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"Scary" Driving Clinic

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  • "Scary" Driving Clinic

    I have had the joy of being a participant at the worst driving clinic ever. I thought I'd just drop the "experience" from my memory, but I've decicded to tell my little story to save someone else the potential anguish.

    On August 10, I went to a "Driving Clinic" hosted by Full-Circle Equestrian Center with John Beiler as the clinician. I am usually not into the "clinic" scene... Unless the clinician is very well known and I have personal recommendations from previous participants... And I should have stayed that way!

    I took two ponies to this "driving clinic". A 3yo complete virgin large pony filly and a 5yo medium pony mare who is very accomplished under saddle. The clinic was billed as for non-driving animals. As in "teach your horse to drive". I have taught a pony to drive, adn we compete in CDE, but I've only been driving a couple of years, and only with the one pony. I'm no expert by any means!

    We got to the clinic site at about 2 pm on a Friday. A 6 hour drive, including one stop for breakfast and two fuel stops. In 100+ heat. (The hotel desk clerk later told us it was 111 with heat index)
    Kitty (3yo filly) was a bit of a worrier. She occasionally scrambled in the trailer and whinnied a lot while traveling. She's never been farther than 20 minutes in a trailer before. Spirit (5yo mare), who's been back and forth to Florida, traveled perfectly fine.

    We found the "equestrian center" easily enough. All I could think was "wow, there are a damn lot of horses here." No barns in site. Just lots and lots of paddocks, some few with carports for shelter. I later learned there were 45 horses there. Some of them belonged to boarders, some were in for training, most in for sale on commision.

    The "arena" was on the highest point of the property, a covered pen about 50x70. One end of it was turned into 10x10 stalls that I never saw cleaned the entire time I was there. A fugly stallion occupied one of those stalls, right where mares had to be worked in front of his very unhappy nose. The clinic was held mostly in the remaining 50x60 "arena". I guess this was okay, since only one horse was worked at a time.

    This was not a clinic like I was expecting. It was very hands off, the clinician did all the work, only letting the owners get involved for the last few minutes of each drive.

    I was already a bit wary, but I was determined to be open minded. I wrote a check for $300 dollars for this (plus a couple of hundred in gas and another couple on hotel and meals), after all.

    When we had the girls put away, we drew up our folding chairs to watch. Two mini's had already been through the "program" and a big QH gelding was the current victim. The gelding was being "lunged" in the pen with harness on, a twisted wire snaffle bit wired to his halter, and dragging a mess of PVC pipes with plastic sacks tied to their ends... My friend and I looked at each other, and I know we both thought "uh-oh". Spirit, the medium pony, has a morbid fear of WHITE (and really only white) plastic or paper. She was "round penned" as a baby, apparently enough to hypersenitize her and not enough to get her "sacked out". And we've never been able to work through this (though to be honest I've never spent much time trying). Still, this clinician was supposed to be a professional...

    The lunging thing was rather inventive. In the center of the pen, a huge stake had been driven into the ground. Attached to this was 20 feet of rope. The rope was running through PVC pipe, actually electrical conduit. When I asked what the hell that was, I was told that this was to keep the horses on the outside of the circle. The horses were attached to the fixed lunging contraption and just sent around endless until they "accepted" each step.

    The "ideal" process was this:
    Drape blanket over horse tied to railing. Flap it around a bit.
    Tickle horse with short whip with plastic sack on end.
    If horse doesn't explode, harness horse with ancient filthy NYLON harness, oft broken and oft repaired with bailing twine and such. No crupper and made for a much larger horse.
    Attach a bit to the horse's halter with snaps, if they aren't broken, or wire if it works better.
    Attach horse to lunge contraption and send it around by chasing with whip and plastic sack or with a pom-pom thingy, if the horse didn't get lively enough with the whip and sack.
    Once horse "accepts" this treatment, attach a length of PVC to breastcollar on each side.
    Send horse around more.
    Once horse "accepts" this treatment, attach another length of PVC to breastcollar on each side. These new pieces have a plastic sack on the end.
    Send horse around more.
    Once horse "accepts" this treatment, attach a third length of PVC to breastcollar on each side. These new pieces have three plastic sacks on each,
    Send horse around more.
    Once horse "accepts" this treatment, attach an axle thingy to the last pair of PVC pipes, so horse is two dragging pieces on each side and a wheeled thingy. All liberally covered with plastic sacks.
    Send horse around more.
    Once horse "accepts" this treatment, attach a plywood "dashboard" to the axle thingy.
    send horse around more.
    Once horse "accepts" this treatment, stop. Take all pipe stuff off, turn horse around and start at the beginning, but going the other direction.
    After horse is thoroughly tired and "accepting" (remember it is like 110 degrees, high humidity, occasional faint breeze), attach horse to beat up, poorly balanced cart. If traces won't reach, use bailing twine to make up the difference.
    Attach reins to bit and ground drive in the pen, forcing horse to shove hard on shafts to make the tight turns.
    If horse doesn't freak out, head outside, with open gate to Interstate 10, get in and walk around small yard area.
    Let owner get in also and take lines, walking around small yard area.
    Done. Horse is now a broke driving horse.

