Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Musings on the Cleve Wells Clinic
Weekend before last, I had a great opportunity to ride in a very small clinic with Cleve Wells. As many of my readers know, Cleve has multiple AQHA and APHA World titles in Western Pleasure to his credit and he has also coached amateur and youth riders to pleasure titles. Seeing as how I am primarily a hunt seat rider, I came with few expectations other than to pick up some tips to make my lazy show gelding use his shoulders more consistently. But, in two days, I came home with enough homework to last for the next six months!
In addition to the specific exercises we took away, the clinic was an excellent reminder of some principles of horsemanship that are now considered by some to be old-fashioned ideas:
-Get your horse BROKE! If he's really broke, he should be able to do his job, no excuses. Cleve gave the example of people who get huffy if the reiners are warming up near them in the ready ring - show horses should be broke enough that it doesn't matter. His prescription - quit whining, get your horse broke. When discussing this point with a friend of mine who is a dressage trainer (but by no means a DQ!), she said it reminded her of the upper-level dressage folks campaigning to eliminate the walk from upper level tests because their horses were "too brilliant" to walk.
-There is no substitute for wet saddle blankets in the training and development of your horse. A tired horse is a cooperative horse. Your horse isn't cooperative at the end of the time you have available? Tie him up, come back and ride him again. Repeat until you get the desired results.
-Reverse psychology works. Your horse wants to throw his head up and run off? Canter him around that 10-acre field until he's begging to stop, then canter him some more.
-Riding your horse around in draw reins and other tiedowns will make him want to raise his head the moment you take that stuff off. Want him to put his head where you want it? Teach him to be obedient to the bridle instead.
-You can't get mad when training your horse. If you get mad, tie your horse up, cool off, come back and ride him again when you can think calmly.
-Your relationship with your horse is not democratic - he should obey your commands. Period.
-There are no real shortcuts in horsemanship. For example, you will not get clean, quiet, consistent lead changes without the absolute obedience of your horse's ribcage.
-Obedience and fear are not the same thing.
-Just like any other athletic endeavor, you must push your horse in his training for him to reach his full potential.
-The smaller the child that can ride a horse, the more marketable it is. Cleve pointed out that the most talented horse is not very marketable if only pros can ride it, because pros don't have any money, and even if they did, they wouldn't want to buy something hard to ride, considering they get PAID to ride horses like that.
-Allowing a talented horse to get away with little infractions and otherwise treating him as "special" will lead him to believe that he IS special and he'll turn into a brat with no work ethic. The best horse in the barn should have to work as hard as the least talented horse in the barn.
-Being uncomfortable may be a reason, but it is not an excuse for bad behavior.
-If you're looking for a show horse and you want to win, choose the broke, consistent one over the flashy but inconsistent one.