddle.

 Jill also rode on Trap on the lunge, doing the same exercises as I had been asked to do, and she did a brilliant job!  It was totally amazing to watch someone do and achieve this, on a completely unknown horse to the rider.    Through all of this, Dianne and Erin kept practicing what they’d learnt during the course of the day, and got even further, with taking their horses over a trot pole, and around barrels, walking and trotting, over the blue tarps and were doing brilliantly.  After I got back on Rogan, I even managed to do a few trots over the tarps and a couple over the trot pole, firstly with some assistance from Aaron, then on my own.  Like I said earlier, I’m a very nervous and unconfident rider.

At the end of the day, the group was taken on a trail ride out through the bush by Kathy and Aaron, which, I know everyone who went, thoroughly enjoyed.

I have to say, I’ve been to a couple of different confidence clinics before, with my own horse and pony, but I took so much more away with me from this clinic, including a lot more confidence, with a horse I didn’t know.  All round, this was an amazing experience, I believe for all who participated and watched on the day.  It is something I would thoroughly recommend to do, and would definitely take part in again.

I would firstly like to thank Dianne Sharman for putting this clinic together and organising it, secondly Jean Sharman, for making me do the clinic and giving me Rogan to use and ride for the day, and last but not least, Kathy and Aaron.  They were both so patient, kind, helpful and caring in showing and giving us the tools and techniques that we learned throughout the day, and in answering our questions, not only in a group, but also in the individual & personal attention & assistance that was given to each of us on the day. I’d also again like to give my personal thanks to both Kathy and Aaron for their patience, persistence, encouragement and that forceful but gentle push, the ‘Yes, you can do this’, and for being given the opportunity to ride Aaron’s horse Trap, an amazing, giving and willing horse.

Being able to ride a horse, is a wonderful journey and experience to have, and in my case, it’s not just a physical, but also a mental and emotional one, and every rider has their own personal journey to take…... 

               Happy Trails….






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