Thursday, March 5, 2015

Clinic Report: Craig Johnson - reining and versatility

By Kathy Schmidt

My horse Hazelnut and I attended the Craig Johnson Clinic at Freedom Farm last weekend, and we had a great time! It was a bit out of our comfort zone, as we do Western about once a month for cow work, and otherwise focus on dressage and jumping, along with our usual chores around the Farm. It was a great group, including 8-10 folks and their gorgeous horses who show in western pleasure and/or reining. Craig was great, laid back yet very serious about his job, which has ranged from teaching individuals, to training and showing World Champions in reining, and now coaching folks in ranch versatility!
I appreciated his emphasis on a good foundation. We learned lots and tried new things such as trying to teach Hazel to spin - that was interesting. But after all the warm-up and isolated exercises, including lots of cantering (whoops, I mean loping), he had us do ranch versatility patterns.

I had to ask Hazel for several 'firsts' and she delivered. I credit her willingness and readiness to the help we have received over the years from Mary Gallagher, Jessica Crouch, and Michelle Grimmer. The pieces were definitely in place when we needed them. We could transition at the correct places, use the corners of the arena, plan/set up before a turn, collect and extend our walk, trot, and canter (lope), and - drum roll, please - do correct lead canter departs from the walk! More than once! And several lovely, simple lead changes on a straight line.

Plus, I had to ground tie Hazelnut four times - and leave the arena - to get a  flag, the lights, go the bathroom, etc.  She didn't move an inch. So other than having the dirtiest and hairiest horse - we had a really fantastic day!

(Originally published February 2015)