The Dave Ellis clinic was simply amazing. I kinda knew what to expect, but had no idea of what I was truly in for.
On Friday we arrived at the arena about 40 minutes early and since we started with a lecture, Charm was just left in the trailer. The window was down so she could look around and take in the new environment. There were more people attending the clinic than I expected (12 total). Around 5 English riders, the rest western including 3 mules! I was very nervous to start out, but calmed down bit by bit. Dave got to know all of us then he told us to get our horses and come into the arena to start out the ground portion of the day. About 15 minutes after we got in there, to my surprise Charm was practically sleeping!! Dave started out by having our horses not move off our touch, but actually our body focus and energy. We played with that and added on until we had a little routine going with our horses. After a lunch break, we saddled up and rode. The first day I tended to stay on the far end of the arena.. away from Dave for fear of being corrected in front of everyone. We trotted a lot on the rail and mainly focused on our rein positions and using them correctly. It was wonderful, I’ve become very complacent in my riding and this was good for me because things go so much more smoothly when you’re thinking of the purpose behind everything and using your body and aids correctly. I left the clinic with my head spinning with all the information that was presented to me in such a short time.
The next morning came quickly and I headed over to the barn around 7:30am.. with coffee in hand. It was cold out and raining. YUCK. Amazingly, the rain held off the whole day, it was just cold and blustery. Charm settled in quickly and we joined Dave in the arena. Today we played with moving our horses around while having a feel on the line.. so our lines were not to touch the ground and we were suppose to have some feel on their face. Something that I’m not use to doing.. I always like to leave my rope drag. We did some riding simulations and had to pair up with another rider until our horses got in sync with each other. Then we were to hi-five and find another partner. This day was the worst out of the 3 days.. I felt Charm was saying “Ok, I’ve had enough of this, I’m tired and want to go home now.” We had a few arguments while riding but worked it out. The day wasn’t bad at all.. I could just tell that she wasn’t 100% there with me.
It was Sunday and by this time in the clinic my confidence grew and I realized that I should be putting myself in the position to be instructed by Dave. After all.. I paid a lot of money for his instruction! Well that’s how the day ended up starting out. I had Charm jump the barrels only half way and side pass the rest of the way off. Well, Dave started the clinic and called us over, but Charm was still half way over the barrel. Instead of taking all the time to side pass her off.. I decided to move a barrel out of the way so she could just walk through them. Well, she thought the barrel was still there and wouldn’t budge. I held her and waited for her move off the pressure.. as I was doing this, I could feel all the eyes were on me. Dave stated that we had an interesting situation going and what we were doing was right (thank God!) but there was something I could do that might help Charm figure out the puzzle. He asked me to focus on her hind food and ask it to step across the other hind food (disengage) and.. voila! She took the step and walked through the barrels. Hmmm… My first thought was Wow! That was neat! Then my second thought was.. I didn’t die! I’m not totally sure, but I have a feeling our little situation changed the whole day a bit. Dave lectured about how horses can become so desensitized that they will just freeze and not move then they’re in a precarious situation. It’s not a bad thing if there’s barbed wire around their feet.. but if they need to get outta dodge.. it can be a problem. After talking for over an hour, he decided to change the whole morning session around. He wanted us to focus on getting in time with our horses feet and he chose Charm and I for the demo. Well, here we go.. it was my turn! He asked me to send Charm out on the circle and get in time with her front outside foot by holding up my lead rope in time with it. Just at the right moment, he told me to ask that foot to reach out and step off the circle while still maintaining the walk. It worked.. I did it again.. and it worked. Then he asked me to get in time with her outside back foot by lifting my stick and lead. Then ask for that foot to reach off the circle. It worked! My timing was perfect! Then I was to get in time with her back foot and ask her up into the trot.. she went smooth as silk. The he asked me to shorten the stride of her front foot to ask her back down to the walk. He praised us over and over during that little demo and even gave us a round of applause when we finished. “Perfect!” The interesting thing was that this was a more difficult task and we did it! Also.. when we first stared Charm was sleeping and I kept thinking to myself.. how the heck am I going to get this horse to trot!? It just shows that even when you think they’re zoning out they’re listening.. silly LBIs. Charm was totally there for me and I was 100% focused. That little session really changed me.. I learned so much about my horse and myself. For the rest of the afternoon, I put myself out there and gladly received any comments or suggestions from Dave. I was even used for a riding demo that afternoon. Not only did my confidence grow.. but it grew in my horse. I gained a lot more trust in Charm. That day ended up being so much fun. I got to canter around that huge arena (it must be around 300′ x 200′) and it was the coolest feeling!
So what did I come away with…
Confidence… confidence… confidence. And it was much needed too. I got a good understanding of where Charm and I really are in the Parelli Program. There are things that are going extremely well and some things that need to be worked on. Dave Ellis is an amazing teacher, he is patient and kind. He has a way of explaining things to you so they make sense in the situation you’re in. Also, I felt that he wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything that he thought thought they couldn’t handle. I hope to ride with him again next year 🙂
Here are a few pictures from the clinic:
There will be more pictures to come!
Tomorrow I am off to a wonderful weekend of camping! We’re going to Bayfield and Duluth to look for Elk, Lighthouses and waterfalls. It should be a really fun time. Tim is letting me use his camera for the trip.. so look for pictures next week.