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Notes From a Workshop

California Bridle Horse Workshop with Bruce Sandifer and Jeff Derby Clovis, CA April 5 - 7, 2019

When Bruce Sandifer and Jeff Derby’s California Bridle Horse Workshop was scheduled for April 5 - 7 at Jim and Lynette Carden’s ranch in Clovis, I signed up to audit on Friday and bring my horse on Saturday. The Carden’s ranch is an hour’s drive from my home in the Sierra foothills, so this was an ideal clinic for me to attend. I am a braider of bosals and reins and use a bosal on my Quarter Horse, Cheyenne. The workshop was to work on rider’s skills using the hackamore, with an emphasis on working with stock and roping. As an avid trail rider, I was not interested in the cattle work or roping. My hopes were to hone my skills with the hackamore.

On Friday morning, Bruce and Jeff had riders and horses ride at will in the arena. I suppose it was an opportunity for them to assess the level of each rider and of each horse. Everyone received individual attention and some horses were ridden by Bruce or Jeff. What stood out to me was what Bruce could get this absolutely stunning buckskin gelding to do with very little effort. It was jaw dropping. I think the owner was equally impressed.

After lunch, we gathered together for what I would call “classroom time”. Bruce had his horse model set up with a spade bit and explained how the bit worked. Questions were asked and answers given, and that time was quite helpful to all. When the session ended, it was already 4 p.m. and time for me to head home. Bruce and Jeff had anyone who still wanted some riding time to saddle up their horse and head back to the arena.

I arrived Saturday morning ready to work on my hackamore skills. There were several things I needed to work on, but rather than work on all that was brought to my attention that I’d forget in a day, I decided to work on two things. One was to keep myself riding with my horse rather than ahead of her. The second was to improve my signals by keeping my mecate over the saddle horn and free up the shoulder so that the horse could turn more easily.

I’m going to take a minute here and mention that I do not have an arena available to me, my horse detests trotting in circles and my attention span is a little less than 3 minutes. With that out in the open, we walked most of the time and the technical advice given to me was not as easy to put into practice as I thought it would be. I had to make a conscious effort not to lean into turns and not to “plow rein”. It will take time for this to come naturally, but it will happen.

At 10 a.m., a group headed out to gather the cattle and bring them back to the arena. Working with cattle is completely out of my comfort zone and I had hoped to avoid it at all costs. Not to happen. We all had a turn going into the herd and moving with the cattle. I will assume this was also a time for Bruce and Jeff to assess and size up the amount of instructing each of us needed and how our horse reacted to the cattle. My horse was a bit aggressive and wanted to nip them in the rear. I was petrified, but hoped it was not all that obvious. I did my turn and thought that would be the end of it. Not to be. I had a couple more turns before our break for lunch. It was mentioned that after lunch there would be two groups. One would be for riders who roped and one group would sort the cattle. Not wanting to do either, I thought I could just slip away during lunch time. Hoping to make my getaway unnoticed, that thought was quickly dashed since I was blocked between two rigs. Ok cowgirl - get back on your horse and quit your whining. It will be 4:00 before you know it.

The ropers split into their group and we sorters gathered together in a line to block any cattle hoping to make an escape. One by one, we went into the herd to sort out one cow. Then, we were to maneuver it and hopefully not have it return to the herd until our turn was over. Everyone did quite well, but we all needed help, and help was given. Each of us had several turns and honestly, we were getting better. It was my turn again and I picked the cow with the white face. All the others were black except for this one. It would be easy to keep an eye on if it got away from me and returned to the herd. Well, it got away from me twice, but Cheyenne and I went back in and got it away from the herd both times. I was even moving this cow around quite naturally and having fun! I looked at my watch and darn! It was 4:00.

After saying my goodbyes to new and old friends and thanking Bruce and Jeff for their priceless knowledge and instruction, I realized that a bridge had been crossed that would never have been crossed had I not attended this clinic. I passed up several golden opportunities simply because of my own fear. Those opportunities, should they come my way, will never again be lost. I have an honest, trustworthy horse and together we make a pretty darned good team.

Ann Bates
North Fork, California