    Okay, so QH gelding has gone through the process up until the point of being driven outside the arena. As they were driving out, I noticed that one of the hold backs was disconnected. I had to end up calling the holdback strap "the thing that connects the breeching to the cart" to get the clinician and his assistant to understand what the hell I was talking about.

    So gelding is driving in yard, and owner gets in, and when asking for a turn, gelding bolts forward and clinician makes grab for reins to stop him. Seems the other holdback strap broke too, and when the horse turned, the breeching (and then cart shaft) rapped him on the hock. Did I mention this was horrible, nasty equipment? But the gelding recovered, and owner was ecstatic that her horse was now a driving horse.

    So it's time to work the last mini. This is one of those mini's that is everything wrong with the breed. A horrible under bite, mishapened muzzle and head. The "process" was really shortened for him. I'm guessing because the mini harness the clinician used had a closed bridle so the poor little beast couldn't see the trash chasing him. So after like a hour of work, the mini is in the yard being driven by clinician. Who then steps out of the cart and the owner (an 8yo boy) gets in sans helmet and drives BY HIMSELF!!!! With an open gate leading to the highway! I offered the mother a helmet, when I saw this, but she looked at me like I was crazy. My friend asked me quietly "you are planning to wear a helmet, aren't you" I assured her I would have helmet and gloves before getting in behind Kitty or Spirit...

    Oh, did I mention that the traces weren't long enough on this mini, so they used bailing twice to make up the difference? And that after the 1st boy finished his 5 minutes of driving, the older brother (11 or 12) drove, also without a helmet!

    Finally it was done, and the mini put away.

    The clinician had offered to take a 9th horse (an auditor asked if he could) and since he agreed, they wanted to start with one of mine, so that there would still be 4 to do the next day. I agreed, though I was tired, but I was trying to be easy to get along with. I pulled out Kitty, since she was the easiest to catch in the pen they were in. I still don't know if this was a good decision.

    So the clinician goes through the whole process with Kitty. I made sure he knew, told him many many times, that Kitty was a complete virgin. Never been lunged, never been bitted, never been tacked. Knows feet, baths, blankets, leading, loading, tying. That's it.

    So he got Kitty through his process up to the point of driving the cart in the pen. Kitty was getting frustrated with trying to understand the reins/bit, at the same time she's trying to figure out how to turn the cart in that tiny enclosed space. Right about the time I was getting up to stop the process before she exploded, the clinician stopped, saying he would finish with her in the morning, since she was getting upset. Kudos for him.

    8 am finds us feeding the girls and ready to go for day 2. Kitty is first up to "finish" her day.

    Clinician starts her exactly where he left off, no going back and reinforcing lessons, just continue immediately from previous point and puts her to the cart and ground driving in the little pen. She is still completely frustrated with bit/reins/turns, but she's putting up with everything.

    After like 30 minutes, clinician drives her out of the pen into the yard and hops in. Kitty is trying, her big problem is the bit... Turns are so frustrating for her, she can't figure out why her mouth is being pulled like it is. I get in, drive for a few minutes (with helmet and gloves) and we're done. A very unsatisfying experience. Kitty needs lots more time on the ground, learning the use of the bit. The breeching sat way too low for her, so she couldn't back up (which I disliked seeing her asked to do anyway, since she doesn't know the bit well enough). I was just very very displeased with everything now.

    And now it's Sprit's turn...

    And I look up from focusing on Kitty to find the idiot clinician's idiot assistant lunging my pony with just a halter and lunge line (and ever present whip with plastic sack), and accoding to my friend, who saw the assistant go fetch Spirit, has been lunging IN THE SAME DIRECTION for 45 MINUTES in no shade 110 degree heat! I told everyone that Spirit was rehabing from a suspensory lesion she got in January. I told everyone what leg it was on, and here is this girl lunging Spirit with the bad leg on the inside of the circle at warp trot speed for nearly the whole time I have been working with Kitty!!!!

