Sunday, April 24, 2016

Cowboy Dressage School of Horsemanship

Dan Grimmett, Marcia Moore-Harrison, Trish Knight, Hayle Moats, Jenni Grimmett, Dale Rumens-Partee and Eitan Beth Halachmy
I was lucky enough to attend two session of Cowboy Dressage School this spring at Wolf Creek Ranch.  It is always such an amazing week of learning and growing and when you come back from that week friends are anxious to ask how it was and what did you learn?

For me, it's such a hard thing to answer.  I think what my friends expect to hear when they ask you what you learned is a litany of fancy maneuvers and industry secrets for building soft feel.  What's the best way to do a lope departure or how do you get the perfect free jog? While we certainly work on all of those things and about a million other things, my take away lessons are never about that.

Jenni aboard the magnificent Santa Fe Renegade
My first session spent at Wolf Creek Ranch I was blessed to spend with the amazing Santa Fe Renegade.  Between Eitan and Santa Fe I felt I was being molded by two masters in soft feel.  For me, I would travel 2,000 miles just to bask in Santa Fe's presence.  That stallion speaks to my heart and soul like no other horse has.  Just to stand and stroke his strong neck is a gift that I will always cherish.  Riding him is out of this world.  It is rare, I think, to find not only a stallion, but a retired world champion that is such a gracious teacher.  Many might think that riding Santa Fe is easy because he knows everything and will just do it for you.  I heartily  disagree.  He will indeed do what you ask but only if you ask correctly.  Santa Fe will teach you refinement in your cues and where the holes are in your body and your balance.

Eitan and Chico having a discussion
about Soft Feel. 

Maybe I'm wrong but I think most of us spend our lives riding pretty good horses.  I think very few of us ever get the chance to really ride and experience a gifted, perfectly trained horse.  I have spent my life on good decent horses with a modicum of talent for some things, but I have never had the opportunity to ride a well trained horse that can teach me the things I really need to know to grow and excel beyond where I am in my horsemanship.  There is nothing like riding a horse that is smarter and more accomplished than you to help you find where you are going in your horsemanship.  The week I spent with Santa Fe changed me and the way I ride my own horses.  I know what I am looking for and can more readily reward my horses when they begin to give me the baby steps that build true softness and self carriage.  So, when asked what I learned from my week at Wolf Creek Ranch with the amazing Santa Fe Renegade I am compelled to hold back tears of remembrance and smile and say, "soft feel".

Dale and Buccaneer
A month later my husband and I returned to Wolf Creek Ranch with a group of northwest horsemen including fellow professionals Dale Rumens-Partee and Marcia Moore Harrison as well as our good friend Trish Knight.  For this session I brought my Morgan gelding Chico with whom I have been working hard to develop and improve his lope among other things.  I was excited to show Eitan the strides we had made to really cultivate what is for Chico a very very difficult gait.  We were also anxious to get help with our ground pole work which is quite frankly a train wreck.  So, I was well aware that I still had some holes in our work but also hopeful that Eitan would recognize the hard work we had done over the past year.

Imagine you are a brick layer and have been building brick by brick an elaborate mosaic wall specifically for the pleasure of a visiting dignitary.  You are proud of your wall.  You think it's beautiful and when you look at it you see all the hard work that went into each and every brick.  Now, imagine standing in front of that wall presenting it to the dignitary for the first time.  The dignitary smiles and congratulates you on your hard work and then puts a friendly hand on your shoulder and points to a brick way down at the bottom that is upside down and then helps you take down your beautiful wall brick by brick so that you can start all over after fixing the upside down brick.
Dan and Indy and Trish and Bo
Jenni and Chico

That's pretty much what my week with Chico at Wolf Creek Ranch was like this year.  Eitan congratulated me on my hard work and the improvements in Chico over the past year and then we spent the week working on slowing him down again and having him rate to my seat so that my body would mean more to him than my hands.  All things that I know we have to work on but I was so anxious to get to fixing his lope that I brushed over those holes in our training.  Of course, those holes show up bigger and bolder in the form of his rushing issues over the poles.

Watching Eitan work with each and every horse and rider is such a learning experience for me as a Cowboy Dressage educator.  He is so very good at seeing the small details that are fouling up the horse and rider team and addressing those issues as they come up.  While we would each work on the same exercise it was executed differently for each and every horse.  We never did the same thing two days in a row (well, Chico and I did.  We spent several days clantering (the incredibly uncoordinated gait between a lope and a canter) over the gantlet of poles) instead he would see a hole in a horse and rider, sleep on it, and come up with a different angle to address the issue the next day.

Marcia and Cruz
I can't tell you what you will learn if you decide to go to Wolf Creek Ranch and invest in a week of Cowboy Dressage School of Horsemanship.  It's different for each and every person.  The horsemanship journey to soft feel is a very personal one.  What I can tell you is that you will learn and grow in ways that you never anticipated.
Trish and Bo
You will spend a week in an idyllic setting jogging next to a gently babbling creek with a gaggle of geese cheering you on.  You will be surrounded by people who get it.  You will get to watch a master horseman teach and learn right along with you because Eitan is always always pushing himself to learn knew things as well.  You will grow.  You will blossom.  You will never want to leave.

A big thank you to Lesley Deutsch of Blue Fountain Photography for the amazing photos of our time with Eitan.  

1 comment: