In the Beautiful Santa Ynez Valley with WDAA

Ellen DiBella, WDAA President, and I just returned from the fifth Light Hands Horsemanship Clinic held annually at Art Perry’s Intrepid Farms in Santa Ynez, California. I have been to four of the Light Hands clinics, and Ellen has probably attended every one. We both remarked at this last one that we keep thinking that the experience will get old at some point, but the amazing thing is that it doesn’t; it just keeps getting better.

This year’s Light Hands Horsemanship Clinic broke all previous records for both attendance, numbers of foreign countries (ten) represented in that attendance, and the quality of the presentations. The Clinic was completely sold out at a time when the horse industry is suffering in the same way that the economy is suffering. How can we explain this?

I think it is the choreography of the Clinic from start to finish. Tours of Cowboy Museums, the commentary and professionalism of Rick Lamb from RFD TV, the wisdom and teaching of every single clinician invited to present, many of whom are on the Advisory Board of the Western Dressage Association™ of America. The meals and the vendors all have a quality which is hard to believe until you have experienced it.  Everyone just moves from one amazing experience to the next. For an interested horse person, instruction is given about the training of a horse from birth to finished training, all the stages are presented by a horseman or horsewoman especially skilled in that area of expertise. Truly, it is incredible.

The focus, throughout, and this is the beauty of Light Hands, is completely on the horse, on its way of thinking, its fears, its instincts, the trust it wants to have in its handler, the value of imprinting, the importance of soft hands in its training. One comment in particular has stayed with me from Friday’s session. It was that of Lester Buckley, a clincian who for many years has presented at Light Hands. Lester rode a six year old Morgan gelding, an obviously intelligent, responsive, and beautiful horse. Lester said, in a reference to his use of the reins, that he wanted to train his young horse with “hands worth trusting”.  That comment might have described the Light Hands Clinic from start to finish.

On the day of my departure and after I had purchased my custom made western hat and placed an order for my Huseby Boots, I felt appropriately outfitted for the trip home. There I went, waving to everyone, sitting in the driver’s seat wearing my new hat. I was ready to go home and RIDE! If you have never experienced the Light Hands Clinic, it’s a once in a lifetime experience….that is unless you keep going back year after year like Ellen and me.

Written by Barbara Molland

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