    I passed Kitty off to my friend, went out to the assistant and told her that was enough, thank you very much. Spirit is very game, and unless she is in side reins and really being "worked" , she thinks lunging is a distance race, as in "I should go real fast and after x number of circles they let me stop". The assistant was lunging with the line to the bottom of the halter, on about 20 feet of rope using a 3 foot whip with a plastic sack as a "go" tool, which Spirit completely ignored, since it was so far away from her. Anyway, I stop the mindless lunging. Check the leg, and trot Spirit in hand for a second to check for lameness. And get her a much needed drink.

    While I'm doing this, the clinician and the assistant are pounding a stake into the ground of this outdoor paddock (ie no shade), and moving their lazy man's lunging gear to this new place.

    I decided Spirit was okay to continue, as long as EVERYONE knew again, that she had a suspensory lesion in January and zooming around on a small circle was a bad idea...

    So no sacking out with blanket and sack for Spirit... I don't know why. But the clinician just "skipped" those steps. He draped her with the harness that had been too big for Kitty. I told him I had my own harness for her. He insisted on using his own crap. I told him I had an open bridle for her, or a closed bridle. He still insisted on fastening a bit to her halter with double ended snaps.

    My internal warning sirens are going off, but I'm trying to be open minded here... So I sit back.

    Spirit is hooked to lunging contraption. And sent off at a warp speed trot. She's happy enough to not stop, after all there is no cue in the bridle to stop, no one ever says "whoa".... So they finally get her stopped and attach the 1st pair of poles and send her off again, but only like 3 circles. Spirit was figuring out that she could really stop when ever she wanted to and no mean person (aka me) was going to discipline her for being a lazy sluggard on the lunge line.

    So they had the 2nd set of poles with the damn white plastic sacks, get them attached, and the clinician steps back to get his whip thingy. The assistant is still at Spirit's head, but I don't know what started it, but Spirit busts away from them and is flying around the circle at top gallop, throwing herself to the ground trying to get away from the sacks chasing her. She stops long enough to pull straight back from the stake, then leaps into the conduit covered lunge rope and runs from the chasing sacks some more.

    And no one was going to stop her!

    I stepped right into her path, she slid to a halt and stood there trembling so hard I couldn't get to the buckles for the harness. The clinician came up, I guess he figured if I was unharnessing the pony we were done, so he got his harness off while I just petted Spirit, she kept shoving her head in my chest, trying to hide. It was pathetic. I was in tears, so was my friend.

    I use heavy Hamilton halters. The super doubled nylon ones, with heavy hardware, brass grommets in the holes, etc. Spirit shredded her halter in the fight. I had to cut it off of her later, since the brass was deformed and it couldn't be unbuckled.

    I got Spirit hosed off, and just walked her all over for nearly an hour trying to get her breathing and pulse down. Got some e-lytes into her, rubbed her down with liniment, wrapped the leg with the old injury and just walked until I thought I could speak without committing murder. She was broken. Alternately dead headed with exhaustion, then jumping on top of me, scared of every leaf and shadow. It took hours for her to graze for more than a mouthful at a time.

    And the clinician had the nerve to tell me I should hang plastic sacks in her pasture.

    WTF?!? I want the pony to drive, not work at the land fill! She was reasonably okay with the white plastic caught on fences and such as long as it wasn't chasing her. Now she'll probably kill her rider the first time she see plastic on the trail. A problem she didn't have before being tortured by this "professional".

    Okay, I'm participating any more... Still left to go are a pair of pony mares and a Belgium mare. The lunch break was called.

    The owner of the Belgium came up to me and very quietly said "thank you for stopping that", but she still wanted to see how her mare did.
    Everyone else, in comments that I was intended to overhear, said I was obviously ill-prepared for the clinic (who's flyer said no prep necessary) and needed to work with my ponies more at home first. That my pony should have been worked through the issue if I ever want to drive her.

    Hello? I was the only participant who had actually ever driven a horse before and actually knew how to harness one. These same people had spent the previous day asking me endless questions about CDE, how I started my current competition pony in harness, if their horses can do CDE, etc. Even the clinician spent time asking about CDE. Which didn't up my opinion of him, since he didn't seem to know the types of vehicles I was talking about, much less the harness parts I was talking about... But because the "process" failed miserably with Spirit, it's because *I* don't train my horses well. I told them way ahead of time, and multiple times, that Spirit was afraid of white plastic. But the clinician made no deviation in his process to work with this. Like he only knows exactly one way of doing things, and woe be to the pony that doesn't fit the program.

