By Sandy Pegram
Clinics! Wow, how great they are; and like most folks, over the years, I have been to a lot. Some clinics were conducted by nationally rated folks, some from backyard folks. There’s the fun ones where you learned something without intending to; the ones where you work at getting your horse to “join up” with you; the showmanship clinics; timed event clinics, etc., etc., etc. They all have their value and open our minds (and bodies) to being better with our horses.
Last weekend I attended another clinic, offered by a licensed Veterinarian Judge and a Horsemanship Competitor from my NATRC organization. THIS clinic was different! The focus was on the mechanics of the rider, not just the position, the metabolics and conditioning of the horse, and how the two make the difference. There were discussions and demos on how yoga moves develop the mechanics/support of the rider. There were demos on the development of the horse’s muscular/skeletal system to carry the rider correctly. One thing I found quite interesting was that just because a saddle appears to fit when you buy it, make sure you recheck after putting mileage on your horse. Saddles can and do assist the proper development of the horse’s structure; but they can also aid in development of the WRONG muscles/structure.
Few disciplines emphasize stretching and exercises to build riders’ seats, and perhaps we all need to be doing more to focus on this. The long distances of trail riding pose unique challenges for horses and riders, and the seat can help the rider and the horse stay more relaxed and comfortable as the miles pile up.
In the afternoon, we spent time reviewing suspensory soreness, windpuffs, learning checks for hydration (and how to correct), gut sounds, capillary refill times, respiration, suggestions on how and when to use leg wraps and more. The use of heart rate monitors and GPS were also covered as they apply to conditioning. Then a 2-hour ride up and down some mighty impressive hills trying to focus on what we just heard. Horses and riders were definitely tired after this; but everyone felt we gained a lot of information that can used to help maintain ourselves and our horses.
So for what it is worth from one “aging” rider, this clinic did a lot for me and hopefully my horse. If you get a chance to attend a similar clinic, I strongly suggest you do so.
PS. If you are interested, several books that were mentioned were: “Centered Riding” by Sally Swift; “The Riding Doctor” by Beth Glosten, MD; “Zen and Horseback Riding” by Tom Nagel, and “Go the Distance” by Nancy Loving. There is also a free phone app “Down Dog”.