My Perspective and Thoughts about the WDAA Train the Trainer™ Program

I guess the beginning is a great place to start.

Jim Badger participated in WDAA Trainers Education programI grew up in Maine, oldest of five and to a father who was in the military and a mother who was a housewife until the youngest of my siblings was in Junior-High school.  We grew up on the other side of middle-class, OK, we were poor.

I grew up watching spaghetti westerns in black and white on Saturday afternoons.  I always loved the intrigue of being a Cowboy, pushing cattle up the Chisholm Trail, fighting bad guys and Indians.  Next to the pony rides we did as kids, I didn’t ride my first “real” horse until Junior High and I was hooked.

I had the opportunity to ride friends horses through High School, however I never really had any formal horse training until later in life.  The school of hard knocks was a tough school.

I joined the Navy after high school and got to travel the world.  My first experience with what formal training looked like was in Spain.  I had the opportunity to meet the bull fighters in Seville, Spain where they fought the bulls from horseback.  This is known as “corrida de rejones”. I got to see, with an uneducated eye, how Spanish bull fighting horses such as the famous Merlin were trained.  Since then, I have been seeking the knowledge to strive to ride like those riders of the Spanish Riding School I met and had the honor to watch ride and train in the early 80’s.

In 2012 I was the Reserve Champion of the Ranch Sorting National Championships in the State of Maine, along with my AQHA mare Lucy. We participated in Western Dressage in 2012, rode the WDAA Basic 1 and 2 and Primary 1-3 tests in schooling shows in Maine.  Lucy and I competed in Western Versatile Cowboy Challenges, Ranch Sorting and Team Penning, and Ranch Horse Versatility. I rope as a heeler in team roping in New England jackpots. I presented a ranch horse demonstration for the AQHA Breed Show at Equine Affair 2012 in West Springfield Massachusetts.

Jim and Beth Badger WDAA State Affiliate organizers for MaineBeth, my wife, and I also love riding on the beaches here in Maine and trail riding with friends. I have been riding and caring for horses for 20+ years. In this time I have become proficient in instructing intermediate level riders in general riding, therapeutic riding, dressage and versatility. From 2004-2008 I was an instructor in Therapeutic Riding for Flying Changes Therapeutic Riding Center in Topsham, Maine.

I strive to provide top quality riding instruction, horse care and customer service for all my clients and ensure standards of safety are upheld and adhered to at all times and to meet or exceed client expectations with regard to horse care and customer service.

I have the ability to teach/train basic dressage. I also have a knowledge of classical teaching and training methods, have taught summer riding camps and kids programs and have a through knowledge of horses and equine behavior. I am proficient in basic horse health and first aid. However, my foundation is Western riding and training working cow horses.

I have had the opportunity to study with some great trainers including Aaron Ralston, Robin Stang, Wanda Lounder AQHA Professional Horseman, Pat Puckett and I am presently training in Classical Dressage with Carol Poulin-Taylor.

Most importantly I have learned that mistakes are not fatal as long as you use every mistake as a learning experience. I feel that there is a place for every style and type of riding, no one is better than the next, and the experience is most important. People and horses learn from different approaches and if something is not working, change what you are doing.

WDAA  “Train the Trainer™ Program”

I was excited to attended the WDAA clinic for trainers.  I had some trepidation, however, I felt it was worth the risk to shoulder the travel and expense to take this course.  I feel Frances Carbonnel, Cliff Swanson, Neide Cooley, Mary Gunn and the wonderful team of people from the WDAA and WDA of Colorado deserve recognition for all their hard work. I was one of 30 new “Train the Trainer” trainees who completed the May 2013 training.  As a group, we appreciated all of their hard work which helped us all feel comfortable and welcome.  This was a big piece of the success of the training.

WDAA Train The Trainers™ Clinic Program for Western Dressage Education

Neide Cooley, one of the Founding Directors addressed the group on the first day of training, shared with us the demographic of Western Dressage – 90% of horse owners are women, 60% of these owners are over 45 and all of them are looking for a way to SAFELY enjoy and learn to ride and be with their horse.  I was encouraged to know that Western Dressage offers these tools and the safety of the western saddle, in which participants learn and have a venue to show their horses, where they can evaluate their training and get a sense of what they have accomplished.

I found it nice to put a face to an organization. I found Neide’s passion to be contagious.  I also felt that during this training, the Western Dressage tests are only a picture of ones training, that 3-4 minute test is only 5-10% of what the WDAA stands for.  You can only ride the horse that shows up to test that day. One only has so much control of the day, how they are feeling and how the test goes.  People are more interested in riding their horse well, attending clinics with other like minded people and learning in a safe environment.  The camaraderie is more important, at middle age, than a $2.00 ribbon.  Not trying to belittle the end result, testing, the relationship one has with their horse seemed to be more important to those I talked with, having usable horses is more pleasurable and the partnership is key.

During this training, the WDAA training team was very effective in their use of time to cover the WDAA Rules, proper gaits, discussed in length softness, collection, Rhythm, Harmony, Tempo, Cadence, Impulsion, Effective use of aids, proper body position.  We discussed the importance of being adaptable to the needs of the public, importance of a non-threatening educational atmosphere in-which people can learn and feel SAFE.  We then discussed the Western Dressage testing process, how to read a test, from the prospective of the rider and the judge.  We had six demo riders of all levels which participated a mock clinic so all attendees     could see, critique and evaluate clinic.  in groups, we built training plans; then we presented the plan to the whole group who critiqued the presented plan.  Business models were discussed to ensure clinics would at least break-even and financial liability.  Trainers insurance was presented, the importance and need of General Liability Insurance and Professional Insurance.

We then moved to an indoor equestrian facility, judging was addressed, we reviewed judges marks, what they meant, how the judge formulates their scores and remarks.  The demo-riders then rode all WD tests, we judged them in groups of 4-7.  We judged every aspect of the rides formulated scores and comments.  The group as a whole would then critique us on our judging, and it started over again.  What I found nice was out of our group of 30, we had L, S and R judges participating.  We also had a German Gold medalist, US Gold medalist and professional trainers from around the United States in this training.  It was fantastic to see how individuals evaluated these riders and in the end we all came to a place of fantastic learning.

We had 30 new “Train the Trainer” professionals join the ranks of people completing this training.  I am honored to say that I am one of the 60  trainers nationwide and 1 of only 4 men who have participated in this program.  If anyone ever asked me what I thought of this training, if it was worth my time and expense?  Most definitely, I would recommend this training to anyone who was truly serious about helping people and horses.

It’s not about the ribbons. I feel the WDAA and Western Dressage makes better horses and better riders.  If that’s the only thing, I feel it is enough; however, there is a lot more to this sport and organization and I am proud to call myself a member.

Jim Badger
Western Dressage Professional
Twin Birches Horsemanship
WDAA Maine State Affiliate Organizer
16 May 2013

One Response to “My Perspective and Thoughts about the WDAA Train the Trainer™ Program

  • Judy Gibney
    5 years ago

    I was fortunate to be included in the first TTT program October 2012. I had exposure to this wonderful way of teaching and riding before but everyone at WDAA really added to my experience. I met many wonderful horse people and learned another way to prepare my riding and teaching program. Since last year I have held several clinics and WD has been received with much enthusiasm. Thanks to all of the WDAA staff for putting together such a wonderfully helpful organization. I look forward with much excitement to work with them for many years to come. Hugs to you all. Judy Gibney at County Line Equestrian Center, Hutto, Texas.