    I had mentioned to another participant that I had a mare in training with a top driving trainer. Which made the host lady ask why I was at her clinic. I told everyone I like expanding my bag o' tricks, maybe find a new way of doing something. Most of the others thought this was weird, that if I already knew how to train (even though I told them I've only started ONE pony in harness, so I'm hardly a trainer), I was wasting my money at the clinic. Anyway, some of the people had heard of my driving trainer, but thought he was just too expensive and he wants to the pony there for at least 30 days... While the clinician guy, who will take in training horses too, only costs 75 a week if you bring your own grain and hay, and you can pay for a week at a time....

    Okay, so back to the ponies.

    First up is a nice looking pinto. Until I saw her walk. Sore on both front feet. She has navicular disease according to the owner and is barefoot, no corrective shoeing or trimming. But since she can't be ridden anymore, driving is fine, right? And did the clinician decline to work with the obviously hurting pony? Heck no, he rammed her through the process. He used the owner's harness. And went though much faster because the pony harness had a closed bridle with it, so the pony couldn't see the damn sacks. But the owner's pony cart is sized for a shetland, and was to short in the shafts for the pony. So he puts this 12 hand pony in the same cart he used for Kitty and the QH gelding. With bailing twice to make the traces reach. And drive off before handing the lines to the 10 yo daughter of the owner, again with no helmet. Who drives the foot sore pony all over for a good while.

    2nd pony is up. Another 12 hand pony, this one a POA, and also with health issues. Who uses the same pony harness (which fits better in some places and worse in others). She takes much longer, because the closed bridle didn't fit her, so he had to go through the entire process with the damn sacks. But ended with little girl also driving this pony in yard with open gate to highway with no helmet with the harness fitting all wonky, and instead of actually buying shafts of proper size, the clinician told them to just weld an extension on the cart to make it fit.

    This guy knows NOTHING about safety, proper harnessing, proper putting to the cart... He's telling the owners of the ponies to make sure to have them more than 2 feet in front of the cart when put to... Okay everyone, how far behind a 12 hand pony is the real "kill zone" where the pony has max power to the kick. Hmm... maybe 2 feet? And in one of those little show carts with no dashboard, what body part on a child is right at optimum kick height? Why that would be the torso!

    I tried to tell the owner why that might not be a great idea, but since my pony is too crazy to even be started in harness, I have no credibility...
    I tried to tell the owner that having the breeching riding up under the tail is a bad idea, that the pony can't stop the cart and can't back up, and very well could bolt if the breeching ends up under the top of her tail, but again, what the hell do I know?

    My friend swears that I made the clinician defensive, that that was why he treated Spirit the way he did. That on the first day, when I tried to hold an intelligent conversation with him about competition vehicles and what to expect in the competition since he thought he'd try CDE also, that with the other participants all wanting CDE info, that I was just bothering him. Esp. after I pointed out the broken holdbacks...

    I'd like to think adults don't act that way, but I might be wrong.
    Aelfleah Farm, Scurry, Texas
    BLUE STAR Arabians and
    Arabian-influenced Sportponies

  • #2
    I think I would have turned around when I got there. Training a horse to drive takes months of patient work, not something that can be accomplished, or even close, in a weekend clinic. This cowboy needs to take his garbage elswhere before he gets some poor hors and owner killed. Found this places website and the example pictures say everything http://www.full-circle-enterprises.com/Driving.html


    • #3
      I'm pretty much just speechless, and I could only get through half of your post!!

      World-class incompetence on the part of the "clinician", who unfortunately is going to get a lot of horses and humans hurt, maimed or killed.

      I'm sorry about your pony. If she is ever safe to drive after this, it's going to take YEARS. Please go slowly and carefully to regain her trust. I'm sorry this happened to both of you.
      "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


      • #4
        I 'might' have stayed for the night since I had already driven for 6 hours. The horses needed to rest. There is no way I would have allowed any horse to go through that. The warning bells going off in your head (they were there right?) would have sent me home first thing in the morning. The lost money would have been the least of my worries. How horrible for your horses.


