Monday, November 9, 2009

Clinton Anderson Downunder Horsemanship Clinic

This past weekend Lisa of Laughing Orca Ranch flew in from New Mexico to put some use to that second free ticket I won to attend the Clinton Anderson Downunder Horsemanship clinic at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center. When I mentioned that I was having a hard time finding someone to go with me, she left a comment that she'd like to attend the show. I doubted that she could get away from all of her responsibilities at home to visit little old me in a faraway land, but thanks to Ranchman John taking some time off from work and Jem & Jax holding down the fort, she was able to make the trip after all.

I've been to Arabian horse shows at the Livestock Events Center before, but Clinton Anderson's clinic turned out to be a much more popular event. Not only did Lisa overhear some girls at the airport talking about the clinic, but we got stuck in a traffic jam on the freeway for quite some time before we reached the parking lot.

I was surprised to find out that Clinton taught the two-day long clinic all by himself. Some horse trainers bring in their apprentices to do some of the presentations. His clinic progressed in a logical order, beginning with Clinton talking about his philosophy followed by examples of ground training followed by a presentation under saddle. We only attended the Saturday show. I don't think our butts could have withstood another day of sitting in those plastic seats.

Clinton has a wonderful sense of humor. He's not just a knowledgable horse trainer, but a good entertainer as well. He had the audience laughing throughout the show. Whenever the roar of our laughter frightened his horse, he asked the entire audience to stand up, scream, and sit down repeatedly until his horse stopped moving his feet and showed one of these signs of relaxation (i.e. using the thinking side of its brain instead of the reactionary side):

1. Lowering head.
2. Licking and chewing.
3. Cocking a hind hoof.
4. Taking a deep breath.

While Clinton was talking to the audience, everyone started giggling because his horse Diaz was licking and chewing just at the sound of his voice.

Diaz followed him around more like a puppy than a horse. Just look at the muscle on that pup...

I'm not wild about pigeon-holing horse breeds, but Clinton cracked a joke about horse breeds that gave everyone the fits. He said that if a mountain lion were stalking a Mustang, the Mustang would run for 325-feet before stopping to look back to see if the mountain lion was still chasing it. If a Thoroughbred were being stalked by a mountain lion, it would run for three miles before stopping to look back. If an Arabian were being stalked, it would run to Canada. If a Draft Horse were being stalked, it would move three-feet before checking on that status of the mountain lion. Of course, his fast-talking delivery made it all the more entertaining.

I know that Clinton does not want videos being taken at his clinics, nor does he want a word-for-word script published regarding his teachings, so I'll just touch on a few topics that he covered. He's actually very accomodating of the audience. He said he's willing to answer all questions with just a couple of rules. Number one was that if you ask a question during the clinic, you need to keep it on the current topic. That's totally fair, because the other thousand audience members don't want to get side-tracked by questions from audience members who weren't paying attention or by people monopolizing the horse trainer's time with personal problems. Number two was that if you approach him with a question while he is walking somewhere, you have to walk with him so that he can get from Point A to Point B. He said, "If I walk into the bathroom, just follow me right in there and slip napkins with questions on them under the stall door."

Here are some thoughts that Clinton passed on regarding horses:

1. If you walk sideways, your horse better walk sideways. Training your horse to stay out of your space is a safety precaution.

2. The left side and the right side of a horse do not share information, so you have to train both sides of the horse. We saw evidence of this multiple times throughout the show when the horses learned a behavior from one side and perfected it, only to retreat into their reactionary behavior once Clinton started the process over on the opposite side of the horse's body. As Lisa said, I think I own three horses, but I actually own six.

3. When your horse is being reactionary, the way to get him thinking is to get his feet moving. Move him forward, backward, left and right as quickly as you can.

4. When it comes to horses and humans, whoever moves his feet first loses. The leader stands still, the follower moves his feet.

5. Training horses is a subtle dance between sensitizing and desensitizing. You need to sensitize your horse to your leg, rein, and seat cues, so that he responds right away, yet you want to desensitize your horse to sudden movements and loud sounds that would normally draw out his reactionary side.

6. The three ways to control your horse's mind are to create his movement, redirect his movement, and inhibit his movement.

We interrupt this broadcast with some commercial advertising. Be sure to wash your horse with the XYZ Soap Sprayer. It's convenient, easy, and offers even coverage all over your horse's body...

Right before each break, Clinton brought out some products and endorsed them. He also gave away either a coupon for the product or the product itself to audience members as a reward for answering his questions correctly when he quizzed us after each section of the clinic. He sold programs for $5.00. Each one had a number on it, and the announcer called out a couple of numbers during each break to win a prize. Lisa and I were good about keeping our pocketbooks tightly shut with the exception of giving in to our hunger and thirst.

Taking indoor pictures was difficult. We had to keep waiting for Clinton and his horse to hold still, otherwise they turned out blurry. Clinton is very animated, so getting him to hold still required a lot of patience. I decided to show you this picture because it does a good job of capturing the speed involved in some of the maneuvers he performed on Diaz.

Back to our regularly scheduled program...

7. When teaching a horse to stand tied, only untie him when he is quiet and using the thinking side of his brain. Untying is a release or a reward, and whatever his last action was before you released him is the behavior that you taught him to do. Therefore, if you release your horse from a tie while he is pulling back, you teach him to get out of tying by pulling back.

