Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lots of Fun and Learning at Joe Wolter's Home Ranch Clinics

In March I had the opportunity to spend four days in Aspermont, Texas, attending a ranch horse and roping clinic at Joe and Jimmie Wolter's home ranch.  It was a transformational experience for me and my horse Mason, and we both came away from the clinic with much more confidence and trust in each other.  Plus, we brought home new skills to practice and improve.

I bought my Quarter Horse, Mason, in early 2008 and during our first months working together, he bucked me off while working a small bunch of cattle.  The buck off came without much warning and it kind of spooked me because I ride alone and across farm and ranch land where it could be awhile before I'd be found if I were really hurt.  After the incident, my trust in Mason was pretty low and I could tell that he wasn't very confident in me, so we weren't working well together as a team.  I was riding defensively and he knew it!

This went on for about a year and wasn't getting any better so I decided to get some help.  I had read about Joe Wolter over the years and I'd purchased and use his ranch roping video as I teach myself that art form.  Joe and his wife Jimmie run clinics across the U.S., but they also have periodic clinics at their ranch in Aspermont, Texas.  Since Aspermont was only about eight or nine hours away -- just around the block here in Texas -- I decided to go.

One of the first benefits for me was having the clinic on the calendar!  I started riding and practicing my roping with renewed dedication, and I challenged myself to try new things and ride new places with Mason.  We were finally making some progress again when it came time to load him into the trailer and head for North Texas.

That progress accelerated under Joe's direction.  I arrived at the Ranch just about sunset and Jimmie helped me get Mason settled and fed in the barn.  She also showed me around the very comfortable bunk house where most of the clinic participants would be staying.  The clinic includes breakfast and lunch every day, and there were also plenty of leftovers in the refrigerator to make an evening meal if we wanted that.  One of the other riders, Josh Elliot, was a master with a barbeque pit and had brought meat with him, so the bunkhouse residents also enjoyed the great food that Josh turned out every evening.

The clinic started early the next morning and we had lengthy morning and afternoon sessions every day.  Joe had us ride our horses through a series of maneuvers early on so he could assess our skill levels and our relationships with our horses.  From then on we were riding -- sometimes improving our arena riding, sometimes working with cattle, and sometimes roping.  It was a demanding program, but Joe made it clear from the beginning that we could take a break whenever we or our horses needed one.  Joe also worked with us individually to help us with particular problems and sometimes as examples for the rest of the clinic riders.  Riders ranged in age from early 20s to mid 60s so there was a great mix of experience and skill levels represented.  There was a tremendous improvement in my riding each day I participated, and both Mason and I became more relaxed and worked better together each day.

Now that I'm home again, Mason and I are still working to get improve, but the Joe Wolter clinic sure helped us take a great leap forward.  One big difference is that before the clinic, Mason had his head elevated and I had rein contact whenever we trotted or loped.  Now, I can trot and lope him on a loose rein with his head held in a natural position.  It's just one sign of how much Joe helped us.

If you're thinking of treating yourself and your horse to a clinic or if you are stuck in a rut like I was, please consider attending one of Joe Wolter's clinics.  Your horse will thank you for it!