Around the third week in August 2010 , most of the good folks in Minnesota and Wisconsin could be found building an ark or looking to the heavens for relief from torrents of unseasonable rain. By about midweek, nearly everything that could go wrong in the plans for the third Northern Lights National Versatility Ranch Horse Association (NVRHA) Clinic did. Word quickly spread among the horses that the outdoor arena of the scheduled venue was made of horse eating quick sand and was inaccessible except for gondolas, to which the horses said, “NEIGH!”
On Thursday before the weekend clinic, it became clear there was something worse than mad cows, it was NO cows. Were it not for the quick thinking of coordinator and Minnesota NVRHA adviser, Susan Heyvaert, the ‘can-do’ attitude of Bill at Hi Circle Vee Ranch in Isanti, Minnesota, and the good natured men and women who love horses and learning new skills, the best NVRHA clinic yet would not have happened. But it did and was wildly successful!
Twenty people and their horses from all over Minnesota and Wisconsin attended a first class clinic and schooling competition taught by the knowledgeable (and patient) Jay and Gena Henson of Hugoton, Kansas, and roper Dennis Auslam of Morton, Minnesota.
On Saturday, participants learned about horsemanship and tack, ranch riding, conformation, ranch trail, cutting, roping and working cattle and were coached on their new skills. Jay and Gena were most generous with their expertise in spite of the language barrier, (It’s ‘Whoa’, not ‘Ho!’ well what Ya-Know?) Dennis held a workshop on roping, a skill new to many participants, and some not too patient ponies, mine included. There was a lot to learn, even for the experienced ranch hand.
After a day in the saddle a fabulous barbecue was hosted by the very gracious Kathy and Mike Wyatt at their lovely Isanti Ranch. Chef Doug Heyvaert rolled out a delightful spread of grilled steak and chicken, baked potatoes, salad, and can you believe, wine? We enjoyed the finest of cowboy culinary classics with a touch of class. Doug H. & Tom Underwood had grilled the BEST hamburgers earlier in the day for lunch. Just the food will keep me coming back, but I could already hear my horse groaning next time I got on.
On Sunday, our clinicians hosted a schooling competition. The greatest thing about practicing new skills and refreshing old ones is that it is all done within a supportive environment of safety, camaraderie and humor. The best quote of the day came during the working ranch horse competition where the intermediate and advanced horse/rider teams must take a cow down the fence making at least one turn each way. The horse/rider team must then rope and bring the cow to a stop. After a valiant exhibition of working the cow, Northern Lights charter member, Kim Deters, surprised herself when the rope flew through the air looping a horn. Rick Demulling was the sole participant connecting and stopping his steer in the Working Ranch Class.
One of the amazing things about a NVRHA schooling competition is that the rider knows exactly how an event is scored and receives a score sheet that reflects how each event was judged. Riders are grouped according to skill levels, so you compete with others of your ability and try to improve your own score from the previous clinic. The clinician/judges ensure a safe and cooperative learning experience for all, and your new friends and colleagues are out there cheering for you and your horse.
The fun continued into the late afternoon and as the sun set in the west, participants received their well deserved awards amidst the smiles and good wishes of the people who share their passion. And as we loaded the horses back into their trailers and left Bill’s Hi Circle Vee Ranch, the one thought on everyone’s mind was, “There’s no better way to spend the day than with my horse.”