I recently spent a weekend at the Full Circle Ranch in Potlatch, ID.Bill Basham and Angie Reitmeier started my mare for me last fall and after doing lots of nothing with her all winter, I felt both she and I would do well to have a tune-up.
I think I got much more than a tune-up!For the uninitiated, Bill and Angie teach natural horsemanship (think Parelli, Lyons, Brannaman) with a sizeable portion of attention paid to centering the rider (a la Wendy Murdoch).
Their methods are geared toward having a balanced, responsive rider and a balanced, responsive horse.
I grew up under the heavy-handed clinicians of the 1980's.Sit up straight! Chin out!Heels down!Toes up!All instruction was geared toward winning equitation classes, and the instructions we were often given to move or collect our horses were designed to give the appearance of collection - not necessarily the real deal.When I bought my unridden 6 year old mare in late 2007, I pretty quickly figured out that what I knew about riding wasn't even close to good enough to start her under saddle.I was fortunate to meet Bill at a local open house and have a short lesson with him.The more I thought about it the more I thought he would be the right trainer to send this mare to, a horse who was rapidly on her way to becoming a permanent welfare recipient.
Bill and Angie unlocked that mare for me, and they are working on unlocking me as a rider too.The first thing I learned from them is that the old methods of sitting in the saddle that were pounded in my head by my erstwhile trainers were really REALLY bad methods.These lessons taught me to brace myself too much, to have a back that was too hollow to be truly balanced.While I might look pretty and straight in the saddle, I was pushing my horse out from under me and I was dangerously unbalanced.Furthermore, the work my horse was having to do to keep me in balance was causing my horse pain and discomfort.I had no idea that for years I'd been riding poorly - much to my chagrin.For that matter, I'm probably *still* riding poorly - but I have a better idea now of what I should be doing and hopefully will be improving continually with better habits.
I really enjoyed how Bill and Angie's styles complement each other.Over the course of the weekend there were issues raised where they had differences of approach and opinion.They never hesitated to openly discuss their alternate positions, and I was able to try things from both sides and choose what worked for me and my horse.And the food...don't get me started on the food.These people can COOK.
The feather in the cap of the visit was a ride up in the woods on Sunday.
My little mare, who has never been lead horse on a trail, did just fantastic in front.She startled a couple of times, but instead of whirling and bolting, which was her old method of handling fear, she just stopped and looked - no buck, no run.It was a great way to end the weekend, smelling the trees, enjoying the creak of leather and the movement of my horse, and visiting with Angie about life and everything.
I can't say enough about what a great experience it was. I'm more excited about riding than I've been in years, and I'm eager to spend more time working with my mare. We don't have an grand goals, other than to enjoy each other, trail ride and share new experiences, maybe join the local reining club - but I know enough now to really want to do those things in a way that helps her be the horse she can be.