        • Original Poster

          In the last month, the terrorized pony has already been (re)started with a dragging a tire (she already knew ground driving and long lining from her saddle training) and since she didn't freak out when we saw a plastic sack caught in a fenceline while ground driving with the tire, I think she'll be okay. Her harness training will be cut short though, as she goes to the dressage trainer next month to be prepped for the '08 season over the winter and hopefully POA Nationals.

          The 3yo is just sitting around eating again, as she's a bit farther down the priority training list right now and I don't have harness and cart to fit her since she's so much bigger than my mediums. She wasn't traumatized in anyway by her experience, just didn't learn anything either... After the POA goes off for training, and the driving mare I have in with the driving trainer comes home and we settle into a routine, then I'll start with the 3yo again. Hopefully she'll have forgotten everything by then!

          I know you can't train a driving horse in a weekend... It was many months with the pony I trained, and I made mistakes I still have problems fixing. I thought the clinic was more of "this is how you can train your pony"... Maybe showing the steps, explaining the process, kinda thing. Definitely didn't think it was from virgin to driving in 2 hours! I guess I completely misread the flyer information, or ratehr read what I wanted to into the flyer. I expected my ponies to each be worked with for a couple of hours, but really didn't expect anyone to actually put them to a cart in that time!

          Pics of my 3yo being worked can be seen at:
          Aelfleah Farm, Scurry, Texas
          BLUE STAR Arabians and
          Arabian-influenced Sportponies


          • #6
            Thank you for sharing this experience. I hope that if I ever find myself in such a situation, I will remember your unheeded warning bells and listen to my own!


            • #7
              The single most important thing we can do for our horses is to listen to our instincts and have the courage to stand by our convictions when we think something is wrong. Being open-minded is good, but you knew exactly what that trainer was after the first few minutes (I can hear it in your post) and you should have trusted yourself and your feelings enough to say "no" before your horses were traumatized. So what if the other people there would have torn you down verbally? You were right, and you knew it. The lady with the Belgian should have known better too. How someone can see what your horse went through, publically acknowledge that it was a horror that had to be stopped, then voluntarily stand back and think it will be different with her own horse I do not understand!

              I too have had to learn that lesson the hard way, and I know it is very very hard to do. But we owe it to our horses. Trust yourself!

              Your girl is gorgeous, I would take her in a heartbeat, and your account is very well-written. I hope next time you will have a happier story to tell. If you ever have a moment to read a good book, I recommend "The Tao of Equus," by Linda Kohanov.

              Hey look, I joined ANOTHER forum! And you thought horses were addictive.


              • #8
                You didn't like it going in, and you went in anyway. Like many other situations that arise, you didn't stop the situation, didn't say "No" and walk away with your animals.

                You have to decide to use your backbone, regardless of the quantity of other folks accepting this show of horse handling. You did not, knowing of your animals previous problems. Let the show go on. Your CHOICE to do this.

                Why did you suddenly change your whole previous thinking, going to a clinic with someone you didn't know, wasn't recommended to you, let him do his "system of handling" on your animals? There doesn't appear to be ANYTHING about the situation that agreed with you, yet you kept going along.

                Open minded is one thing when it comes to learning, but you got the view of examples, saw his system, before your horses even started. You didn't like them, YET LET THEM HAPPEN to your own animals!!

                I think you wanted to find a "magic" method to shorten time in training. This is one of the big reason folks go to clinics, buy special equipment for their horses. Trying to find a less work, more fun method of training. Clinicians make money with gimmicks, new methods folks have never seen before, like the plastic-covered lunge rope. A clinician can't fail in front of the audience, makes things pretty fool-proof for himself. He is the "expert" because everyone is paying for his words of wisdom, eye of experience.

                Everyone in Driving Horses is not perfect, is not wonderful just because he is the "expert" at a clinic. Some methods have worked in the past, perhaps prevented a worse situation from occurring during training. A trainer is paid by how many DRIVING animals he produces, not failures he sends home. Same thing as past times, horses WILL drive, like it or not.

                Your personal interaction could have been influenced by many things. Hot day, big audience hanging on his every word. Your tone of voice or the idea that you know more CDE than he did. The way you interacted during pony handling sessions,stopping him before he was "finished". Crying in the pen. Your volunteering side comments when not asked. None of above sounded like a good clinic situation, but we only hear your version.

                Hope your ponies forget the bad events, continue with better training progress. Sorry about your personal bad experiences also.

                You always should learn at least one thing at a clinic. It appears that your lesson would be to STOP when you don't like things. Don't continue. Even if you hauled ponies to attend, don't get them out if you don't like the situation or setting. Auditing may cost some money, but no damage is done to YOUR animals. Use the backbone you have, face the other attendees, say NO to the methods shown, for use on your animals.

