Most everything done with a horse is to the left.
“Consequently, it’s important to make sure your horse is equally versatile to the right, and that requires concentrated awareness and training,” according to renowned reining and cutting horse trainer Al Dunning.
During the final day of The Al Dunning Experience, the Scottsdale, Arizona, clinician made that analysis as 17 mounted riders and several dozen bleacher-seated auditors from seven states, listened intently at the Kansas ExpoCentre in Topeka.
Initiated by district Purina Feeds representative Ernie Rodina, Ottawa, with coordination through regional sales agent Nancy Shearer, Weatherford, Texas, the three-day Purina Horse Owners Workshop (HOW) was sponsored by Topeka’s Premier Farm & Home along with six other area Purina dealers.
A professional trainer since 1970, Dunning has developed a winning Quarter Horse tradition that is documented by 32 world and reserve world titles he and his students have collected. Dunning is now leading the National Cutting Horse Association novice horse division.
Continuing the Sunday session, on “Applying Reining Principles To Improve The Responsiveness Of Your Horse,” Dunning recognized, “Horses are led from the left side, saddled from the left, mounted on the left, and most people ride left handed.
“So it’s just a fact that most horses turn easier to the left, take the left lead more readily, and work a cow first to the left. It’s left, left, left,” contended Dunning, who had three of his own horses at the clinic, including one open performance champion.
“Most horses automatically become more flexible to the left,” Dunning reiterated. “It’s a simple thing that we must not forget.
“Therefore, we must concentrate on the right side,” Dunning emphasized. “Work your horse three times to the right, compared to one time to the left.
“Make it a big deal, so your horse works to the right just as good as it does to the left. You have to concentrate on this all of time,” Dunning exclaimed.
Cones had been set up in a 60-feet circle, and riders were asked individually to ride at a lope through the pattern.
Automatically, the first participant started to go to the left, and Dunning pointed out that initially going to the right would help balance the horse’s versatility to go smoothly both directions.
After Dunning evaluated each rider, they were sent to one of his three personal assistants in another part of the arena for more individual help.
Brent Wright, also a world champion horse trainer from Ottawa, was in attendance to help with that personal guidance.
Dunning stressed, “You must communicate with your seat first, then with your feet and third with your hands.
“You use the reins to correct the horse, guide his forward, backward and directional movement. It takes concentration, but that’s the way it has to be.
“It’s really simple, so don’t make it too complicated,” the clinician encouraged.
Saturday was signified as Honorary Dean Smith Day in recognition of the Council Grove trainer who has shown a number of world champion horses in several disciplines. Smith was in attendance to visit with participants and offer opinions and advice when asked.
“We had live cattle for riders to work, along with a mechanical cow, and the moveable flag on the fence to give horses that experience,” related Rodina, who expressed appreciation to Dunning, his crew and the enthusiastic participants.
Rhoda Anthony of Stilwell bought one of Dunning’s training books at the stand where he was selling them and his special tack.
“I didn’t bring my horse, but I’ve been auditing from the stands,” Anthony evaluated. “There’s no trainer like Al. If I can just remember one-tenth of what he’s said, I’ll be happy.”
Every level of horse and rider was included in the group. Among them was Dawn Dawson, Alma, who hosts the Better Horses Network radio program with Rodina. “Oh, it’s been great,” Dawson critiqued. “My gosh, I didn’t know there was so much to learn.”
Jerry Hedrick, a Strong City rancher, announces many of the horse programs hosted by Purina throughout the Midwest and was riding his Quarter Horse under tutorship of the master.
Lisa Johnson, Lewis, who personally conducts clinics for women and their horses, had her own booth at the seminar, but was also riding her world champion Palomino during the Sunday session.
“There’s always something for everybody to find out in an experience like this,” Johnson contended.
Lawrence horseman Steve Miles, who raises, trains and judges breed shows including world championships, evaluated, “My horse and I have really had a good workout, and we’ve both learned a lot.”
Perhaps Dunning’s own synopsis of his career best summarizes the clinic: “This is what I do for a living: train horses. I love what I do, and I want to help as many as I can become better horsemen, too.”