What to Expect At Your First Northern Lights Versatility Ranch Horse Clinic & Schooling Competition
By Stephany Siitari - February 2013
Signing up and planning to attend any new activity for the first time can seem overwhelming, but here is a helpful way to get your hum, “hoof” in the door for ranch horse versatility. It is important to know that every rider and every horse all are at different levels of development and we all have our strengths - and skills we need to work on. If you jump right in, you’ll fit right in. You will only be “new” once.
You spend the weekend on your horse in a learning environment. You participate in an all-day clinic on the first day followed by a low key schooling competition on the second day. On both days you are coached by certified clinicians on all skills a horse on a ranch would be expected to perform. On day two, you compete only with horse/rider teams of your level of ability. At the end of the second day, you receive an itemized score sheet that shows the skills that can use improvement and you’ll go home with some great ideas on what to work on.
Unlike a horse show, you participate in all five of the classes: Ranch Riding (something like “cowboy dressage”), Ranch Trail (we post the pattern on-line), Ranch Cutting, Working Ranch (reining and boxing or reining and fence work with roping if you opt up to Intermediate of Advanced Divisions) and a unique form-to-function Conformation class. There is a great video narrated by Jay Henson on www.nvrha.org that shows all of the classes that are included in the two day event.
When you register, you will receive a letter that tells you what to bring, where to be and when and what you will need: A cowboy hat, boots, collared Western shirt, appetite (we do share some good grub,) and a smile! That’s IT – oh, and your horse; any breed. If you are the competitive sort and want to test your roping skills, bring that rope!
Many riders look at the variety of skills involved in ranch versatility and realize there is a lot to learn. A number of riders come from trail riding, pleasure classes, barrels, reining, team penning, etc. and are bored with just one discipline. It is helpful if you can lope in a circle, stop your horse, side-pass, trot fast and slow, walk and back-up. Clinicians talk about equipment, conformation, reading a cow, and how to use the most subtle cues necessary to get your horse to do what you want.
Many first time horses have never seen cattle – let alone cut a cow out of a herd. Our clinicians will help you develop and fine tune all the skills you need. You will identify resources that can help you, and discover a whole new world of fun with your horse.
Northern Lights Versatility Ranch events are not cutthroat, although some of us do get competitive at times. You compete mostly with your own prior score. There is an occasional jackpot, your points do accumulate for National and Regional awards long term and seasonally, but you won’t win money. You may win a saddle on the National level and the Northern Lights Champion and Reserve Champion buckles are beautiful, but most people want to have a good time and improve their horsemanship, and that’s what you can expect at your first event and throughout the season.
The men and women in the Northern Lights Versatility Ranch Horse Association invite you to learn, improve, and promote the American Ranch Horse. Make 2013 the year you launch your horsemanship skills! Attend our combined clinic schooling competitions, meet new friends, and get expert instruction in a small group setting. All of your new friends and fellow horse enthusiasts will help you with anything you ask.
All breeds of horses and all levels of ability are welcome. Your 2013 membership will get you all the current information and right now you can take advantage of our informal pre-season clinics. Put the Northern Lights Versatility Ranch Horse schedule in your calendar now and make a plan to join us this year.