                It is hard to face a group, say No. Just something you have to do sometimes. Because there are a number of them agreeing, doesn't mean it is a good idea to do. This works in many areas of life. Never is easy, but you have to do it.


                • #9
                  It sounds a horror and it looks a horror but I'm also somewhat bewildered as to why you booked in the first place and having arrived and seen it why you didn't just go. Sounds to me like there were masses of points which just affirmed your first sense that it wasn't right but I've got to say that there's lots of things I seriously wonder about!:

                  To me a "clinic" means its an event that's either devoted to problem solving or to demonstration and instruction and by specialist professionals. Its important to understand what the aims and objectives of the "clinic" is and also what is the competency of the person running it.

                  I took two ponies to this "driving clinic". A 3yo complete virgin large pony filly and a 5yo medium pony mare who is very accomplished under saddle. The clinic was billed as for non-driving animals. As in "teach your horse to drive".
                  FIRST WARNING SIGN...... NO WAY can you take 2 horses that can't drive and train them to drive after a short few days clinic. I can understand someone who's never owned a horse not knowing that you don't just slap tack on and go with an untrained horse.

                  Its not something I'd expect any owner to think though and its certainly NOT something I'd expect a genuine driver not to understand.

                  I have taught a pony to drive, adn we compete in CDE, but I've only been driving a couple of years, and only with the one pony. I'm no expert by any means!
                  So if you've trained a pony previously and you drive competitively as a driver you must know that it takes time to prepare a driving horse to accept harness and the carriage and to be put to and that this includes extensive long reining and familiarisation with the equipment????

                  We got to the clinic site at about 2 pm on a Friday. A 6 hour drive, including one stop for breakfast and two fuel stops. In 100+ heat. (The hotel desk clerk later told us it was 111 with heat index)
                  Kitty (3yo filly) was a bit of a worrier. She occasionally scrambled in the trailer and whinnied a lot while traveling. She's never been farther than 20 minutes in a trailer before. Spirit (5yo mare), who's been back and forth to Florida, traveled perfectly fine.
                  I seriously wonder about your decision to travel in those conditions and to a clinic to let this be the first experience for one horse that is not used to travel???

                  I later learned there were 45 horses there. Some of them belonged to boarders, some were in for training, most in for sale on commision.
                  And so? This is relevent why?

                  This was not a clinic like I was expecting. It was very hands off, the clinician did all the work, only letting the owners get involved for the last few minutes of each drive.
                  Aside from the fact it sounds like incompetent rough stuff and the whole thing was wrong from start to finish, I see nothing wrong at all with the professional doing all the work at a clinic. As I said earlier, THAT is ordinarily what a clinic is.

                  I was already a bit wary, but I was determined to be open minded. I wrote a check for $300 dollars for this
                  Your choice

                  Two mini's had already been through the "program" and a big QH gelding was the current victim. The gelding was being "lunged" in the pen with harness on, a twisted wire snaffle bit wired to his halter, and dragging a mess of PVC pipes with plastic sacks tied to their ends... My friend and I looked at each other, and I know we both thought "uh-oh".
                  And did you ask why they were doing what they were doing or did you just stay and watch??? And that is the point where I shook my head in despair when I read your posting and started to just tut all the way through your story.

                  Whilst I am not naive and I know there's a lot of places that are rough and con people who don't know any better, it never fails to amaze me that there's folks that are absolutely content to pay for such a service.

                  When folks should no better because they actually own a horse or ride or drive already it leaves me gob-smacked that they think its right and proper to do such stuff.

                  Indeed it makes me wonder why I bother to do things properly when its apparent that there's a bunch of gullible folks who are compliant and willing to pay for such stuff and to sit all the way through it to the bitter end.

                  What did they say when you gave feedback and complained??
                  Last edited by Thomas_1; Sep. 12, 2007, 11:29 AM.


                  • #10
                    Thank you for sharing your story, and I do sympathize with you and your horses, but I think going at all was a bad choice. Your horses had only been trailered lightly - a 6 hour trip for a youngster in that heat seems a bit extreme to me, especially since you didn't know what the accomodations would be like when you got there. The mention that both horses have issues (both health issues as in the case of the mare's suspensory, and mental issues with the white bags) and one has not even been bitted would have made me decide to AUDIT the clinic and leave the horses at home. Neither horse was prepared even for rudimentary work. I would have at least have bitted the 3 year old and taught her to longe. As for Spirit, there is no way I would have let her be worked on such a small circle at speed. If I did decide to go, I sure as he!! would NOT have let him work either horse once I saw his equipment and methods. He looks like an Amish guy in the photos. I like your heading for teh album lol!

