Girls Horse Club Blog

A Day at the Clinic

Published by • Nov 12th, 2015 • Category: Non-Fiction, Showing & Sport

Horse Clinic

by Rey, age 13

Horses neighs, hoof clinks on the ground, the smell of manure, flies everywhere, wood shavings, hay, people shouting, horses snorting. This, and much more, comes with a stable. And as I think about tomorrow, my stomach fills with butterflies. It will be the first time I ever ride a horse in front of a bunch of people I don’t know. Even if it’s just a horse clinic.

My mind swirls. What will it be like? I’m almost afraid, but why should I be? I have Whiz.

Oh yeah, Whiz. He’s my Grandpa’s horse. He’s chestnut, with a tiny star on his forehead and one white sock. My sister and I share a horse, Meg, but my sister normally rides her. So I’m always stuck with the extra horses. Never with a horse of my own. And when I get attached to the extra horses, my heart breaks when I have to leave them. So, I’m trying not to get attached to Whiz.

With the sun setting, my family gets in our car and drives home, talking about the lesson the whole way back.

*  *  *

I hear Larissa telling me to get up. I rub my head and then remember that today is the clinic. My excitement is beyond compare as I run around, finding my jeans and boots, eating breakfast, and talking to Larissa.

We wait around until we hear Grandpa’s truck pull in the driveway. We run outside and meet him halfway. He’s got the radio to country. My brother waves to us, but with a sad face because he wanted to ride. He and Grandpa think that Whiz and Tyler make a good match. But really, it’s me and Whiz.

I buckle my seat belt in the front and Larissa buckles her seat belt. I can hear the rattle of the horses in the trailer as we pull out of our driveway and down the road to the fairgrounds.

My stomach is going wild as I sit still in the white truck. Grandpa is explaining to us the last minute things, like don’t get too close behind a horse and how to get in the correct lead.

We drive in and park by Garrett and Claire, some kids who go to our school. Grandpa gets the horses out of the trailer. First my sister’s horse, Meg, then Whiz. Grandpa ties them up and we start grooming.

Meg is done first and Larissa gets on her back with her helmet strapped on her head. “I feel like I’m going to barf,” she says as we look at the arena, full of riders warming up their horses.

She waits for me and Whiz, then we walk down to the arena. Whiz, in his good nature, does just what I ask, but his curiousness causes a couple of stops along the way.

Larissa and I walk side by side for a while and then she trots off on Meg. I watch in awe at Meg’s slow and easy trot, especially compared to Whiz’s bumpy one.

Whiz and I walk the whole time, observing other riders and categorizing them into groups in our heads. A beautiful white speckled Arab trots past us with its little rider bouncing up and down. The Pretty category. Two girls, obviously older than me, stick out their chests and stick up their chins. They look at me in a mean way and go back to prancing around. Obviously the Too-Good-For-You category. Some of them with teeny tiny riders who need extra short stirrups are placed in the Really Young category. And some just look plain decent.

One rider, someone I know from school a little bit, loped in front of me. Whiz looks at them and tries to trot ahead, but I hold him back. The bay horse has a red ribbon tied to her tail, a sign that she may kick. I walked slower so they could get ahead of me. I did NOT want to get kicked today. I also noticed how Larissa and I were the only ones to wear our helmets, but Grandpa had made us. Everyone else wore cowboy hats, regular hats, or no hats at all.

“Okay everybody, make a circle!” Sherman said. He was running the clinic and he was on the back of a beautiful sorrel horse. We all obey his instructions and he starts talking about what we are going to do today. “We will be learning Ranch Pleasure. It just came out three years ago and is very new. I know the words ‘ranch’ and ‘pleasure’ don’t exactly go together, but what they want to see in this event is a ranch horse that looks like a pleasure to ride.” He explained more on the class, and I found I liked it. Especially since I could use two hands!

He demonstrated a good ranch pleasure walk and then split us into four groups to work on it. I was in group four so we were the last to go, but we practiced almost the whole time. Whiz already had a good walk, so we just walked around lazily. Our group leader was Garrett and Claire’s dad, which was nice.

When Sherman got to our group, he had the first rider come with him and demonstrate her good ranch walk. Sherman worked with us individually and when he got to me, I nudged Whiz into a walk. Whiz, remembering what we had just practiced, easily walked with Sherman and his horse. “Try to keep up with my horse. She walks pretty fast.” I squeezed Whiz a little to try and keep up with Sherman’s horse, but he stayed at the same pace. Eventually, when it was done with my turn, Sherman said, “Good ranch walk,” with a sincere smile, and moved on to the next rider.

I patted Whiz’s neck and he turned one ear back to listen to my, “Good boy.” I got my hands back where they needed to be with my split reins and rejoined my group. Sherman then explained a good ranch trot and demonstrated. His horse completed the task with utter perfection. He explained the extended trot too and had us work on it. But since it had taken so long last time, I decided to take Whiz over to our trailer for some water and grass and then we would practice.

