A blizzard couldn’t keep the horse enthusiasts away.
Bleachers weren’t overflowing but dedicated horsemen came through increasingly heavy snowfall to watch Craig Cameron introduce an untamed three-year-old sorrel Quarter Horse to civilization at the horsemanship clinic during the Topeka Farm Show.
While the horse was haltered and had been handled some by owner Cody Imthurn of Maple Hill, there was an obvious spark in her eye as Cameron, world renowned horsemanship clinician from Bluff Dale, Texas, coaxed her to circle around the pen.
“I’m cautious, but yet patient around her. I don’t want to scare her. I want her to become relaxed with me and these new conditions,” Cameron advised as he urged the horse into a lope. “A horse can’t be ridden if it doesn’t go.”
When the mare slowed down, Cameron advised she was relaxing as indicated by lowering her head and licking her lips. Again asking the horse to move, the trainer noted, “She’s beginning to yield and bend to my requests with the rope.”
Crediting the sorrel for her conformation and athleticism, Cameron commented, “She has lots of ability, and I want to be on her side not have her against me when I start riding.”
Continually asking for more movement, flexing and bending from the horse, the clinician related, “I intend to be able to control her head, neck, shoulder, body and hindquarters before I ever get on her. She must yield to pressure.”
Putting the rope all over the horse and picking up front and rear legs with it, Cameron rubbed her on the neck, wither and back, and was soon laying on her.
“She might seem gentle, but things can change in a heartbeat. Every horse is different, so I can’t go to sleep,” the cowboy acknowledged.
To accustom the horse to a varying environment, those in attendance were asked to applaud upon request from the trainer. At first, the mare jumped and shied when the group clapped, but before long, she would just pick up speed upon the command.
Cameron then turned the horse loose and moved her both directions around the pen upon verbal request. He picked up his lariat, roped the mare, started rubbing her with the saddle blanket, and then put his saddle gently over her back.
Without alarm, the mare was soon saddled and asked to bend both directions. “How many think she’ll buck when I ask her to trot around the pen?” Cameron asked.
General consensus was that the mare would take the next request in stride, but there was still a question in everyone’s mind, as Cameron urged the horse around the pen.
“She’s a little tight,” Cameron evaluated as the mare moved. While there may have been a bit of an arch in her back, the horse didn’t attempt to jump and kick away from the handler.
According to those attending a clinic the previous day, the horse’s responses to the weird leather piece tightened and flapping on her back was different than that of a palomino Quarter Horse who had put on a little bucking show prior to accepting the new apparatus.
With continual prodding, relaxation was apparent in the sorrel as she moved freer and at more speed around the corral. “I guess it’s time to see if I can ride her,” Cameron decided.
That first ride is always a question no matter how many one has mounted, and Cameron became obviously offended when deliberately teased by this writer about the possibility of being bucked off.
First slowly putting pressure in the stirrups from both sides of the saddle, Cameron was in the seat within a short time, but stepped back off almost instantly. Then he remounted, adjusted the halter lead rope and positioned his right hand in a leather strap around the saddle tree.
One of the spectators asked what that leather was and why he didn’t use the saddle horn if need be, like cowboys in the old West would have done. Cameron explained, “This is called a night latch, and I can hold onto it better than I can the saddle horn. I sure don’t want to get loose from this saddle if she starts to put on a rodeo.”
An assistant came into the ring, handled the lead line and asked the horse to move around the ring with Cameron in the saddle. Again, the mare was tight, and Cameron was obviously quite cautious until his mount became more relaxed.
“Now stay behind her and keep her moving,” Cameron commanded his helper, as the mare kept wanting to lag. “Go ahead, get her into a jog,” the rider ordered.
Hesitation was obvious, but with continual persuasion, the sorrel moved into a trot and a slow lope. “She is really doing great,” he complimented. “Give her a big hand.”
When the mare came to a stop, Cameron stroked her neck on both sides, stepped off and concluded, “That was a good first day. I hope she never has a bad day in her life.”