                    You are lucky that neither of them got hurt and that they seem to be recovering okay. As for the white plastic bags, I do agree with the clinician that you should desensitize that mare to them and would work slowly up to hanging them on her feed bucket and in her paddock (note I said SLOWLY, I would not traumatize her). I would not feel that a driving horse would be safe if they freak out at white plastic - too many bags float by lol!

                    Anyway, thanks for the warning and the story. Glad they are okay and that you are taking it slowly with them. Clinics are runs so differently that I am always careful to find out what to expect (especially if travelling so far).


                    • #11
                      Maybe one of the lessons to us all is to have more information before hauling horses to a clinic and getting them in trouble. Most of the clinicians I have been to I have known before ever sending in my money.


                      • #12
                        I feel very sorry for your ponies, and I think that is pretty good of you to share the nightmare as a warning to us all.
                        That said, after seeing all this terrible stuff, and then having one of your ponies subjected to it, you let them take your recently recovered from an injury pony and do it all again??

                        Tsk Tsk
                        Your village is calling. Apparently their idiot is missing!


                        • Original Poster

                          The clinician, or actually the hostess, gave me back 1/2 of my entry fee since my medium pony didn't get "worked"

                          If this clinic had been a riding horse kind of clinic, instead of a driving horse kind of clinic, I would have pulled the plug earlier. I don't think I trust my judgement as much when it comes to driving since I still no so little about it. I've taken plenty of homebred home-trained ponies and horses into dressage, hunters, endurance, etc, but my experience with driving is limited to a single pony.

                          My driving experience is this: I bought a 12yo stallion sight unseen for my breeding program expecting him to be 14 hands (as were his parents whom I knew very well). He arrived 13 hands. Too small for me, being tall and heavy, to ride. So I decided to drive him. I have never driven a horse/pony, much less trained one. Bookstop had a single book on training the driving horse. I bought the book, ordered a road cart to fit, ordered harness to fit, and had at it. We showed up at our first event woefully unprepared and ignorant, but not dangerously so. And contrary to popular belief, *I* can be taught! The pony ended up 2nd place Training Single Pony, Best Cones, and Best Conditioned his 3rd time out. He's a great pony, but does have "issues" that I caused in training him. And that I will probably never be able to fix without serious professional help. He'll probably never advance past Training Level without many months of that professional help.

                          I was not looking for a "magic bullet" in this clinic. At the time of the clinic, I had (still have actually) a mare in full-time training with a very well respected driving trainer (Tom O'Carroll). I had to sign up for the clinic long before that mare went to Tom's. Paying for a trainer if I thought this clinic was the way to go would have been silly. I honestly was looking for new knowledge, new ideas to add to my own skillset with regards to training a driving pony. I had these two ponies just standing around eating, and thought they'd be great candidates for this clinic. The vet had long cleared the medium pony to go back to jumping/eventing; her suspensory lesion was invisible on the best diagnostic imaging around thanks to very aggressive treatment and determined rehab. I'm just a bit paranoid about it and tend to take it very easy on her with both jumping and circle work. I don't want her to actually tear a suspensory afterall. The large pony is very willing, just ignorant. She's been shown in-hand locally since a weanling, so knew "away-missions", but no formal training. Since the clinic flyer specifically said no prep (other than halters, leads, ties, and gives feet) needed, these two fit the bill. I expected to be shown how I could teach them to drive, things specifically tuned to each pony. Exercises, or what-have-you that would aid me with each pony.

                          Regardless, I do take complete responsibility for getting my ponies into the frightfest of a clinic, and thankfully they seem to have collectively forgotten the experience. I'm not looking for sympathy or pity. Just wanted to relate my experience maybe more as a warning on how not to do things... And if there are any folks thinking of going to one of these clinics, maybe they'll not repeat my many rampant mistakes.
                          Aelfleah Farm, Scurry, Texas
                          BLUE STAR Arabians and
                          Arabian-influenced Sportponies


                          • #14
                            Aelfleah Farm, I give you credit for your post. You know what happened and that it was not good for your horses. You took a chance on being slammed to share what happened with others who may be thinking of attending similar clinics (and don't think yours was the only one).

