On August 6th & 7th Northstar sponsored a technical gaited schooling show at the farm in southwestern Ohio. I’m pleased the clinic went so well considering the facilities lacked either an indoor, covered arena or hard pack track to work the horses. Northstar’s primary focus is on breeding, but we made do with the front pasture and there was ample parking for all the rigs and local accommodations for the participants. The event was advertised state wide in the Horsemen’s Corral which is an Ohio based all breeds magazine as well as via email and Facebook. The many types of marketing produced a well rounded group of attendees.
The clinic drew eleven riders, most of whom used the horses at Northstar and included participants from other breeds, disciplines, gaited trainers and a 4-H judge to newcomers wanting to learn more about their gaited mounts. Dr. Ulrich, who has been caring for the Northstar herd since 1995 attended as well and passed out free samples of his mineral vitamin mix and answered a variety of equine medical questions posed by the attendees. We had two 4-H riders, Sydney, who had just won at the Preble County Fair the day before and Chrissie who recently ranked 16th out of 113 riders in northeastern Ohio, Mahoning County.
There was the Paso trainer, Loen and working partner who also happens to be his sister Valerie. They both had recently returned to Morrow County, Ohio from Florida, but not before missing high points by one point at the Tampa all gaited show this past spring with the mare Glaesa US03202554.
We had Larry, a gaited farrier with his daughter Sydney who brought their Icelandic, Fakur US06103517. Larry’s goal was to ensure both his daughter and he knew how to properly ride and cue for the various speeds of working, pleasure and loose rein tolt. Fakur is also being trained for certification with the Ohio Miami Valley Mounted Search & Rescue Operations. The Icelandic Horse has a great advantage in this discipline having leg strength and being sure footed when climbing or manoeuvring in tight areas on undesirable surfaces. Short height plus disposition is also an advantage when it is not uncommon to dismount & mount seven to ten time per hour during a search which can grow old fast on a tall horse.
Note: The prefix IS denotes registered Imported horses from Iceland and the prefix US denotes registered domestic bred Icelandic Horses for this article.
In addition to the riders and certified Icelandic instructors were two auditors, Valerie & Lisa pretty much stayed with and on occasion acted as stewards helping groom, tack and aid the riders as instructed by the trainers. As advertised walk-ons to the clinic were welcomed and on lookers, mostly families set up picnic areas on the front lawn and made a day of it enjoying the horses with their children. It was good that we had a mini playground and several bikes & big wheels to keep the children busy.
One of the visiting groups proved a little humorous as the family sent text via cell phones to their daughter/sister Aimee in Texas about where they were and what was happening around them. At one time Aimee was a Montgomery County 4-H competitor who drew pleads for more pictures and possibly a few creative words of jealously as well. For another participant, Brandy, it was like two old comrades coming together after years of separation. Brandy used to show the stallion Funi IS90155595 years earlier at the Columbus, Ohio Equine Affaire and the all breeds gaited show then held in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania. It too was her first exposure to Icelandic’s as a young person who is now grown up, married parent of three and owner of her own training/boarding facility.
The clinic actually started Friday afternoon after the trainers arrived from Michigan & New York. Participants came from far away as Pittsburgh. While Alex & Knutur checked out the riding mounts I was busy sorting and stabling the newcomers. I had already placed the round pen inside the front pasture which worked out nicely consolidating all of the training into one location. Prior to Friday, it was non stop preparing for the clinic trying to groom three pastures covering thirty acres to prepare for trail riding and just prior to the clinic making a non-stop round-trip visit to Pangaea Equestrian Services in New York to pick-up Skuggi US00101607 & Odlingur “Oddi” US06104177. Bringing these two home proved to be a very smart move as they were in excellent condition and school trained to handle the various levels of riders we had. By Friday’s end it was decided who would ride which horse and a time scheduled was established for Saturday morning made up of a combination of riding or having one’s horse(s) professionally assessed by the trainers.
