Trail Riders, Here’s Your Blessing

Jeff_Orion_7-6-15_0336If you don’t read more than one article per month, you’d be well advised to let it be the column by Jeff Wilson Cowboy Dressage featured in each issue of the ACTHA Monthly Magazine.  Jeff writes for YOU, the trail rider, in each issue.  These aren’t articles he’s got stockpiled and sends to dozens of magazines each month.  No.  Each one is written especially for the trail rider, analyzing a different ACTHA obstacle in each issue, providing tips, advise and his wonderful way of looking at things through the eyes of the horse, a seasoned horseman and his brilliant sense of humor.  We are indeed so greatly blessed to have him as one of our contributing authors, and we just had to take a moment to say it to the world!  Thank you Jeff!

4The August Issue of the ACTHA Monthly discusses the DRAG obstacle.  In the article, Jeff discusses performance tips, gives suggestions on potential issues while training or practicing and even tips on how to train the horse who is new to obstacles.  There’s even a great tip provided by one of our members, Nicky Frechette (left) and her horse Lundi, about what NOT to do, based on a recent experience they shared at an ACTHA event.  If you haven’t read the article yet, click over and git’r done!  And be sure to watch for Jeff’s articles in each issue.  You’ll be glad you did.

A final note, we are very excited to be able to present Jeff Wilson Cowboy Dressage at the upcoming ACTHA hosted Great American Trail Horse Festival, November 5-8 in Mora, Missouri.  Jeff will be one of the fifteen renowned clinicians who will be presenting, teaching, offering private lessons, and celebrating the wonderful trail horse!

From Wildman to Gentleman


I adopted “Chief Spookshimself”  a little over 5 years ago from a family that had given up on him.  Chief, a non-registered strawberry roan Pintaloosa, was shipped from Montana to California by accident. Yes, they sent the wrong horse and it gets pretty complicated after that so I’ll save you the details.  The owners were ready to send him to Red   Bucket Rescue, a local non-profit for abandoned horses, when I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time.

They asked me if “I knew someone that wanted a horse” and I had already been getting to know Chief since he was my mare’s barn neighbor. Even though he wasn’t handled much, I saw something special in him, so I agreed to take him. I noticed he was observant, sensitive and very macho. Combining all of those things, I had a ticking time-bomb on my hands. Early on, Chief snapped at least 5 lead lines and trashed a saddle before I was able to take him on a trail ride without incident. Everyone kept telling me “it was the Appaloosa in him”. But no matter, he just needed a leader.

Being a Docent / Trail Guide for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, It was my job to insure the safety of my guest riders and horses. So it became quite humorous when Chief would bust into his break dance for apparently no reason. I ignored it, and he would finally settle down for the rest of the day.

We are living proof that success is showing up and having a good time.

10Subsequently, I heard about ACTHA from some friends who were competing locally. Our first outing, put on by host Jody Childs, was both scary and eye-opening. However, I realized this is what Chief and I needed to improve our bond and trail skills. He continued to amaze me at the events but he always found a way to escape the Blue Ribbon- a smell, a piece of glitter, the sound of my water bottle crunching in the saddlebag. To him it was a 10 foot mountain lion licking its chops. We are living proof that success is showing up and having a good time. Last season we earned a spot in the Final Top 10 California, Bronze and Silver among other awards.

We love our new friends we’ve met at the ACTHA events and we continue to be challenged by every new AOC arena and CTC trail ride. No better place to enjoy the two things I love, horses and the outdoors. Chief still has his episodes now and again but he keeps me on my toes and shows me the way.

This story originally appeared in the August issue of the ACTHA Monthly Magazine.  For more stories like it, view the online magazine >>



Bob is a volunteer for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy serving as an Equestrian Docent-Trail Guide to their 50,000 acre wilderness located in Southern California. Bob specializes in History Rides sharing local stories about the Native Americans, Spanish Incursion, Days of the Rancho Dons and the Outlaws who lived and died here. 

No More Salt Blocks!

