Sometimes all the planets align and everything falls perfectly into place. Such was the weekend of the Chris Austin Best of Both Worlds clinic. The weather was amazing. The instruction was exceptional. The facility was outstanding. The attendees were remarkable. The improvement was measurable. Specific lecture parts of the clinic were followed by serendipitous examples of behavior from the horses to prove Chris’s points! Since this event wasn’t a fundraiser, the costs were kept as low as possible for participants and the weekend successfully broke even. Special thanks for Chris for volunteering his time to provide priceless education!
Day One – Tricks of the Trail
Riders and auditors started the day with the basics – before hitting the trail, your horse should know how to go forward, turn right, turn left and STOP. Horses should also be able to be tied without getting upset. Participants practiced the quick release knot. Angles and hoof care was also covered. Handouts in the packet showed correct angles for trimming. And Chris discussed tack including proper saddle fit.
When participants took their horses to the arena, Chris explained some easy groundwork exercises to get horses moving and responding to both hand and leg aides on the ground. The exercises transferred easily to saddle exercises once the riders were on horseback. After the horses were saddled, the saddle fit discussion was acted out in real time. One of the horses was VERY unhappy. The behavior was erratic and dangerous. From the outside, this looked like a horses with serious behavior problems. NOT SO!
The poor horse was wearing a saddle that did not fit between the hips and withers. The back skirts of the saddle pushed into the horse’s back and kidneys. Once a new saddle was put on the horse, the entire attitude changed. The horse was happy, compliant and well behaved. Riders continued to practice the bending and yielding exercises before moving on to actual trail obstacles.
Circle E flooded part of their eventing ring. In addition to the pond, the ring featured steps, a bridge, derby banking, tires, poles and other “scary” trail scenery like trees and shrubs. The horses and riders maneuvered and evaded the dangers with a lot of laughter and ease. The improvement in horse and rider relationship was obvious by the end of the day. Both were relaxed (and tired)!
After putting the horses to bed, attendees enjoyed dinner at El Azteca in Green Bay. Chris was treated with banana chimichangas for desert. We also found that pina coladas with tequila are just as good as pina coladas with rum.
Day Two – Show Me the Peruvian
Half of the rider participants and auditors from Saturday returned Sunday along with some new faces. The day started with comparison and explanation of Peruvian horse conformation. What to look for, what to stay away from. Chris explained how form worked into function while he discussed gait – what it is and how to bring out the best for your horse’s specific conformation. Participants were given extensive handouts to refer to later.
Proper equitation and balance were discussed and the “chair” seat was shown to hinder the horse’s natural motion. As participants watched the horses move, they saw how seat, speed and conformation could be manipulated to achieved better movement from each horse. Chris then showed how to properly tack a horse for the show ring. Each piece of tack was shown, discussed and then placed on the horse. He talked about the importance of using the corona (leather pad) and the jerga (thick wool pad) when using the Peruvian saddle. He also talked about ways people are “being creative” with the retrincas on the tailpiece by making them stiff. The stiffness creates an optical illusion that the horse is smoother than normal.
Following lunch, all the horses were tacked and the riding lessons began! Chris evaluated the horse rider combinations and rode most of the horses. He then made suggestions to each rider to find bring out the best gait in each horse. It was amazing to see the improvement and the FUN each rider was having with their horse! Show maneuvers like circles, change of directions, cones and correct Champagne glass holding techniques were discussed and practiced. The day ended with people being excited about the upcoming show in Iowa, looking forward to entering the show ring with new found confidence.