I took my 4 year old barrel prospect "Smokey" to the Merrill Barrel Clinic. Smokey hasn't received much training or riding so I wasn't really sure what to expect. We initially debated which horse to take and I was a bit concerned about Smokey because I wasn't sure he would get much out of a barrel clinic when he hasn't even seen barrels, it was his first time alone anywhere, and I was afraid I would get bucked off since he bucks every time I ride him. He had the week off before the clinic so when he was the first horse into the round pen, it was quite the rodeo. He was bucking, kicking out at Neil, and very disrespectful. This horse was getting to the point of being dangerous.
Neil worked with Smokey in the round pen and then helped me go through round pen work with him. By the end of the round pen, you could see a complete change in the horse. He had so much regard and respect and it was exciting to see the change. Next we moved to the ground work. Smokey has quite the personality and a bit of a bad attitude so he would pin his ears anytime you asked him to do anything. When asked to move, he would slowly drag his feet while pinning his ears and just not very eager to listen. Again, Neil came over and helped me work with him and made sure Smokey had the respect and showed me the leadership that I needed to provide to get anything out of the horse. By the second day, you couldn't tell that it was the same horse. The 2nd day, we put Smokey in the round pen, there wasn't any running, bucking or kicking that happened the first day. There was complete respect and a change of leadership. I was now the leader and Smokey was engaged in our work. After the round pen, we worked on ground work again. Smokey would move at the slightest change in my body movement. He was more in-tune to what I was doing instead of what he could do to not have to work. The change in attitude carried over to the saddle work. He would typically buck when he was being rode, but showing me how to be the leader from the round pen and ground work gave my horse the confidence to trust me with my riding. By the 3rd day, I felt he was finally ready to show him the barrels. Just in 3 days of riding with the Merrills I felt like I was finally getting somewhere with my horse.
I can't thank them enough for showing me how to be the leader when riding. I learned so much from the round pen, to ground work, to slow saddle work, to the barrel pattern. The 3 days spent at the Merrill Barrel Clinic improved my riding and barrel pattern more then any other clinic I've attended.
- Angi Hawthorne
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