June 4, 2014
Working on this issue, Editor Holly Clanahan meets a new four-legged friend who is also a great teacher. You can get in on some of the lessons.
It’s funny the kinds of friendships that are forged at horsemanship clinics. Occasionally, you’ll find some that have a lifespan beyond the clinic - people you just have to stay in touch with. But more commonly, the bonds only last until the trailers are loaded up at the end of the last day. These are people you enjoyed spending time with due to your common interests, but everyone tends to go their separate ways. (Although Facebook does make it easier to keep up with these folks.)
And sometimes, clinic friendships are forged with the four-legged participants.
As a bit of history, I was able to introduce my equine love, Stop Drop And Roll, aka “Zen,” to AQHA Professional Horsewoman Lynn Palm at the Western Dressage Association of America World Championship Show last November. Lynn killed it there, taking home four world championships with the knockout Larks Home Run. But she also took time out to offer some words of wisdom to me, and her advice really did help me manage Zen’s show nerves, as that was her first big-show experience and she’s a very sensitive girl.
So when Lynn and I made plans for me to come to her place in Ocala, Florida, a month later to write stories about the AQHA Trail Challenge clinic and competition she was hosting, she offered to loan me a horse, so I could experience first-hand how the obstacle course - and the preparation for it - helped both horses and riders.
“I’ve got just the horse for you,” she said.
Gray. A mare. Sensitive. Rugged Lark-bred. The similarities between Lynn’s school horse and Zen were uncanny. Lynn promised that the things I’d learn in Ocala would have a lot of carryover when I went home to work with Zen.
On the first day of the clinic, I saddled Sky Blue Lark and led her to the arena, where Lynn and her husband, Cyril Pittion-Rossillon, were to coach us on rider position, the correct application of aids and other basics that are prerequisites of any successful riding. “Sky” wasn’t sure about it, and as her nerves got to her, mine got to me. After all, she was an unfamiliar horse, and I wasn’t sure how challenging she might get.
I felt myself leaning forward in the saddle (hello, fetal position!), even though my brain knew that wasn’t the correct thing to do. But then the little voice in my head that was telling me I ought to sit deep and tall in the saddle suddenly gained a French accent. It was Cyril, speaking up to tell me to use my seat. He and Lynn coached me to correct my position and then make frequent changes of direction using an opening rein, which helped Sky settle down. She quickly showed me what a sweetheart she really was. Read the rest of this entry »