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!

An ACTHA Horse Living the Good Life

Levi hamming for the camera, again, at a recent ACTHA “Pajama Party”

Not only is Levi a beautiful Gypsy Vanner / Morgan cross and an awesome ACTHA horse who recently earned his Bronze Medal, but he is also a television celebrity!  It was only a few short years ago that Levi appeared on an episode of the ABC television series, The Bachelor.  It really sounds like Levi is living the good life!

Congratulations to both Levi and his human counterpart, Ginni Rease Bradbury of Escondido, California, upon earning the Bronze Medal achievement. What’s next for this dynamic duo?  The sky’s the limit!

Watch for more about Levi and Ginni in the September issue of the ACTHA Monthly Magazine.

Levi appearing on ABC’s “The Bachelor”

ACTHA Member Perks! Half Price Sale at Cavallo!

We LOVE our Sponsors!

Not yet an ACTHA Member?  Join today and qualify for our member’s only savings from one of ACTHA’s longest and most generous sponsors; Cavallo Horse & Rider.  Whether it’s time for a new pair of Hoof Boots, or you’ve been anxious to try the new Treks, or possibly ready for a new top of the line saddle pad or other accessory offered at Cavallo, take advantage of this HOT HOT HOT special receiving 50% off any full priced product from Cavallo! Cavallo will even pay the shipping for you!

Hurry!  Offer is good only through September 4th!


How to receive your 50% off:

Shop and place your Cavallo branded products in your shopping cart.  Enter your name and billing information.  When you reach the final step to “Review Order” enter “ACTHA” and your ACTHA membership ID eg. “ACTHA123456” in the promo code field.  You will then see the 50% off discount applied to your order total.


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 >

Looking for a Job in the Equine Industry?


Looking for a Job in the Equine Industry?  Certified Horsemanship Association Job Postings Board Available to Horse Industry; Job Postings are Benefit of CHA Membership

One of the most important aspects of the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) is how the organization helps its members run successful businesses in the horse industry. CHA helps its members with professional certifications and site accreditations, continuing education, networking with other professionals, and many other programs. One of CHA’s member benefits is the ability to add job postings online for free on CHA’s Job Opportunities board at

The job openings page on the CHA website features job openings for riding instructors, assistant riding instructors, riding camp instructors, therapeutic riding instructors, camp directors, equestrian program directors, volunteer managers, farm caretakers and supervisors, ranch staff, grooms, interns, etc. Anyone seeking a position in the equine industry is encouraged to check out the job postings offered through the Certified Horsemanship Association. However, only CHA members can add postings to the board as a part of the member benefits package. CHA also does a monthly e-blast newsletter for its members and CHA Program Members can also run job openings in these for a small fee.

Program/Business membership, available to any equine business or association, is $200/year. CHA Accredited Sites receive a discount of $25/year. The job posting membership benefit is especially helpful for Business/Program Members that are seeking to hire additional staff.

For more information on the benefits of membership with the Certified Horsemanship Association, please visit For questions, please contact CHA’s headquarters in Lexington, KY, at 859-259-3399 or If you are a member and would like to submit a job posting, please email with the subject line “CHA Website – Job Posting Request.”

For More Information: Christy Landwehr
720-857-9550 or

CHA Changes Lives Through Safe Experiences with Horses. The purpose of CHA is to promote excellence in safety and education for the benefit of the horse industry. CHA certifies instructors and trail guides, accredits equestrian facilities, publishes educational manuals, produces educational horsemanship DVDs and YouTube Safety shorts, and hosts regional and international conferences. For more information on the Certified Horsemanship Association, please visit or call 859-259-3399.  To find a certified horseback riding instructor or accredited equine facility near you, visit

NEW! ACTHA AOC Parelli In-Hand Division

Photo used with permission by Lori Silcher of 4 Seasons Marchador Ranch
Photo used with permission by Lori Silcher of 4 Seasons Marchador Ranch

The skills/obstacles will be the same as listed on the riding challenges, with some variation.  In Hand Challenges are based on the principals, concepts and criteria of Parelli Natural Horsemanship which is broad enough to encompass all effective in hand training methods.

While any training method or philosophy may be used to participate in our In Hand Division, we feel strongly that Parelli Natural Horsemanship program encompasses and embraces the experience of the master horsemen, Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt, Ronnie Willis, and Dr. Robert Miller. For more information on Parelli Natural Horsemanship go to


Parelli uses “PHASES“, in other words, subtle cues that start with an almost invisible “SUGGESTION“, and then if needed, a polite “ASK“ -(very soft communication). A little more obvious pressure has a mild penalty and is considered a “TELL” -(pressure applied to the horse’s personal bubble), and a more severe penalty for following through with a “PROMISE” -(which is pressure applied to the horse itself either with the lead rope or training stick).  A horse’s positive response to a request will be just as important as if being ridden.  Horse should look at obstacle, then calmly follow the suggestion of the handler, demonstrating trust and respect.