I was in the latter group and had targeted two young stallions, Mentor US07104066 & Brellir “Striker” US09104231 and the prize mare Isafold US95200727, to aid in deciding their future. When presenting these horses we talked openly and invited all to join in deciding whether to continue training and prep for evaluations and competitions or in the case of the boys whether to geld each or not. This discussion included a wide array of topics: the make up of the horses’ bloodlines in regards to positive/negative attributes focusing on confirmation, gaits, and disposition; funding & time, current economy and market for young offspring which included the impact of surplus prize stallions recently imported into the U.S. Even my current health status in regards to sponsoring these horses in the future was considered. This was a very informative session for the group which opened a lot of eyes as to the responsibility of establishing a stallion that meets the standards for improving the breed.
We had Barbara & Jack, owners of three Icelandic Horses who just returned from Iceland and were very enthusiastic about taking part in the clinic. Barbara is small in stature and recovering from a previous injury, not horse related. It was decided to let her use the stallion Blue Eyes which at first shook her confidence. Alex explained the process of prepping a stud for evaluations as well as identifying the disposition that needs to be passed on in breeding versus time put into a trail horses. Barbara could then understand Blue Eyes and the pair worked together as a team that afternoon. However, it did point out a shortfall on my part, I didn’t expect to be using my horses as much as was required and my stallions were out of shape. I should have worked them no less than a month before in preparation for this event. Alex saw this with Blue Eyes and on Sunday adjusted Barbara’s private lesson to one he was physically capable of doing, so both horse & rider ended on a positive note.
As host, my duties seemed to have me everywhere at once. Standing at the office door looking out to my left all seemed organized and coordinated as the clinic took place, but to my right looked like total chaos as the kids took to the swing set, slide and bikes and in one case the children’s pool. A lot of credit goes to a young 8-year-old named Nataley who was tasked by her mother to keep the children off the parking lot where the rigs and horses were. She did well but it turns out that my four-year-old great grand niece, Summer Joe, invited five-year-old Adam for a dip in the pool and Charlie, our chocolate lab joined in! Summer was dressed for the occasion in her swim suit but Adam went in clothes and all. Charlie went in au natural. My sister seeing this mishap cleaned up Adam and dressed him in dry clothes. However, this must be a guys’ thing, neither Adam’s dad nor I realized he wore Summer Joe’s clothes home.
As for the clinic I for one was surprised that once one student finished with their lesson they stayed on to watch the next rider or horse being evaluated and this went on all day both Saturday & Sunday. As a result there was a lot of information disseminated. In one case the instructors confided to a participant, the Paso trainer that they felt because of his knowledge/experience that he wasn’t getting anything from the clinic. Loen explained that to receive confirmation that he was doing it right justified the cost of the clinic.
Unfortunately, it was very hot. The heat affected all horses and riders. It was especially hard on Karen from Dark County. She brought her mare Lilja US06203460 to learn how to properly finish her training but had to leave the group after her lesson because of the heat. Karen returned the next day ready to finish the clinic! She even persuaded Ashlin’s mom, Jennifer to try a lesson versus standing on the sidelines watching her daughter ride. It only took a few laps in the round pen to put a smile on Jennifer’s face and thinking about a horse of her own in the near future.
On the spot corrections were made as well. The first being directed at the owner of a beautiful four-year-old gelding spotted racking horse named Comanche. His young rider was expecting too much and pushing a little too hard. Alex pointed out to Ashlin that she was already a good competitor, but if she wanted to train she had to acknowledge Comanche’s youth and recognize the power of positive reinforcement.
In another case Knutur basically sent the stallion Funi to-the-showers, noting to the group that the “Old Man” had served his time, he doesn’t have to showboat anymore, though his appearance was welcomed considering many in attendance owned Funi offspring.
Running back & forth I didn’t see all that was happening and at one point thought there must have been an accident, seeing Knutur with Jack working with Oddi from the ground. As it turns out, Jack wanted to be taught how to train his untrained young horse back home. Jack also gets credit for asking the most creative question, which also pointed out to the instructors to clarify that the questions and answers applied to equines only! Jack’s query brought smiles on local faces and surprised both Alex & Knutur with – “Why do we cut the tassels off corn?”