Story by Joe Camp
Read more stories like this in the July issue of the ACTHA Monthly

Photo by Tim Flach
Photo by Tim Flach

I had never been licked by a horse before. Lots of sniffing, nudging, lip nibbling, and just hanging out close by. But never a full-blown, full-tongue lick on the arm. Especially by a mustang who’s never even had a lead rope on. But one day, back when we lived in California, Noelle gave me several licks on the arm. This was back when she was not yet living out with the rest of the herd. It was a particularly hot day and I wondered aloud if it might be a salt issue. Then, I suddenly realized that when we set up her paddock we had forgotten the salt.

salt-blockOne of the many things I asked about when our first three horses landed in our yard was, “Aren’t we supposed to have a salt block?” “Of course,” was the unanimous answer. “Can’t hurt.” The reason it’s in a block, we were told, is so the horse can’t get too much. You know how bad salt can be for high blood pressure and other things. We bought it because that’s all the information we had. That was before we learned that horses are quite good at monitoring what they need and ingesting enough to cover their needs if given the option to do so. And it was before we learned how much horses need their salt, especially under certain pasture conditions. And before we discovered that there isn’t even a smidgen of proven truth to the wives tale about salt and high blood pressure.   And before we discovered that the problem with salt and/or minerals in a block is that with blocks is that there is no way horses can “lick” enough of what he needs from a block because the horse, unlike the cow, does not have a sandpaper tongue to scrape away the goodies locked in the block. These blocks were originally designed for cattle and they more or less migrated into the horse world. A horse simply cannot do enough licking to serve the needs of his body. Now I’ve discovered that even the cow can’t get enough out of a block during times of acute need. Dr W. W. Swerczek, DVM, PhD says: “Most cattlemen assume they have adequate sodium if cattle are exposed to salt blocks. Cattle and other herbivores cannot obtain enough salt or sodium from hard salt blocks during periods of acute needs. The most dominant animals in a herd will horde a salt block and the remainder will leave without any salt. Even the animals that horde the block cannot consume enough salt to neutralize the acute excessive dietary nitrate during periods of acute stress to forages, like frosts and freezes to high nitrogenous forages.“

Dr. Matt, our vet in California, said that he’d seen many a small block chewed to pieces because that’s the only way the horse can get enough of what he needs from the block. Also he sees a lot of folks depending upon the ingredients in sacked feeds to supply what their horses need. The problem with that is: a standard portion of any sack feed doesn’t take into consideration the differences in the metabolism of each animal, the differences in the way they are living, their stress levels, or the differences in times of the calendar year. Never mind the high sugar grains with which most of them are made.

These blocks were originally designed for cattle and they more or less migrated into the horse world. A horse simply cannot do enough licking to serve the needs of his body.

Study after study says it’s best to leave it up to the horses. They will know when they need salt and how much they need. So I would definitely recommend that yours have access to free-choice-all-the-time granular salt and/or mineral mix, preferably unprocessed. We have a big bucket hanging in the barn. Our herd of eight, including Noelle, have access to it 24/7. We never let it run out. We use Dr. Dan Moore’s (The Natural Vet) formulation called Red Cal because we like what we read about the product, (it’s unprocessed ancient sea salt from where oceans used to be, plus trace minerals), and we liked most of what we read about Dr. Dan (except for feeding oats).  It’s been interesting to watch the value of the free choice point that was made above being proven. We’ll go for days sometimes with little or no Red Cal gone from the bucket. Other times they’ll empty it in a day or two. They know what they need, and when. But then our bodies can do that as well (check this out). Bottom line: It should be free choice 24/7 and it should be granular, never forcing your horse to attempt to supply his needs by licking on a block. Or your wrist 🙂


Jacket400Joe Camp, film writer, producer, director, author, passionate speaker, and the man behind the canine superstar Benji believes that anything is possible if you work hard enough and trust in yourself. He was told by industry “experts” not to bother with the original Benji film; that it wouldn’t work. He proved the experts wrong and now, after five Benji movies, he’s at it again with his new best selling book The Soul of a Horse published by the Crown/Harmony imprint of Random House in 2008. A book that is already in its fourth printing, has climbed to #4 on The Dallas Morning News Non-Fiction Best Seller List, and is setting traditional thinking about horses on its ear.

Learn more about Joe and Kathleen Camp on their website: Soul of a Horse

Meet the Top Ten Open & Pleasure Champions

13-72For the first time in ACTHA’s history, we have the opportunity to give a full showcase of our nation’s top ranking horse and rider teams by featuring each of them in our monthly publication; The ACTHA Monthly.  We are so proud to be able to do that!  The July issue features a full ten pages of photos dedicated to each of the top ten Open and Pleasure winners, with commentary from several of those riders.  It is very exciting for us to be able to feature them this way, allowing the public an opportunity to ‘meet’ these wonderful teams who have worked so hard to achieve so much over the year long ride season.  Take a moment to visit the publication and meet some of our nation’s top achievers.  Click to Open the July Issue > 

Even before the July issue of the ACTHA Monthly was launched, we had begun gathering photos and bios from our nation’s top ten Junior Riders who will be featured in the August issue.  Be sure and watch for it and join us in congratulating the next generation of stewards of the horse, those whom we will be relying upon for keeping the noble trail horse safe and cared for in the future!


In the photo above: Kathie Norman and Dulce of Texas, ACTHA’s #1 Open National Champions, and Dr. Susan Wingo and Cat, ACTHA’s #1 Pleasure Champions, also of Texas.

The ACTHA Monthly is published each month featuring stories about Ride Hosts, horse and rider teams, their achievements, and many contributed articles from some of the greatest sources of equine information and training including; Pat and Linda Parelli, Barbra Schulte, Joe Camp, Lisa Wysocky, Jeff Wilson Cowboy Dressage and our newest contributors, Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH).  Click here to choose from current or archived issues of the ACTHA Monthly >>

Obstacle Tips by Jeff Wilson Cowboy Dressage

The Wildlife Box
As seen in the June Issue of the ACTHA Monthly Magazine

Rebecca Stair Kyle and her Spanish Mustang, Chisto Photo by Aponi
Rebecca Stair Kyle and her Spanish Mustang, Chisto
Photo by Aponi

Create a 12 foot square box using logs or poles. In the center of the box, place flowers and simulated wildlife.

Judging Criteria: The horse and rider team should demonstrate their ability to navigate a small area in unfamiliar surroundings. Horses will be penalized for stepping on the rails, the simulated wildlife, or stepping outside the box. Horses will be judged on performing a smooth, supple arc around the centerpiece with the rider’s aids remaining soft and subtle. Riders should stay centered, balanced, and looking where they are going.

Tips: This obstacle reminds me of the game “Operation” where players operate with tweezers on a little, red nosed character named Cavity Sam. If you touch Sam’s sides during the operation, his nose lights up, a buzzer goes off, and you are out for that turn! The game tests your fine motor skills.

The Wildlife Box obstacle tests your level of FINESSE. It may look easy, but you will need three important operational tools sharpened and honed to succeed as you travel into the box and pass by the wildlife in a confident way. First, you will need to pull up and utilize a refined degree of forward. Keep in mind that a horse can be very claustrophobic, and an obstacle like this can pull out those fears. In other words, he won’t want to enter the box.

Forward is a decision made by your horse, requiring him to listen to your leg and move forward when you ask. Having a relaxed seat and leg when he complies separates the surgeons from the hacks. Patience going in is the key. Sometimes it feels like poking a cat out from under the porch.

The next operational tool you’ll need in this procedure is your ability to focus on steering the shoulders of the horse, and not the neck and head. Here’s the “bull in the china shop” routine for many. If you can’t steer the shoulders of your horse, he’ll be over the sides of the ground rails to get away from the wildlife. Again, patience is the key (even the chickens under the porch know that). Focus on keeping the shoulders soft and between the reins.

If you can’t steady the hind quarters, you might get the buzzer! Our third surgical piece in our tool kit is to keep a soft, steadying leg to help the horse stay forward as well as travel quietly around the square. Controlling the hindquarters is really about controlling movement.

Little minor challenges here will show you areas that you need to work on with your horse. Evasions occur when the rider and steed can’t decide whose controlling the movement. There is never a mistake too far gone when riding forward. Remember, ride through this obstacle with a very relaxed seat (there’s no bee in the outhouse), with steadying legs and soft reins, and you’ll do very well. If you have trouble, you’ll know your homework. Unfortunately, if our foresight was as good as our hindsight, we would be better by a far sight. Have fun with your “operation!”


Jeff Wilson of Jeff Wilson Cowboy Dressage
Jeff Wilson of Jeff Wilson Cowboy Dressage

Jeff Wilson hosts and teaches Cowboy Dressage clinics in the Northeast with great success. He has worked professionally for over 30 years with problem horses, training horses of all breeds as well as specializing in starting horses. For several years now Jeff has turned most of his training program into liberty work, trick training, as well as teaching classical dressage movements in a fun and easy to understand way.

To our great benefit in the competitive trail sport, Jeff is also an ACTHA Ride Host. Look forward to Jeff’s tips to help the horse and rider best perform official ACTHA obstacles in each issue of the ACTHA Monthly Magazine!  

Learn more about Jeff Wilson Cowboy Dressage >

My Journey with the Rickmans of the Spirit of Blackjack Mountain

Francine Locke Bray
Francine Locke Bray

Friends of the Heritage Horse Foundation doing business as The Spirit of Blackjack Mountain, is a 501c3 nonprofit located in Antlers, Oklahoma whose mission is “To preserve and promote the foundation herds of the Colonial Spanish Horses designated by the Oklahoma Legislature as The Heritage Horse of Oklahoma and deemed “CRITICAL” by the Livestock Conservancy” were featured as ACTHA’s Charity of the Month in the April issue of the ACTHA Monthly Magazine.  A contributing author and information source for that article was Francine Locke Bray, who herself has an interesting history with the Spanish Mustangs.  Here is Francine’s story of how we’d like to say, she “came home to the Spanish Mustangs.”


By Francine Locke Bray

In February of 2009 I answered a query in the Choctaw Newspaper, the Biskinik.  It was from Monique Schaefer of Windrider Farms in Pennsylvania, an owner and breeder of Spanish Mustangs.  She was looking for descendants of six families who once lived in Pushmataha County, OK, and owned and bred Spanish Mustang horses.  My maiden name is Locke, one of the families she was looking for.  The query intrigued me so I answered and she returned my email with a telephone call.  Monique told me that a good number of these Spanish Mustangs descended from those owned by my great-grandfather, Victor M. Locke, Sr., and are considered very rare.  She explained that the horses had been grazing on Blackjack Mountain, a mountain northeast of Antlers, OK, for over 100 years.  In the Fall of 2007 the lumber company which now owned the lands that had originally been given to the Indians for “as long as the rivers flow and the grass grows” had notified the ranchers that they were to remove all of the cattle and horses.  Therefore, in 2008 a roundup was held to begin removing the stock. The main breeding herd of Spanish Mustangs is owned by Bryant and Darlene Rickman, ranchers south of Antlers.  Monique gave me Bryant’s cell phone number telling me that I should contact him the next time I was in the area.  I had a scheduled visit to McAlester in mid-March of 2009 so I made that first phone call to Bryant to see if we could meet.  We set a date for my visit, Thursday, March 19th.  Little did I know what I was getting into!

Bryant and Darlene Rickman
Bryant and Darlene Rickman

I arrived in Oklahoma on March 10th and worked in the Garrard Ardeneum for the next week.  I have a certificate in Museum Studies with a concentration in archives and had been cataloguing a large collection housed in McAlester.  On March 16th I drove to Tulsa to pick up Susan (my sister) at the airport so she could travel with me for the next week.  We planned to do some road-tripping, work on her lands, and visit with some friends in Antlers that I wanted her to meet, culminating with the visit to meet the Rickman’s.  We were scheduled to meet Bryant at his home at 10:30 in the morning of the 16th.  However, we had been on the road and sightseeing so much that I called and begged off until 1:00 p.m.  I thought that would certainly be fine since we really didn’t know this man and, really, how long would we be there, maybe an hour or two? We had a dinner appointment at 6:00 p.m. and were due to be in Dallas that night.  BIG MISTAKE!!  It began to rain “cats and dogs” and we had to drive from Clayton, OK down to south of Antlers and find our way to the Rickman’s – a route I had not previously driven.  We finally made it and, as I parked my car in front of their house this medium height man in a big, white cowboy hat came out of the house, up to the car, and gave me one of his BIG bear hugs, stating, “I can’t believe I am finally meeting a Locke.”  Darlene was at work but Bryant called her to come home and meet us, which she did.  While Darlene compiled a portfolio of materials for me to take home, Bryant talked, and talked, and talked!  And talked some more!  Well, after about FIVE hours (he denies he talked that long) of listening to his story, I was hooked!

Photo by One Horse Joe LaMere
Photo by One Horse Joe LaMere

Finally, in the pouring rain, he took us out to see the horses in his yard and over to what he was calling the Locke Pasture to see the horses descended from those owned by my great-grandfather.  For a city born and bred-girl, I will never forget those first encounters with the horses.  By the way, despite the rain and the now late hour, Bryant kept saying he wished we would stay so he could take us up the mountain to see the horses still on Blackjack!

One of the most amazing things about my story is that, since the mid-1950s, I and various members of my family have been in and out of the Antlers area at least once a year.  For the past 15 years I have been in Oklahoma, visiting and working in McAlester part-time, and visiting the Antlers area at least twice and sometimes three times a year.  I have met and worked with a number of local people but NO ONE ever mentioned the horses, Gilbert Jones, or Bryant Rickman.  We knew, from my father, that the family had owned horses but thought that they “were all gone.”

The only story we had passed down to us was that when my Dad, at age 8 (1925), visited his grandfather in Antlers, his grandfather told him, “There is a horse on the mountain with your name on it.  If you can catch it, you can keep it.”  That is a phrase that Bryant later told me Gilbert would tell the young folks who came looking for a horse.

Spirit of Blackjack Mt_Jennie Sweetin-Smith_019
Photo by Jennie Sweetin Smith

Many times, throughout 2009, as I began to talk about the horses to other Choctaws, Oklahomans, and the World at large, I heard, “but I thought they were all gone.”  I thought the Garrard Ardeneum was the best kept secret in Oklahoma, I now know better – it is the horses!  Bryant and I have talked about this many times, he telling me how hard, especially after my 1984 Antlers Homecoming visit, Gilbert Jones tried to find our family but with no success.  As I continue on my journey with the Rickman’s and their horses, and researching their history, I am beginning to understand how that might have happened.  However, that is a whole ‘nother story!

In the meantime, answering that query, making that first phone call, and subsequently meeting the Rickman’s has become one of the most amazing journeys of my life.   I am forever grateful to them for their friendship and for trusting me with researching and writing the history of the Choctaw ponies.  They are good, good people and what legends are made of.


See the complete article article in the April Issue of the ACTHA Monthly Magazine, featured on page 34 >>

Visit the Spirit of Blackjack Mountain’s Website >>

Ride Host Accolades: Little Trails Horse Camp

Kim Cowan_Ride Host Accolade April 2015

By Kim Cowen

My 19 year old Polish Arabian mare Jasmine and I have been a team for 10 years.  We prefer to be outdoors rather than indoors so we spent our first three years together exploring the farm where we boarded, while we built a relationship based on trust.  In time, I was ready to branch out on my own and I purchased a trailer.  On a ride at Brown County State Park one day I met some people who told me about ACTHA.   In December of 2010 Jasmine and I joined ACTHA and participated in events for two years before a health crisis sidelined us.  Jasmine was diagnosed with sarcoids, the most common form of cancer in horses.  Given the location of the sarcoids we attempted to have them surgically removed but unfortunately complications arose when the surgical sites failed to heal.  Time spent at Purdue revealed that Jasmine’s inability to heal was secondary to Cushing’s Disease.  Like many horses, she displayed none of the typical outward signs, but the inability to heal is actually one of the signs, and once we started her on Pergolide healing began.  After 2 years of unsuccessful treatment I decided I was through putting my horse, and myself through this.  We were going to enjoy trail riding again as much as we could until an issue that was painful, or put Jasmine in jeopardy sidelined us.  At this point we are taking one ride at a time.

Kim Cown and Jasmine Photo by Lynne Driscoll
Kim Cown and Jasmine
Photo by Lynne Driscoll

After two seasons off from enjoying ACTHA rides I decided to see where Jasmine was as far as mileage and terrain she was able to handle.  I knew our comeback ride would have to be at Little Trail Horse Camp in Martinsville, IN.  The trails there are in great shape with a variety of terrain including flat, hills, woods and creaks.  Last year we participated in two rides there and Jasmine did great.  The Wallace family works very hard to improve and maintain their horse campground. They do an impressive job with their ACTHA rides, not only with the beautiful trails, but with the safe and challenging obstacles to both the horse and rider.

Everyone that comes to Little Trails leaves feeling like family.  If you have a chance to ride there I recommend you sign up, and I guarantee, like me you will come back not only for the trails but for the hospitality.

Obviously, I love ACTHA and the opportunity it provides to meet and make new friends of all ages that share a passion for horses and riding.  I have invited many people to check out ACTHA and have 6-8 friends that have joined.   We are all happy to have found an avenue to ride, to be challenged and recognized for our efforts.  Some riders compete for the buckles and points, others just for the day, and yet others like Jasmine and I compete against ourselves.  When I hear the obstacles at the rider meeting I know which one will be the most challenging for us.  If we do well at that obstacle I consider it a WIN for Team Cowan.

Jasmine and I are gearing up for a great riding season in 2015.  My husband Roy has gotten a new truck and trailer so we can go further to participate in rides in other states.  I am hoping, although Roy doesn’t ride, he will come with us on some of these adventures.  I have gone to ACTHA rides by myself without concern, but this year will enjoy the company of my best friend and riding partner Carol Rider, and her paint Ike who joined ACTHA last year.

I am so excited about this upcoming season, riding at Little Trails, riding throughout Indiana and venturing to other states.  If you recognize Jasmine and I please say hello, we would love to chat and make new friends.  I pray for safe riding for all horse lovers and riding enthusiasts no matter what discipline.


Watch for the April issue of the ACTHA Monthly Magazine with a full story about Ride Host Stacy Howe and Little Trails Horse Camp in Martinsville, Indiana.  Look for it online >>

Hit the Trail!

By Pat Parelli

Photo by Coco / Firefly Fotos

Most people get either annoyed or scared by their horse’s spooky behavior, especially when it is compounded by prancing and pulling. I’ve heard a number of theories about why horses behave like this, and most of them come from a lack of knowledge about the prey animal psyche: “He’s competitive… he likes to lead… he just loves to run… he’s just stupid,”etc. If we are truly going to help our horses, the first step is understanding their perspective.

Horses are prey animals, and much of their focus is dedicated to making sure they are not going to be eaten. They are highly perceptive and are always alert. The farther they get from home, the less secure they feel, and spooking on the trail is a great example of how a prey animal acts when he senses danger.

I’ve conducted experiments where I’ve had the rider dismount their spooking, prancing horse and turn him loose. The first thing the horse does is head out front and try to get the other horses to follow. When they don’t, he runs back and tries again. This usually happens a few times before the horse finally realizes that he’s not in charge. Then he’ll calm down, settle in behind the lead horse (or horses), drop his head, and walk along quite relaxed — no more spooking or prancing! This tells you a lot about the prey animal and herd mentality. As long as they can depend on an alpha, they’ll settle right down.

I’m often asked, “What should I do when my horse spooks on the trail?” In response, I typically say something along the lines of this: “Maybe the question should be ‘What can I do to better prepare myself and my horse so he doesn’t spook on the trail?”

Now, here’s the secret: You have to become his alpha. Then he’ll never feel alone or afraid on the trail. If you are calm, he’ll be calm.

Horses play dominance games with each other every single day to maintain their “pecking order.” This is something you need to do whenever you are with your horse. Horses vote every day for their leader. Every day! If your leadership is not firmly established before you go out on the trail, you will lose the vote very easily that day. You can’t force your horse to accept you as his alpha. You have to earn it.


How can you and your horse be better prepared before you go out on the trail?

1. Don’t go out the gate until your horse is left-brained. That means he is thinking and calm.

2. Practice different exercises and simulations until your horse is left-brained and accepting your alpha position. Think of it as your pre-ride check, much like the pre-flight checks pilots perform before they take the plane off the ground. You can use a lot of “spooky” simulation situations, teaching your horse to get braver through repetition.

3. Make sure you can walk, trot, and canter on a loose rein, and can easily bend your horse to a stop. If you or your horse are out of sorts that day and you can’t ride on a loose rein, don’t go out on the trail.

4. Perform an emotional assessment of yourself: No matter how scared your horse got, could you remain totally cool, calm and collected? Most people “spook” worse than their horse — suddenly grabbing with their legs and hands, and getting tighter and tighter. This not only makes your horse spook worse, he continues to spook because he now doubts your confidence and leadership.

5. It’s critical to put your safety first. Being safe will help build your confidence. So if you think you should get off your horse, GET OFF! If you try to stay on (no promises that you WILL stay on!) you will most likely become scared stiff and have a bad experience, which will definitely make you lose confidence. If you lose the connection with your horse in the middle of a trail ride, don’t be too embarrassed to get off.

6. If you DO get off, get your horse left-brained on the ground (send your horse sideways and backwards; focus his energy on a task). Be provocative; don’t let your horse predict what you’re going to do. Teach your horse to handle unpredictable things, and stay on the ground until you reach your goal. Then it will be safe to get back on.

7. Finally, ride with people who will support you in practicing good horsemanship, and who are willing to assist you in being successful with your horse. With that group of people and a confident, prepared, left-brained horse, your trail rides will be far more successful – and fun – from here on out.


Pat4Many thanks to Pat Parelli for contributing this article for our riders and readers.  Learn more about Pat and Linda Parelli and their natural training series at their website:


coverThis article was originally published in the March issue of the ACTHA Monthly Magazine.  To see this and more articles like it click to view this issue >>

The “Unruly Outlaw” Earns Platinum

Dr. Wingo and Cat maneuver the 'Squeeze' obstacle at a recent CTC held at the J Bar K Ranch in Hartman, AR.  (and yes, they nailed it!)
Dr. Wingo and Cat maneuver the ‘Squeeze’ obstacle at a recent CTC held at the J Bar K Ranch in Hartman, AR. (and yes, they nailed it!)

Dr. Susan Wingo lives on a small farm with her family on the Texas/ Louisiana state line near Shreveport where she is a Louisiana ER doctor. Susan’s horse background began while growing up on a cattle ranch in the Sabine River bottoms of Northeast Texas.  There she participated in 4-H and Weekend Cutting. More recently, she has been riding and competing with ACTHA, racking up trail miles for the past 19 months.

“My formal training to refine my farmhand riding style, horsemanship and communication with my horse partner I now possess is largely due to listening and watching the many acquaintances and new friends I’ve made with ACTHA,” Susan states.

Susan’s regular ride on the trails is Cat Bar Bobby aka ‘Cat’; ACTHA’s newest Platinum Medal Award earner. Cat is a homegrown, family raised, now 15 year old mare Susan purchased as a yearling from her brother after several mishaps deemed her an outlaw and too unruly to be a trainable prospect.

Cat has proven not to be unruly, but mischievous, curious, very smart and a quick learner. She pulls pranks on the dogs, cats and even Susan’s husband has been seen chasing a “very pleased with herself mare” tossing her head with his favorite gimme-cap in her mouth. “‘That was when I abandoned teaching her the hat-pick-up trick,” Susan remarks with a grin.