Grandpa was watching when I came over and he gave me a jug of water to drink, since it was almost 90 degrees out. Whiz gladly ate some grass and then I hopped back on him and adjusted my helmet.

I took him back into the arena and a nice girl from group one opened the gate for me. “Thank you,” I said and she nodded. Whiz walked through the gate nicely and we made our way back to our group.

Sweat already trickled down my forehead and I wiped it away. The sun was beating down, and with barely any shade I figured we would have a lot of breaks for water.

Whiz and I trotted in some circles with the other people in our group. Hally, I knew a little bit from school, was riding a black mare and trotted behind Whiz and me. A girl on a paint who was wearing sunglasses trotted in front of us. A boy stood by the fence looking at his horse, but not wanting to trot.

Sherman came to our group last and asked me to go first. I gladly went up and clucked to Whiz, which got him into a trot. He hardly needed me to squeeze him, he just needed to hear the cluck. Keep my heels down, I thought to myself after I was bouncing a bit. I stopped bouncing so bad after that. Put pressure on my toes, I thought. After I did that, our trot was much nicer.

“Beautiful trot,” Sherman said. I was thrilled because it was one thing I was bad at. “Now, please do the extended trot.” I squeezed and clucked to Whiz and he trotted faster, making it all that more hard to keep my heels down and put my weight on my toes.

I was done all too soon and then went back to my group. After everyone in my group had gone, and the boy who wouldn’t trot refused to trot with Sherman, we moved on to a lope. Sherman demonstrated both leads and the extended lope. Then he added, “If anyone is uncomfortable with loping, please don’t be scared to tell me.” I thought about the boy in our group.

But when I kissed and kicked with my outside leg to get Whiz into a lope, I turned to see the boy, loping in a circle. I guess it’s just trotting that’s bad for him, I thought. Most of the people in my group left to go get drinks. So I practiced both leads, which Whiz handled perfectly (he almost always got the correct lead) and then I practiced the extended trot on both leads which turned out perfect.

A girl from group number one came over into the shade on our side, next to me. She had a beautiful paint horse and she started jabbering on about something. I smiled, her friendliness was comforting. “Hi, I’m Heidi,” she said to me.

“Reyana, but you can call me Rey.” She smiled, showing the retainer on her perfectly straight teeth. We talked about our horses, her horse being named Maddie. She told me about Maddie and I told her about Whiz not actually being mine.

“Well, you’re riding him, so you can say he’s yours!” I laughed. She was so nice. We were both wearing pink and we had both just gotten our braces off. I told her about Meg and my sister, and my Grandpa making me wear a helmet. She just nodded and laughed, which made me smile.

After a bit, she pointed to Whiz’s mouth. “Hey, Whiz’s mouth is foaming.” I laughed and so did she. He was foaming green spit from the grass he ate. It was disgusting and funny at the same time.

Then, Whiz being curious, started to sniff Maddie’s neck. Heidi and I let them mingle and then Maddie backed up abruptly and whinnied, sending other whinnies back her way. “Whoa!” Heidi and I said to our horses at the same time. Maddie didn’t like Whiz too much, but he was still curious. So I often had to pull his head back so he wouldn’t frighten Maddie.

It was my turn to lope so I brought Whiz out by Sherman. I kissed to him and kicked with my right leg to send him in the correct lead. We loped about two circles and Sherman told me to go to the extended lope. I kissed and kicked, but Whiz went back down to a trot. So, I kissed and kicked again and he sailed into an extended lope. “Good recovery.”

I did the other lead, this time kicking with my left leg, and brought him into the correct lead. He loped nicely, but I could tell he was hot and tired from the humidity and the sun. I pushed him harder, knowing that he’d be done soon. “Now go into an extended lope, but don’t let him trot!” I kissed and kicked with my left leg and Whiz surged into a faster lope, not even thinking about trotting.

Happily I took him around two circles like that and slowed him down, patting his neck. “Good job,” Sherman said and then called for the next rider.

*  *  *

During lunch break, Larissa and I tied our horses up to the trailer and went to get lunch. She took off her spurs so they wouldn’t fall off. (I didn’t have to wear any because Whiz followed my immediate command. Meg, on the other hand, could get lazy.)

We went and got Subway sandwiches and chips and found a seat by the trailer. Eating the sandwich in less than ten bites and shoving the chips down my throat, I was still hungry. I gulped down some cold ice water from the cooler, smiling as I felt it slide down my throat and soothe the dryness I had been feeling.

My jeans were already sweaty through and sweat was everywhere on me, not to mention horse hairs. Grandpa had left, so we stayed by Sherman’s trailer since he was our uncle. We also decided to abandon our helmets after lunch break because Grandpa wasn’t here.

