Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tom Simmons clinic review

The Tom Simmons clinic at Woodland Stallion Station this past weekend was a big success. I am still digesting what I saw and heard, but I want to tell you that it was a wonderful clinic and well attended.

Tom worked with 10 different horses and ponies in various stages of training. One of the 10 was a three year old Morgan gelding owned by Ann Taylor who had no training except for halter and lead. Tom gave an hour long round pen session that was a great illustration of how easy a horse can learn the basics. These are the same basics that one needs at the high levels of any horse discipline. Tom's work with Rampart involved "herding up", gaining leadership and respect from the horse using a lunge line with a chain to prepare him for what would come next. Auditors were able to watch the horse being prepared to willingly accept wearing a bridle with a simple snaffle bit, a surcingle complete with crupper, side rein use to teach the horse to follow his head to the left and right. Tom then progressed to long lining and in hardly any time, Rampart showed the fundamentals of traveling on the correct bend and opening up his circle while on that bend. Tom taught Rampart to discern the difference between a halt and backing. This horse has a wonderful disposition and took to each step with no resistance and an openness to learn what was expected. Tom showed us that it is much easier to teach a horse that has had no incorrect handling than to have to undo previous bad habits. If anyone is looking for a nice minded Morgan gelding, with good body, to make their next driving horse, Rampart is for sale.

There were many illustrations throughout the weekend of where issues or advanced problems can be resolved simply by returning to working on the basics. This results in the resolution of problems such as counter bending, anxiety, and restriction of the horse's free movement. For the human, Tom worked in simplifying rein handling, creating expectation and intention. He showed how to drive your horse at home to train and refine communication working towards finish.

Tom stressed that horses do not want a "buddy" in our handling of them, they want a leader who will direct them and give the horse a sense of security and confidence.

Thanks to Ann Taylor for the wonderful facility that was perfect for winter even though the weekend was rain free. A few drivers went out on the roads to drive and practice what they learned. Shelley Chavoor was a great organizer and we had great food for lunches and dinner. It was so great to see old friends, hear stories from the past and meet new folk interested in driving. Tom had a wonderful time and we look forward to bringing him back to Woodland as well as Grass Valley to learn more from his over 50 years of horse knowledge. One last thing... Tom talked of wanting to write a book about training a horse "the old man's way". His thoughts are that age and experience makes for simplicity. He has become efficient and does what counts and is easy for the horse and himself. I hope he writes the book so we can have a view of his experience to help our own.