Notes from Whitney Clinic
EMail Letter - 9/6/02
Note: Pictures do not appear in this version

September 6, 2002

Hi Everyone!

We had a GREAT time at this clinic!! What a group. I'm not sure it's “allowed” to have so much fun AND learn at the same time.

For those of you who missed this clinic with Harry, here are a few comments and pictures for you. For those of you who were here … there's no way to accurately tell these folks about the jokes, the singing, or the other assorted wackiness. I start laughing every time I look at these cow pictures. Sheesh. (I'll be putting this “report” up on our web page (by next week) along with quite a few more pictures. If your email program doesn't let you get html coding, you may have to look at the pictures there.)

Okay, disclaimer first!! These are from my notes and they were scattered in as I had time during the four days. My comments are my best interpretation, so don't hold poor Harry to any of my misunderstandings! That said … here ya go:

We started out on Saturday morning with Harry working on his horse, Sandy. Harry discussed his approaches and what is important to him. (Can you say “correctness” and “yield all the way through”??!!) We were really appreciative of the couple of hours Harry spent doing this. Lots of us felt clearer about what it is we are supposed to be looking for and practicing, not to mention that it is just flat-out inspiring to watch him ride. Never seen anything like it!! Even the most experienced folks commented on the, well, beauty of it. The man definitely “walks the talk”.

The rest of the first day was spent doing one-on-one sessions with each rider. There was lots of discussion at mealtime and Harry spent several hours each evening answering questions and … telling stories. Ahem. As the clinic wore on, lots of people pitched in with their own tales.

The next day, we agreed to split into small groups. There were 8 riders and 9 horses (one was a colt starting) so this worked out really well. Four folks in a group. Each person got some individual time with Harry and also time to practice whatever we wanted on our own or to just watch what was going on with the other riders.

We worked with our horses on the ground first. Harry had us practice moving a foot at a time, in a certain direction, forward, back, etc. Body position, weight shifts, and using our lead rope to “ask” for the movement. It was a great exercise in thinking and doing! We also got to practice walking our horses over the “teeter totter” - first without movement and, as the clinic progressed, with the movement. Harry also put out some tires and his drum (you can see the drum in the foreground of one of the pictures below).

Here, Harry is getting ready to set us up, um, I mean set things up for our next adventure/exercise. You can see the teeter totter on the left side, between the barrels. All the horses did just fine with this but we started out slowly, progressing from taking them across on the ground, to under saddle, to going across with the rocking motion, to standing and shifting weight, to asking for a specific foot placement, to aligning for a straight body position as we went across.

Throughout the four days, Harry worked with Tara Santmire and her 3 y/o QH filly in the round pen. Harry, as always, emphasized the idea of “how little can we do”. He worked with the filly on the ground and from horseback. He also worked with his own paint gelding, Easy. Harry had not worked a great deal with Easy so it was interesting for us to see their progression. (See pics on website of Harry “roping” Easy.)

On the afternoon of the second day, Harry worked with each person on whatever issue they presented. And, of course, regardless of the situation, there was the constant theme of softness. This included some discussion on the difference between “lightness” and “softness”. Hint: it's all about the REAL release of those hindquarters! Yeah, yeah … ALLLL the way through the body!

The last two days were similar, with two small groups. The difference was that in the afternoon, our small groups also got to play with some cows. Alright, they were really calves but they were fierce calves. Okay, okay, they were not really fierce at all; in fact, they couldn't have cared less that we were in the arena with them and wanted them to move. Sigh. No matter, Harry instructed us on looking at the body language these calves presented, seeing (again) how LITTLE we could do to get them to move out, and practicing being specific AND soft with our own horses as we attempted these major feats of … weeeeelll, uncoordination most of the time but … we got better. Kinda.

We did a variety of things in small and large groups, including each small group moving the calves through a pattern Harry had set up and then into a landscape timber “box”. He also paired the large group up into teams of two and we had to put a cow into a certain corner of the arena.

Before this, Harry had us ALL come into the arena where he set us up for “synchronized swimming”. No pictures of this, thankfully, er … rats. So, there was one circle surrounding him, going in one direction, and then a circle beyond that, going in the other direction. We each also had a “partner” across the circle from us. The idea was to move in the direction indicated, to keep equal distance between us and the horse ahead and behind our own, AND to stay even with our partner across the way. Mmmm. THEN, we did some weaving. All I can say is that Harry did a lot of head-shaking. Fine. Harumph. It really was a good exercise in concentration, focus, and team-building. I don't think Harry is anxious to take any of us out on the range but WE had a lot of laughs and got some great exposure to what it REALLY takes to work cows. And no, it's not much about chasing.