Larissa and I went back to the stands after making sure our horses were alright. Whiz was happily eating hay, so I left him to it.

We found a seat in the front and took two Purina bags that they were passing out for the riders. We watched as this lady showed us two of Sherman’s horses, saying they were moderate, which would be a five on a scale of one to nine for horse health. She said a horse should be anywhere from a five to a 6 and a half.

After they looked at the two horses, we watched Sherman walk to the trailer. He untacked Meg and took her out. Larissa looked offended. But turns out, that lady used to own Meg before Uncle Sherman’s client did, and then we owned her.

So the lady showed us the flab in certain areas on Meg and decided she would be categorized as moderately fleshy or a six on the scale. They said she’d make a good reining horse because they preferred horses a little fleshier. Larissa seemed offended. I just laughed.

Sherman announced that we would start back up in ten minutes so Larissa and I got back to the trailer. We had to tack Meg up again and then we both got on our horses and trotted in the arena. I found Heidi and we walked together, talking. I told about Meg being the “fatter” horse that they showed in the stands and she laughed, remembering when I told her that Meg was on the fatter side.

I found out that Heidi was going into ninth grade and when I told her that I was only going into seventh, she was shocked. “You look way older!” she said.

“Thanks,” I replied. But I was glad, because Whiz and I were both around the same age.

Sherman came to the middle and Heidi and I separated into our groups. Sherman demonstrated the spins or three-sixties. He showed us how to start off, doing one step, then two steps, then a half circle, then a full circle. I almost rolled my eyes. Yesterday Whiz and I had worked on spins so much that if I turned really sharp he would assume I wanted to spin and get in position. Well, Grandpa had made us practice a bunch. But I’m not sure how much I like spinning because Whiz goes so fast and I always think I’m going to fall off.

I turned Whiz and stopped him real fast. He was confused, because he wanted to do the full circle. But after a couple of those, he got used to what I wanted him to do and then easily did the full spin.

We watched as Heidi showed Sherman her spins, and her and Maddie did really well. Hally and I talked for a while. She told me her horse was Tahana and I told her mine was Whiz. She told me about his mouth foaming again and I just laughed. Hally was going into fourth grade and my younger brother had a crush on her younger sister.

Sherman got to us and I volunteered to go first. I easily finished the spins and Sherman smiled. Practice pays off. Hally slowly did her turns, but she did them correctly.

Next, Uncle Sherman had us back up. He demonstrated how to do it and then he went through the groups again. Whiz easily backed up when I practiced so I decided to join Hally in the shade. Heidi came back after her backing up and we all talked and laughed in the shade. After Hally and I showed Sherman our backing up, he told us about the pattern he had in plan for us.

He went through everything, and I was lucky because Larissa and I had practiced some of it the day before at Grandpa’s. The girl who had opened the gate for me went first and she rode beautifully. More volunteers, and everything was amazing. Even though the sun was hot and I was dark with sweat (so was Whiz and he hardly ever sweats), it was very fun to watch everyone do their patterns.

Larissa volunteered and rode hers very well. Even with the accidental wrong lead, she recovered. I volunteered and I walked Whiz out on the side like I practiced yesterday.

I started to trot and when I got to the top of the arena, I did a three-sixty then loped. Whiz and I loped beautifully, we got the correct lead and it felt like we were flying. After a figure eight, we got to the poles. This was the only part of the pattern that I had been eyeing since we never actually worked on it. Whiz and I came around the corner, up to the poles, but Whiz refused to go over them. I nudged him, but he refused again. I tried backing him up and Uncle Sherman walked his horse over to see if Whiz would follow, but he didn’t. He tried several times to go around, but after I quietly hummed Star Spangled Banner he got distracted and made it over the poles.

We backed up and Sherman smiled, telling me I did a good job.

After it seemed that everyone left, some people were still there so Larissa and I had to wait around. We used the extra time to our advantage and rode our horses around, even though it was terribly hot.

After untacking our horses, and getting some water, we got in the air-conditioned vehicle and sighed. It was one hot day, but a very fun day.

5 Nickers »

  1. Is this a true story? Whiz sounds like an amazing horse!

  2. That’s one amazing story!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Yes, this is a true story! And thanks! Whiz truly is an amazing horse and I wish he was mine! My dad offered to buy him from Grandpa, but Grandpa didn’t want to sell. Maybe in the future. But I’m excited to do some Ranch Pleasure competitions in the spring on Whiz! This clinic gave me an extra energy boost in my riding and especially my riding on Whiz!

  4. Wow Rey! Do you have your own horse? Even if you don’t you still get to ride whiz! Will you post a picture of him some time?

  5. I share a horse with my sister! I will post a picture of Whiz sometime!