The Three Caballeros Get Ranchy

Since about May I have been looking forward to going to the Craig Johnson Ranch Horse clinic in Marshalltown.  Craig is a Hometown-Boy-Made-Good.  He is from Shell Rock, Iowa and he has won a bunch of stuff nationally and internationally in the sport of reining.  He still competes and now does a lot of clinics.  In fact, some pretty high-level clinics:


(Image-finding courtesy of my friend K Dub who is like a dog with a bone when she wants to find something!)  Yes, that image is from 2014, but the clinic includes George Morris, so, for Iowa-boy Craig to be included in that company is pretty major.

Anyhoo, being me and  hearing he lives in northern Iowa, even before the clinic I went to with him this last weekend, I Facebook-messaged him and told him about Howdy’s journey to the RRP in October. I told him I don’t know anything about Ranchhorse (essentially true), but that I’m a professional in another sport (true) and Howdy is a serious quick study (also true).  He responded and said he was interested in my project and he’d be happy to be involved.  Awesome.

So we  (my husband Jay and my friend K Dub) went to Craig’s Ranchhorse clinic.  Jay and K  Dub were doing this on a lark to amuse themselves and because they are sweet.  So there we were, the three caballeros:

Howdy CAmie Kristen Jay Sammy

Howdy wins the prize for highest head, which, interestingly, they don’t give prizes for at western events.  Huh.  K Dub’s hunter mare Willow was so relaxed and K Dub had such a cool groove that by the end of the day we were calling them Western Barbie and Nugget.  Jay was apparently born to ride western as he has that strong, quiet, capable air about him and our horse Sammy just classes up anything he does.  I’m not even bragging there, that dang chestnut is just a born badass.  His nickname is BA.  All three saddles and breastplates are borrowed from K Dub’s roping, rodeo boyfriend, Coach.  He also took this picture.  Thanks Coach!

Everyone was asked to introduce themselves to Craig and he spent a lot of time listening to people’s stories and hopes for the clinic, which was nice of him and pretty interesting.  When he got to K Dub, the first in our group to speak, she let the cat out of the bag by saying that all three of us were western-wanna-be’s from another sport and every last bit of our tack was borrowed.  Blew our cover right off the bat, but I suppose they were going to eventually notice that our horses were relatively gargantuan compared to most there, our lopes were a tad quick and that there was not a curb bit among us.

The morning was spent in bending and lateral work.  Much of it things that we would do in dressage.  Howdy was especially antsy because there were 18 of us in the pretty decent-sized ring, but people were working on steering and neck reining and they were every where, changing direction and backing up.  Howdy was thoroughly Not About It, but I did learn, among other things that morning, that you CAN neck rein on a snaffle and it isn’t that big a deal to teach a horse to neck rein if you have properly taught it leg aids.  I also learned that it is much easier to keep a horse straight while neck reining, which Jay also said he noticed, and that neither one of had us anticipated.

Then we had a lunch and learn hosted by Lifeline.  I have been considering becoming involved with the company since I have heard some friends and clients say it has helped their horses.  With the help of a friend, I approached the company a few months ago and got some of the product and tried it on my horses.  In particular, I have a huge 17h OTTB, Bravado, who was just not doing well.  Rough coat, tripping, hard to keep weight on, pinned his ears when asked to canter; so I thought I would try him first.  I didn’t change anything else in his feed routine.  After two months, he looks and performs like this:

After the lunch, we tacked back up (western saddles are heavy!) and went back in.  In the second session we did more cantering, much to Howdy’s delight.  We did a very interesting weave on a circle exercise, which was unlike anything I have ever seen in the english world and I think pretty dang useful.  We also did halting (major thing in western of course, and doesn’t hurt for english horses) and spinning.  It cracked me up when he asked us why we thought we do spins in reining patterns.  After no one knew, he said, “Mostly because it is fun!”  Ha!  It kind of is.  I had put the ground work for this on Howdy at the clinic at The Horse First, a month ago, so I just used those basics and added the tools he gave us and I thought Howdy was spinning pretty well.  I didn’t think much of it and was about to let him quit when Craig goes, “Camie that is AWESOME!”  So I guess he was spinning pretty well.  We weren’t fast like you see on Youtube, but it was correct.  At the RRP at most we have to do one spin in each direction, so yay, we’ve got a good start on that.

After spinning practice, we worked on the Ranch Trail skill of going over poles, also known as cavalletti in english riding.  The only challenge for the three of us english-based people was that we are used to trot poles set at around 4’6″.  These were set at 3′.  So after listening to Craig tell us how hard the poles were, we were the first three over them, almost perfectly at the tiniest trots we own.  Then we went and had a beer and watched the western people make it look hard.  Ok, not literally had a beer, but most definitely put our reins around our saddle horns and tried and probably failed at not looking smug.

Then the clinic was over.  We all learned something interesting and I am looking forward to shining up the skills I learned and going up to ride with Craig in a few weeks for more insights.  We all do think that the western people are much more tolerant than english people are about sitting in the tack for long periods of time – six and a half hours for this clinic.  You go, western people!  Wow!

I probably should mention that the day before the clinic I took Howdy xc schooling at a local horse park.  He was quite good, but is still jumping with his head between his knees looking at the jump and trailing his forearms.  This is not the ideal safe way to jump and we have work to do, but he did well seeing new things and cantering by himself in the big new world of another property.  He also went through water and up and down a small bank.  Yay.

Meanwhile, the first day to officially enter the RRP is today, August first.  So here it is:

Dear Camie,

You have successfuly completed your Final Entry Form for Cactus Star. If you are entered for two horses please complete another form for your second horse. Below you will find confirmation of your selections: 

Discipline 1: Working Ranch

Discipline 2: Eventing

Enter Horse in Horse Sale: No

Stabling Choice: Stall

Tack Stall: No

Arrival Date: Wednesday, Oct 4

Departure Date: Before Monday, Oct 9 by 8AM

Other Requests: Not sure how scheduling Working Ranch and Eventing for the same horse is going to go on your end, but I have good help, so if we get the training done in the next two months, we’re game if you are. Ideally we would do eventing first. Oh please. 🙂

If you have questions about your Final Entry selections please contact me directly. Changes may not be made after August 21.


Kirsten Green

Director of Operations

There’s some question at this point if I am going to get the jumping work done for the Eventing portion of the RRP, but I can always scratch if he isn’t pretty solid by October.  We have jumping grids at home and a couple of xc schooling opportunities so we will intend that it will work!  But if you ask me today, I feel like there is a 50% chance that we’ll be competing in eventing in October.  It would be a pretty cool accomplishment if we did get both done, but I’m not going to put undue pressure on either of us.  If it happens, great!

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