What we DID chase was a big orange tarp! Harry tied it to his lariat and off we all went around the arena. We then worked on making sure our horses were okay with it by stepping over and onto the tarp.

As you can tell, this was a very active clinic! I've only touched on the highlights. Harry sprinkled the days with demos (see other pics on website) about using our reins appropriately, cueing for a stop, etc., as well as with great conversation. He was open about his opinions, nagged us when we were too much, and always available for questions and discussions.

A few sidenotes: We did have some pretty dang good food, too! Vic got everybody started with big breakfasts and we had a fish fry one night. The pavilion was great because we could all gather in there and eat or talk. And our little trails (thank you, Vic) were a nice change of pace for our rides at the end of the day. And thank you Jamey for lending us those wiley bovines!

Thank you to all our riders and the supportive auditors. Not to get too gushy here but … we just had a fantastic four days of hard thinking and good laughing!

From My Notes:
  • DISengage (horse's thought) …. Engage (our thought).
  • Rein to reach the hindquarters.
  • When looking for the release THROUGH to the hindquarters, use rein first (NO LEG), wait, wait, bend, bend. (No giving “hint” with inside leg. If no movement/response, use BOTH legs to ask for forward movement.)
  • When we pick up a rein, the nose should come in and the neck should drop a little.
  • When teaching/asking to step under self, the horse needs to learn to GIVE to each side - ALL THE WAY THROUGH.
  • If a horse's thoughts and feet are not in the same place, there is trouble in the household.
  • Regarding “collection”: we want a “telescopic” gesture when stating - a lifting of the back and the head stretches out. (He acknowledged Dr. Deb's contribution to this concept … “telescoping”).
  • We need to also look for “sameness” when we are observing things - it is often much easier to see the differences.
  • When the change comes through willingly, then we can ask the horse to maintain it.
  • We want to drive from the HIP, not the hind. When we put pressure behind, we expect the horse to turn TO us.
  • Hindquarters, HQ, HQ … emphasized this over and over. Hindquarters affect everything.
  • We did quite a bit of stopping and ROCKING back. We want to PREPARE the hind so the font can come through. Also, playing with step forward, step back, rock/shift weight forward, back. On the ground and under saddle.
  • On the ground, ask/identify “where will our hands be when we are riding?” So, take rein right where it will be when riding. We want to be able to pick up reins and get a give all the way through to the … yep … hindquarters.
  • A horse can't separate what he's doing from what he's thinking. We, the rider, need to pay attention to all the small things we are doing/can do to keep our horse's attention focused on us and on “our thoughts”.
  • Harry rides horses as if his feet are the horse's feet. So, when he stops, he stops one foot at a time (like we do when we are walking ourselves). We need to be thinking AHEAD. In transitions, when we are cantering, start thinking about trot, at the trot, think of the walk, and at the walk, think of backing.
  • “What a horse learns when she is moving is ten times more important than when just standing still. Everything changes when a horse is moving. A horse will tolerate amazing things when standing still.” An example was stroking a horse with an item (whip, jacket, whatever) while the horse is moving.
  • If going to use reins, don't use both at the same time, in the same way. i.e. use one to bend.
  • The "draw" is ten times more important than the "drive". The "drive" is just creating/working on the “flee” response in the horse.
  • Discussing “impulsion” .. difference between a horse being “forward” and impulsion. It is the difference between just fleeing the scene and having that energy and being able to direct it.
  • About the round pen work … It's not about sending them away. If he goes, some commotion is enough. It takes so little to “make it bad”. Don't make things so difficult that we create a situation where the horse is between a rock and a hard spot. We don't want to be a hard spot. We want them to SEEK US.
  • When working to get a good (real) bend “on the circle”, we should be able to see the inside eye.
  • Also, when working on the circle, LIFT the inside hipbone (as in shift weight slightly). This encourages/allows the horse to step all the way under.
Oh, there is so much more. Hope others who were there or who have ridden with Harry can add and clarify. In the meantime, feel free to ask questions if I've muddied things up.

Harry's round-the-world schedule says he will be back here in 2004.

Thanks and our best to you.