June 26, 2013
Hello from Wilhelmsburg, Austria!
The University of Findlay and I just finished up the very first AQHA international horsemanship camp for 2013. The camp took place at Long View Ranch in Wilhelmsburg, Austria, and was a great success with 19 riders participating in the camp. The ranch was a breathtakingly beautiful place to start our summer. It had a wonderful view of the rolling green hills and towns of Austria in all four directions.
Prior to starting the camp, our amazing hosts made it possible for us to see some amazing sights in Vienna, including my favorite thing, going to watch the Lipizzan horses perform! Camp began the following day on a great note. The participants came ready to learn and Findlay came ready to teach. Instead of tiring as the camp progressed, participants became hungrier for information while the Findlay group became more eager to help the participants progress.
Each day included a substantial amount of riding with a session in the morning and a session in the afternoon that every rider participated in. Ground work was also included in the everyday routine. Through the ground work, participants learned to gain the respect of their horses on the ground while beginning to execute basic showmanship maneuvers.
View a slideshow of photos from Tabatha’s time at the first AQHA international horsemanship camp of the year – in Wilhelmsburg, Austria.
Findlay started the first day with participants on their horses and began by talking about how to sit correctly in the saddle, clarifying that the rider’s head, shoulder, hip and heel should all follow a straight line down the horse’s body. Next, Findlay introduced the concept of feathering: wherein riders were asked to drag the outside rein across the horse’s neck in an up-and-down motion to turn. Using the neck rein this way encouraged horses to remain straighter in their bodies as the riders steered. From there, riders divided into three groups and began working on maintaining control of the horses’ bodies, transitions, and keeping the horses’ bodies straight and aligned from head to tail.
On day two, the focus turned toward speed control and body alignment. Body alignment, which Findlay defined as keeping the horse’s body straight from head to tail, remained a constant theme throughout the clinic. As the horses became straighter, the riders gained more control. Walk-to-lope and jog-to-lope transitions played a major role in the afternoon session, where riders were asked to concentrate on looking up and feeling their horses while asking their horses to be straight and correct through transitions.
The third and fourth day built on the first two days, with riders beginning to use the information that they had practiced on the first two days within their chosen discipline. Emphasis was put on keeping the horses forward and straight through the turns and maneuvers. That straightness allowed for more control while guiding in every discipline. Keeping the horses forward and in the riders’ hands allowed the horses to become more collected in every maneuver.
Overall, the Wilhelmsburg clinic was a huge success. Participants never tired of learning new information, and Findlay kept every participant busy learning new theories, drills and ideas. Next, Findlay will move on to the Czech Republic for their second camp, and I will join Texas A&M in Norway for its first camp of the summer. The adventure continues!