Cat and Susan have been a great team for years now which Susan believes is the ‘secret’ to their success. In riding with ACTHA, Cat has shown that the more complicated and spooky an obstacle is, the better she shines. Susan tells us, “I am so proud of my mischievous mare Cat, and myself for learning new riding skills, and our achievement of the Platinum Medal this year. You can bet we will be at the AOC’s and CTC’s continuing to reach our next goal!”

coverSee this and more articles like it in the March issue of the ACTHA Monthly Magazine >>

Clinician & Ride Host: A Perfect Fit


ACTHA Ride Host Kenny Harlow hosts his rides at his beautiful Cedar Run Ranch in the rolling hills of Cumberland, Virginia. The ranch is also the base for his “Training With Trust” clinics, apprenticeships, certification, teen week, and “LOL” (Learning for Older Ladies) programs which occur throughout the year. When asked why he became involved in ACTHA he said, “It’s a great venue to spend time with your horse while continuing to learn horsemanship skills.”

Harlow has been a nationally acclaimed horse trainer for more than 20 years, in part thanks to John Lyons. Many years ago Kenny attended a 3 day clinic of John’s and states “he had a profound influence on me, I learned more in those few days than I had in my lifetime. So with an old truck, a gooseneck trailer and 2 unbrokes I headed west to become a graduate of the very first John Lyons Certification Program.” While Harlow has worked with Richard Shrake, Bill McGuinness, Kathy McWilliams, Josh Lyons, Jose Mendez, Julio Mendoza, Tommie and Chantal Turvey to name a few he is quick to point out that he also has learned from the back yard trail rider.

Blue_10-18-13_0159smAn introduction to Kenny Harlow wouldn’t be complete without introducing the horse that changed his life. One of the unbrokes Harlow took with him was a small blue roan paint with blue eyes, that Harlow appropriately named Blue.

Harlow calls Blue his best friend.  Together they traveled over 700,000 miles across the country, the first 10 years in a different state and a different barn every week.  They learned together, taught together and took care of each other.  If you have ever had the opportunity to see the two of them work together, give a demonstration, or break a horse you would understand how strong that bond is.  And for Harlow that is one of the true meanings of horsemanship.  Now at 24 years old Blue is basically retired, leading a life of leisure, happily grazing in the field.  On a rare occasion he will demonstrate his talents for us, or assist Kenny with a particularly difficult horse.

ACTHA Rides at Cedar Run Ranch

Kenny_Justin_4-27-12_456smKenny has been offering rides as an ACTHA ride host for three years now, and like many of the ranch’s events people travel from other states for a weekend of camping, socializing and education. As a working horse farm the ranch includes; indoor and outdoor riding rings, camping, RV hookups, 2 cabins and meals at the ranch. While most people choose to camp out, setting up temporary horse fencing or panels, stalls are available in the barn if needed.

As testimonial to his own experience Kenny knows the benefits of working with different trainers in different disciplines. Side by side with longtime office manager Taryn Duncan, they work hard to ensure ACTHA members can take full advantage of learning with some of the best in the business, knowing full well many of them may not get another opportunity to do so.

Besides demonstrations, clinicians offer private lessons throughout the weekend. During past ACTHA events, Kenny’s visiting clinicians have included Scott Purdum of Advantage Horsemanship, Jamie Dodson of Legacy Mustang Preservation, and Julio Mendoza FEI Dressage Rider, Instructor and Pan Am Games Medal Winner. Besides the trail competition and educational opportunities Kenny and Taryn ensure the fun isn’t just on the trail and offer night time entertainment and shopping with their many devoted sponsors and vendors.

Michael Lyons Guest Clinician for April ACTHA Ride

Kenny with friends at his ranch; Michael Lyons with girlfriend Julia, John and Jody Lyons

ACTHA riders look forward to enjoying clinics and private lessons from renowned instructors and clinicians while attending events at Kenny Harlow’s Virginia ranch. This April, Michael Lyons will be the ranch’s guest clinician, a remarkable opportunity for ACTHA members. In the photo above, Kenny enjoys some free time with friends Michael and John Lyons with their wives, who stopped by Kenny’s place earlier this month.

Day 1 Cedar Run Ranch Spring CTC

Day 2 Cedar Run Ranch Spring CTC

For more information about
Kenny Harlow or rides at the
Cedar Run Ranch, visit:


Story and Photos By Jen Wenzel
This story appears in the January issue of the ACTHA Monthly