                            A lot of people today refuse to take responsibility for their actions. The way I see it, you have. Your horses will recover, you have learned what to watch for next time, and you are sharing your experience to warn others.

                            I wish you luck with your driving. Keep us updated and I hope to see some photos as you go along.....

                            *Charter Member-Blue Tarp State Driving Clique*
                            "You can't always get what you want, but if you try, you just might find you get what you need" Mick Jagger


                            • Original Poster

                              I do have good driving photos Not everything scary clinic stuff!

                              Pics of the pony stallion I trained at his 3rd CDE (Plum Creek 2007) can be found at:
                              Aelfleah Farm, Scurry, Texas
                              BLUE STAR Arabians and
                              Arabian-influenced Sportponies


                              • #16
                                You know, things can happen at clinics with very notable and talented clinicians. And they can happen before you even realize you are in a situation.

                                For example, I once took my old Hackney horse to a clinic with a very popular dressage driving clinician. My horse could be very stubborn at times and sometimes tricky. He pulled one action that I could not handle so the clinican took over and her pulled the same trick on her - not just once but twice. She got mad - he turned her off (totally tuned out) and she got madder. If she had not finally stopped and put him away when she did, I was going to grab him out of her hands because it had developed into a fruitless and un-necessary venture. After the fact, I could not believe that I had let it go on so long (probably only 5 minutes, but . . . ) Just saying that in the midst of an action you dont always realize what is really going on.

                                Similarly, I have heard a number of people comment AFTER clinics with many different instructors, they either "they" or "their horse" got pushed waaaay beyond their zone and picked up some bad habits from it.
                                Granted, a clinician only has (usually) 45 min to an hour to work with you and in an instrutional setting, they are trying to get you to do a bit more than you are used to doing. But they dont often read the signs, that what "they" can do, you or the horse are not always ready to handle and its not always a good thing

                                So, what I am trying to say is that clinics can be good things to stretch you and teach you
                                OR they can sometimes be a BIG mistake that you dont find out til after the fact


                                • #17
                                  Nice pictures!

                                  Love your little driving pony! What a nice mover he looks to be. Looks like you guys do well and have fun.


                                  • #18

                                    On the one hand, I appreciate the courage it took to post your experience with this clinician. I am happy you were not hurt, and your ponies weren't either.

                                    On the other hand, you displayed a remarkable lack of common sense and horse sense from before you even hooked up the trailer. You decided to take a 'virgin' 3 YO and set her up to fail, and could have gotten both of you maimed or killed.

                                    Honestly, you were every bit as irresponsible as the clinician, from the second you tossed that 3 YO on the trailer. I just don't have words. Wow.


                                    • #19
                                      There were things that gave me pause about the OP's story but I choose to focus on my basic reaction - I think the OP is expressing her guilt and grief that she let someone else hurt her animals. I've done that, and the guilt is horrible. You always know there was a moment that you should have stood up and walked out, and you didn't, and they paid for it. And worse, you knew at the time that you should get up and walk out, but... All those pressures the animals don't have and don't understand - the money you paid, the ambitions you have, your insecurities about your own skills or instincts, your hopes of finding wise advice, your reluctance to admit a mistake - made you blind to their welfare for that moment when you let it happen or continue. It's the risk you run when you're open-minded, and are willing to listen and learn from other people. I think it's a short-lived flaw; mostly people don't repeat that mistake.

                                      I've seen a lot of posts about the opposite problem - people who refuse to listen to advice when they're inexperienced, who only listen to those who think exactly like them and who never learn anything because fresh ideas never enter the cycle of reinforcement.


                                      • #20
                                        You are brave to post this, really you are. I have never intentially flamed anyone for being honest - but I'm frustrated for poor Kitty and Spirit...I only read through Kitty...don't even know how Spirit fared ). I'll restrain myself because I've let someone hit my horse once and suffered guilt (now for over a year) for it. So I know a bit what you are feeling. But man.............

                                        I would have turned on my heels and headed out the gate. Perhaps stayed the night to rest but there is NO way I would have put my horses through a crash course like that. This is the type of training that cause horses to have "flash backs" and meltdowns weeks and months, even years after the experience and cause trouble. I have a friend who trains EXACTLY like this (with the addition of plumbers tape....don't ask) and everytime I watch her train, I learn what NOT to do...and she's offered to train my horses for me and many, many times I've said, "No thanks". I'm better off doing it myself and taking 2 years to do it.
                                        Last edited by hundredacres; Sep. 14, 2007, 09:28 AM.