8. To train a horse to accept being haltered, start by teaching him to face you. With a lead rope in one hand attached to the halter on his head, keep him facing you with both eyes. With a whip in the other hand, creep around his side like you are going to whack him in the butt with the whip. If he doesn't continue to face you, wave the whip in the air near his butt. If he still doesn't turn to face you, whack him on the butt with the whip. Soon he'll learn to not turn his butt toward you, which is always a good thing since no one wants to be kicked by a horse. Then you can play a game where you carry the halter toward his butt and pretend like you are going to halter his tail. He won't want you near his butt, and he'll turn to face you. If you do that enough times, he will be begging you to just put that dang halter on his head. (Hopefully, he'll still let you near his tail to wash it.)

9. Moving the hindquarters: Start with the body language, use the whip first in the air then on the horse, and move away as soon as the horse responds by moving his hindquarters.

10. Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard for the horse.

11. With each set of four, increase the pressure until the horse responds correctly, then release the pressure. Releasing the pressure means that if you were walking toward the horse, walk away. If you were waving a stick, stop waving it. If you were pulling on the lead rope, stop pulling. If you were squeezing with your legs, stop squeezing. Horses don't need a sticker chart or candy for a reward. Their needs are very simple. They just want to rest and grow fatter. It doesn't hurt to rub the horse with the stick or whip as a part of the reward, so that he learns that the stick can bring both reward and pressure.

12. A 45-degree angle toward the horse's shoulder is the safest location to stand while doing ground training.

During the breaks, Clinton signed autographs, answered questions and posed for pictures. Here's Lisa patiently waiting for the money shot...

Wouldn't it be amazing to be your own product and help a lot of people all at the same time?

At the end of the day on Saturday, Clinton posed on Diaz with his many admirers for even more photographs...

Check out the length of this line...

I have to commend all these people for having the patience to wait their turn. Patience is a great trait to have if you work around horses. I was telling Lisa that because I am familiar with so many horse trainers, I can avoid standing in long lines to talk to them by attending the Western States Horse Expo on the very first day at opening time. Since I recognize their faces, I can approach them to chat before most people even know who they are. Once the curtain parts and they ride out on their horses, they are suddenly mobbed with admirers and horsemen seeking their knowledge. It must be odd to be treated like a god.


Mikey said...

Wow, what a turnout! I can't believe you got Lisa up there too! How cool is that?!
Looks like an awesome time had by all.

fernvalley01 said...

Looks like a great clinic, glad Lisa was able to attend with you!

Mrs Mom said...

Oh that is just too cool that Lisa got to go with you!!! How excellent is THAT???!! Clinton, the times I have seen him at Expos, is a riot. He has so much info, and shares such an incredible amount. You brought away a priceless amount of info NM, and thank YOU for sharing it with us!!

Laura said...

That is so great that Lisa was able to get away on a bit of a break to join you!

Thanks for the summary of the clinic - I have never seen any of the big trainers live...

Callie said...

Too cool! And that horse is seriously muscled, looks like a horse version of a body builder!

Paint Girl said...

Isn't Clinton absolutely wonderful? I went to his clinic last June and loved it!! He is so funny and he explains things so people can understand it. I learned so much from him. I have always read articles in horse magazines on his training, but it was so great to see him in person. I am a visual learner, so it really helped. I have been using Clinton methods on Chance and Fritzy, and will continue to do so.
That is so cool that Lisa came up there and you guys went together!! So much fun!!

jane augenstein said...

I have seen Clinton too and his clinics are great! He is a wonderful entertainer and excellent horse trainer, and people trainer! When I saw him he had Mindy with him, she is a neat little horse.
So glad that Lisa got to come and go with you! What a fun time for both of you!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

You got some great photos, NM! The clinic was terrific and I learned some new things, but it was even better being able to finally meet you and spend some time together. Thanks again for inviting me and being such a wonderful hostess/friend :)


Breathe said...

How fun! I'm glad you had a blogger buddy in tow.

What would you say was the thing you learned that had the biggest impact or that you found the most surprising?

Shirley said...

Thanks for sharing, I like the way you did this write-up; very informative. Glad you enjoyed it and that you got to have some fun with a fellow blogger too!

Leah Fry said...

How fun that you and Lisa were able to hook up. Thanks for sharing what you learned.

Cheryl Ann said...

Wow! How FUN! I'm going to TRY to get to the Western States Expo in Sacramento this year! It's always the weekend before school is over, but, gosh darn! Now I really want to go! Thanks for sharing!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Lisa - Thank you for coming. It was sooooooo nice to have some "girl time" as you called it.

Breathe - Most of what he taught I've either seen on his TV show or read in books, but I think what clicked the most was the intricacy of how to move your own body to get just the right movements out of your horse's body. I started thinking about all the times that Bombay has tried to urge me to move by pushing me with his head while we've been stopped. He can't stand waiting around on a lead rope while I talk to people, so he gets pushy. I'll have to put a stop to that.

Cheryl Ann - I hope you can make it to the WS Expo. I actually wasn't going to go next year since the kids are sick of it, but if you go, I'll met you there.

KD said...

What a succint description of a CA seminar/demonstration! I like his methods and have some friends who are devotees. I just read Lisa's post and think it so cool that y'all could get together. Is this the first time to meet her in person?