Before I get into clinicians I want to get back to GoTucker Go....She asked about what I mean when I say sit still on her pluggy horse -
Once he trots just sit quiet, no squeezing, pumping, bumping, nothing. Quiet weight, hands, legs. When he walks and just sort of dribbles to the gate, sit deep, exhale and make yourself as much dead weight as you can. If he stops, big praise, then ask him to trot out again, squeeze, bump, make him hustle....then sit quiet again. If he doesn't stop until the gate, don't worry about it. Still exhale, praise, then go again. You'll start building a whoa off an exhale while you're sitting quiet. Always a good thing. The key here is getting your horse to respond off a soft cue. Once he will trot off with energy and stop off your exhale you can work on sustaining the desired gait.
So onto clinicians.
I think clinicians are pretty valuable. We don't have access to the big ranches and farms who used to produce decent broke horses. There just aren't enough left. So we have a pretty large population of people who want to ride and a fairly large population of horses, but neither the horses or the people have the education they used to.
Lessons are great. Being able to put a horse in training can be great, especially if the owner gets the opportunity to ride the horse in training.
But there's a serious expense that goes with lessons and training. For the most part the owner will need a trailer, lots of extra money, time and luck to guarantee the right instructor or trainer. Unfortunately, once you own a horse your extra $$ flies right out the window and into the feed tub.
Also, as far as I'm concerned, the primary purpose of a clinician is to get the horse owner to think. Think about the horse as a horse, not their child, their dog or their boss. To help a horse owner understand and function in the equine world in relative safety and to be able to gain and develop their own philosophy and approach to horses.
If you can avoid the hype that tends to go with a popular clinician and simply glean the information you need to be safe and happy with your horse, than none of them are a waste. I personally refuse to buy anybody's stick, halter, mecate, T-shirt or ball cap. I just won't do it.
I go to clinics to watch how the clinician rides and works the horse, hear what he has to say and go home to think about it, not buy their crap.
If I ride with a clinician I do every single thing they say. I never tell them what I think or what my old trainer said, I NEVER tell them how they differ from the last clinician I went to. I usually ride a horse I am confident on because I want to be able to watch and absorb, not worry about getting tossed. I will ask about a problem horse, but I rarely ride one in a clinic. I don't believe in quick fixes, so insight is what I'm looking for over immediate answers. I stay and watch every rider, every day.
In the year before I retired some of my students became enamored with Clinton Anderson. I have never seen the man, as I don't get the RFD channel, but I had read a few of his articles and he seemed OK.
As a rule I would encourage my students to go see whoever they wanted, then come tell me what they've learned. Often I would have them ask the clinician about specific things we were working on, because hey, maybe they could help.
One of my students, Lyn, couldn't get enough of the guy.
"I know you don't want to hear this," she told me, "but he sounds just like you."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"He has a bunch of the same approaches you do, it's just wild."
I looked at her new Clinton Anderson hat, halter and mecate and sighed.
"If he's just like me why don't you save some money and just show up for your lessons?"
Greed aside, the point I made to her was of course we sounded alike, at least in some ways. Because horse training is what it is. Not rocket science by the way. Everybody has to approach it in a variation of the same way or the horse won't get trained. And in my part of the country every trainer has been influenced by Tom Dorrance or Ray Hunt. Every one of them. Including Clinton Anderson.
The standard clinician method of starting a colt is based on the Dorrance/Hunt teachings. And guess what? They didn't invent it either. Basic horse sense is essentially the same the world over. So it comes down to learning to listen, think and apply what works for you and your horse.
Things branch off once you begin to specialize. Then your mentors become the trainers who are the tops in their field. By the time you get to them they expect you to know how to handle your horse. But the discussion still revolves around the mind of the horse and how to get in there.
GTTYUP asked what clinicians I liked. So here goes. If I don't mention some it doesn't mean I don't like them or disapprove of them (although there are plenty of those out there). It simply means I'm telling you who I like. You should know, I think reading a clinicians books or watching their tapes are every bit as valuable as seeing them in person.
Monte Foreman. The reason I'm a trainer. His Balanced Ride methods helped me learn to use rhythm and timing to get my results. My riding is still heavily based on his teaching, almost 40 years after the fact.
John Lyons. He's great for a beginner. He will help you think. He likes people to take many, many steps. He might bore you to tears but by God, you'll know how to move a horse around by the time you've finished step 97b.
Monty Roberts. Yes I know he's politically incorrect. But he taught me more about reading a horse's body language than any of them.
Julie Goodnight. Smart, sensible and creative. She can teach you to handle your horse in a sensitive manner without going all "mystic unicorn magical puppies and kittens" on you.
Ray Hunt. If you missed him, than read him. Very dull, poorly written (but better than Tom Dorrance) and loaded extremely important food for thought.
That's it for the basic clinicians.
On to the specialists.
Don Murphy. He's the Reined Cowhorse god. No shit. He spent ten minutes explaining how he wanted me to approach my hackamore horse and it changed my entire training philosophy.
Sandy Collier. She is consistently a top ten finalist in all the major reined cowhorse events. The first time I rode with her I understood why. She can place a horse between her reins and legs more effectively than anyone I've ever seen and is very generous with her information. Again, she can help a woman ride from a woman's point of view.
Martin Black. I have just started reading and watching Martin's videos. He is intent on teaching and training true bridle horses. So far, I'm impressed with his approach.
Larry Trocha. A cutter from California, Larry has been incredibly generous with his information over the years. He is Monte Foreman based, so I understood his approach from the get go. He has been a great resource for me not just in cutting, but in reining basics too.
Now that I've gone through the big names, I'll share a few secrets. I prefer to get a group together and approach a local trainer who I admire. They will jump at the chance believe me. We're all horse poor.
I'll get with a reining trainer for reining input, a cutting trainer for cutting, etc. I don't need them to be approved, graduated or certified. They just need to know something I don't. Because I'm like this I have a pretty good range of contacts.
Another money saver is to get the same group together, buy a few tapes from a clinician you're into and study them as a group. Practice their techniques and help each other.You'll save loads of cash and you won't have to buy a single specially designed rope halter. Not one, I promise. If you add a pitcher or two of Margaritas to the mix you'll find yourselves talking about your horses and how to ride them, train them and love them well into the night. That's what I would call a clinic.