By the end of the weekend I believe everyone came away with the satisfaction of attending a very educational hands-on clinic geared for theMidwest. In addition to the different levels of riding approximately fifteen young horses were looked at by Alex & Kutnur either in the round pen or walking with the herd. We all worked together in advising how to start the training process with the young horses. Even Mother Nature helped by waiting approximately fifteen minutes after the last two riders finished before letting go with a down pour. In addition to training, two horses were signed over to new customers with another two pending sale. Even the broodmares came through with six of seven foals being born right before the clinic.
Lessons learned. If I were to do this clinic over again I would most certainly have acquired a staff so I could participate in the clinic myself. Of key importance to me is how to keep my individual riding mounts tuned up. I personally would like to make this an annual event to promote the gaited horse with the goal of possibly having a sanction show in the future. Of course making my young stock available for sale to experienced gaited owners would be a great plus. It was also a nice gesture from Alex to offer discounts on training Northstar horses to their new owners.
As a result of the clinic and prior meeting with my financial planner I was able to come up with goals for the future with the objective of breeding domestic four & five gaited pureblood Icelandic Horses for the equine family market by striving to:
It is my hope that after hearing about this clinic others will come together and organize additional clinics in or near Ohio where many Icelandic Horse owners reside. The availability of more clinics would offer owners of Icelandic and other gaited breeds in Ohio wonderful opportunities to learn. It would be nice to have clinics focusing on trail riding which is the easiest and most economical means of using and showing the horse inOhio. Often with the Icelandic breed we focus only on how to move the horse through the different gaits on the straight or oval tack. I believe we should also recognize the technical discipline, safety, yet freedom and fellowship of being on the trail as well!
Because of the economy finances are tight and now a number of us have to pick & choose what equine organizations we wish to be members of. Likewise, breed loyal organizations which operated alone in the past are now opening up their shows to all breeds to help fund their events. Knowing how other gaited breeds or specific equine discipline show makes for good public relations when adding Icelandic’s into the mix. We have the horses but need to educate our riders, meaning we need clinics or school/fun shows to build technique and confidence. Based on the response to this clinic I too will plan for another schooling clinic the second weekend in September 2012. It will be open to all gaited breeds, with the clinic tailored to the needs/interest of the participants and the day will include young horse assessment.
This clinic was slow to come into existence because I used an inner circle of friends in an open forum to bring it all together from planning stages, logistics to implementation. It may have hurt the number of attendants but in the long run made the event a success. There is plenty of room for improvements on my part but I really don’t think I could have asked or planned for a better group of people that attended. For whatever reason it seemed easier for me to grasp certain concepts watching other breeds being worked and riders riding within frame, the similarity and differences of how the beats of a gait fell and the different terminology for each breed being used. All participants seemed to be courteous and mindful of others regardless of the horse and/or rider skill level and, in a nutshell, we all had fun! With the next clinic maybe we can include a shoeing and possibly one or more driving demonstrations as well.
Finally, I wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate six year old Luke and his newly acquired filly Kaeti US0920418 who was purchased at the clinic. Within two weeks of the clinic this young pair teamed up and won first place at the Canfield, Ohio Fair which is the third largest fair in theU.S. Even the judge commented encouraging these two to grow up together. Happy Trails!!!
Horsemen’s Corral Ad
Trainer Knutur Berndsen using Skuggi to work with Chrissie.
Pocahontas Paso Fino HA 29702
Loen & Valerie, Florida State Fair All Gaited Breed
Northstar’s Equine Affaire file picture—Brandy with the stallion Funi, then & now.
Trainer Alexandra Pregitzer using the stallion Blue Eyes to work with Ashlin and Barbara
Karen with her newly acquired mare Lilja
A very happy/proud Ashlin with her Comanche
Northstar file pictures—Four of the seven 2011 Northstar foals
Kaeti with her new best friend Luke win 1st Place in the 4-H 2-year-old class, Canfield, OH