NMApHC Ranch Trail Clinic, 2024

By Patty Wilber

We did our NMApHC Ranch Trail Clinic at the Stanley Cyclone Center last Saturday, and on Sunday the weather was no good.  I sat down at the computer to do a little writing and a spate of snow blew through, dropping an inch in 20 minutes, then the wind picked up, so riding was not looking all that fun. Also, my legs were weirdly sore from standing all day at the clinic.  Thus, putting down some thoughts about the clinic seemed like a good way to get something productive done inside that did not include house cleaning…  Then the sun started to peek out, so the barn looked a bit more enticing…oh never mind…more snow, so I worked inside until late afternoon when it was dry and rode three horses in the gale.  All were very good, and that was quite satisfying!  But back to the clinic.

The clinic format, developed by Kathryn Erickson, is outstanding.  People are even starting to copy it!

We had 20 participants and ran five, 1.5 hour sessions.  We had three stations and we worked on effective negotiation of the trail obstacles, plus Kathryn built in lots of opportunities for transitions, which could apply to ranch riding as well.  Because of the small groups, each station had only one or two people at a time, so we could work with each equine and rider team at their level without having to segregate groups by ability.  This allowed each person the chance to work at their level and on the skills they wanted to improve.  Time just flew.

Colleen and Patty S. and their trusty steeds!

I had a bridge, a weave-through, and a large log as my obstacle set.  The bridge was a walk-over, the weave was set for horses (or mules) to trot or extend the trot, and the log could be loped, trotted, or walked as best fit the participant.

For animals that were wary of the bridge, we spent time doing exercises on and around the bridge. I always like doing odd stuff with the bridge so that our equine partners don’t see it as just something to cross over.  They learn they might have to stop or back off or side pass or any number of things. For some, we worked on creating a nice straight approach so the animal would walk right down the middle of the obstacles. Some horses were perfectly comfortable and we spent more time on the other aspects of the obstacle group.

Mini rant: I am deploring the trend in Ranch Trail to reward riders that lean way forward so the horse drags his nose and creeps over the bridge.  On a real bridge on a real trail, that is non-functional from the point of view of efficiency and safety. If a horse has a freak-out moment on a bridge, it’d be a lot more rideable if the rider were sitting centered in the saddle.  A real trail horse should definitely look where it is going, but that does not entail nose dragging.  The animal should move with purpose, or stop and back, or turn around, or whatever is required. I understand that Ranch Trail is show class, but it is supposed to celebrate real working horse/equine skills, and leaning forward and nose dragging over a bridge does not qualify as a useful or safe real-world skill. It was interesting to talk to folks about their show experiences and very unfortunately, the forward seat and nose dragging is being rewarded by some judges in some ranch venues. End rant.

The next obstacle was a weave.  We worked on horse and rider fluidity, line of travel, and change of speed (trot to extended trot for more difficulty). Some animals were so tuned in that the riders could reduce their cues to almost invisible and make the obstacle appear effortless.  That was super fun to see and help the riders achieve. (And made me want to run home and renew my efforts to approach that level of perfection on the youngsters!) Some horses did not yet get the game of weaving obstacles, so we worked on exercises to improve the basic weaving. We also had the weave set so one direction was much easier than the other.  For advanced horses, we could run the pattern in reverse to increase the level of difficulty. Everyone got better and found some new skills and talents!

The last obstacle included making a sharpish left-hand turn, aligning with the log, and going over it. Interestingly, aligning with the log was not as simple as it might have seemed.  We worked on having folks get their eyes on the log sooner to get their line of travel established quicker.  Some animals didn’t pick up their feet all that well over the log, and for them we did repeated log crossings.  Some animals were nervous, so we walked or trotted instead of loped.  Some folks were nervous, so we started with trotting, and if a person was ready, worked up to loping, or we loped close to the log, then transitioned to a trot before going over.

Faith and Romeo headed right for the middle of the log! Photo by Mandi.

The other clinicians had other cool ranchy obstacles but I was so busy with my spot that I actually have no idea what wonderful and inciteful things they did! But I do know, based on comments and subsequent FB posts that every station was a winner!

Faith and Ryan at the gate. Photo by Mandi.

I totally enjoyed the day and our feedback indicated the participants did, too!

Zuri, the puppy, had to go with me as Jim was busy all day and her puppy pen was not puppy-proof, yet.  She hung with me all morning while I coached. Later, Christy took her for a session and then Mandi took her for another session, so she got great socialization and was a tired puppy at the end of the day!

Zuri, spectating. Photo by Mandi.

Cancer Update:  I had a sonogram on my heart last week and it was perfect!!  (No drug damage!) I had a mammogram on Tuesday and it was CLEAR! I did develop a hive-like itchy rash after my last Phesgo shot. It seemed like some kind of contact allergy, but then I did more research and found that Phesgo can cause that, and you are supposed to alert your doc right away.  So after two weeks (that’s almost right away, right?) I did contact my oncologist.  I met with her Thursday and GUESS WHAT?  I am DONE with all chemo, surgery, radiation, and immunotherapy!  DONE!  I thought I had one more shot, but based on everything, we dropped it, and I won’t need to go back to the cancer center in person for SIX MONTHS! I have been there multiple times every month for the last year and a half, so it feels very weird! But the treatment has been successful, so at least for now, I am CANCER-FREE! (And it also turns out that people who develop a rash due to Phesgo have a lowered rate of recurrence!)

I do “get” to start anti-estrogen pills in about three weeks, and hopefully there will be minimal side effects because right now, my energy is great, my joints don’t ache, and the neuropathy is slowly getting better!

And super bonus: My newest grand-daughter, Juniper, is visiting this weekend (along with her parents).

Happy Friday!



About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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2 Responses to NMApHC Ranch Trail Clinic, 2024

  1. kathleen jesse says:

    Congratulations lady you beat it! its been a long haul and you brought all of us along with you on your journey. I for one am much wiser and diligent concerning my own heath care. Best Kathleen

  2. Patty says:

    Thank you for all your support!

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