1) Suggestion

2) Ask

3) Tell

4) Promise


There are 5 Zones for ease of identifying the position of handler and his tools that will affect the movements of his horse.  Zone 1 is in front of the horse, the muzzle, up to the front of the halter (nose).  Zone 2 is behind the halter to the withers and chest.  Zone 3 is behind the withers, includes the front legs, rib cage, to the hip.  Zone 4 is behind the hip, includes the hind legs to the dock of the tail.  Zone 5 is the tail (and behind the horse). If a handler is leading his horse, he will be in Zone 1. If the handler is sending his horse on, he will be in either Zone 2, 3, or 4.  For long lining, he will be standing in Zone 5, safely out of kicking range.


Horse must be wearing a halter, rope halter suggested but not required, lead rope (approx. 12’ or 22’in length) OR long lines (driving reins).  A carrot stick (training stick) or Dressage style whip may be utilized.  No mechanical devices, chains, side reins or other restricting equipment, however long lines may be used.

Different lengths of rope will be used and judged in judging criteria according to how far away the handler is from his horse. (approx. 12 feet, 22 feet or long (driving) lines). The farther (and less influence) the handler has on enforcing the completion of the obstacle, the better, and pluses can be earned.  Ropes are to be folded in a ribbon VS looped in a coil for safety.  Long Line Driving from Z5 for Open Division only.


There are 7 Games in Parelli communication that are understood by the horse.  In essence, it is the language of the horse.  The first three are the Principle Games- the alphabet for horses. Game 1 is the Friendly Game and is defined as rhythmic motion (a rub, a scratch, a rest period, etc.) Game 2, the Porcupine Game, (rub, press, rub.) is steady pressure that increases if no yield is given. (The difference between a yield and evasion is, the horse moves his feet only when there is contact, then stops moving when the pressure stops VS the horse jumps away from, and avoids, the Handler.) Game 3, the Driving Game is rhythmic pressure.  The Phases for each should always be soft and subtle, using Phases, never big and frightening. Like with riding, we are looking for a dance between partners.  The Porcupine game (steady pressure) will always score higher than the Driving Game (rhythmic pressure) and The Friendly Game (stroking, scratching, etc.) will score highest when used to reward a try.

The other 4 Games are Purpose Games, Yoyo (forwards and backwards), Circle, Sideways and Squeeze (over, under, through something).  The obstacles are examples of the Purpose Games!

Stick to me Game is another game where the handler walks next to horse in Z2 as they travel together.  Horse is responsible for staying with his human like a mare and foal.  For safety, handler will always be on SAME SIDE as an potentially spooky obstacle.


SAFETY FIRST! To send a horse to an obstacle, the horse goes first, WITHOUT being lead.  Horses held too close to the lead rope clip, have a chance to push into and step on their handler!  There should be plenty of space between horse and human.  To do this, the handler will back horse out of his personal space, then with the leading hand, ask the horse forward with a little feel, driving with the stick or end of lead rope at the shoulder, to encourage the horse to move out and away from the Handler, towards the obstacle.  REFINEMENT looks like the handler subtly motioning the direction of the horse- as “step this way…” with a light Phase 1 or 2.

Ropes should be loose, any horse pulling (showing resistance) on the rope will be penalized.  The rope should be long enough for the horse to take full responsibility for his actions, yet short enough not to get stepped on.  TOOL HANDLING SKILLS are necessary to complete a smooth and responsive look, and will be judged accordingly.

Any obstacle that can be efficiently and safely completed on the off side (right side) of the horse will earn a plus.

Handler must hold rope at all times, holding the clip will be penalized.

Handler will not stand in front of a horse crossing a bridge, jump, water obstacle, etc.

If Long Line Driving, Handler will keep safe distance from horse.

Horse is to respect the Handler’s personal space.

Jr/Sc- Lead rope and stick or dressage whip (optional, can use popper at end of lead rope instead of stick)

Pleasure- Lead rope and stick or dressage whip (stick/whip is optional, can use end of lead rope)

Open- Lead rope OR long lines, (stick/whip/surcingle optional)


360 degree turn/spin-

Handler will stand in Z2 to complete this obstacle, using either Porcupine or Driving Game to ask horse to turn/spin.

Animal on the Run-

Handler stands either in Z1 (Jr/Sc/Pl) with the animal passing in front of the horse OR in Z5 (Open) with the animal passing behind the horse.


The handler stands in Z1 (Jr/Sc/Pl) to back the horse, OR in Z5 (Open), using either the Porcupine or Driving Game to complete obstacle.

BANK Down-

Handler stands in Z 2, 3, 4, OR 5 using the Driving game.


Z 2, 3, 4, OR 5 using Driving Game.

Barrel Board Pin Wheel-

This will be a Stick to me Game (Z 2) where the handler walks between the horse and the Pin Wheel, one hand holds the end of the board and the other remains close enough to pet the horse on the neck as they circle together.  All ropes will be ribboned VS coiled for safety.  If the horse spooks, his lead can be let out to allow him to safely drift out and away.


Z 2, 3, 4, or 5, Driving Game.


Stick to me Game, Z 2


This is done as a Circle Game (horse circles human) at canter.  Minimal aids used, horse canters easily from walk or trot, without stopping on his own, and leaves the rope loose.

Open: Walk canter transition or a change of direction may be used or

Z5 with long lines- showing leads and lead changes.

Close Encounters-

Jr/Sc/Pl: Handler stands between obstacle and horse, asks horse to turn and face the obstacle, and remain still as it passes, can then follow it to build confidence.

Open: Horse is asked to back up as object approaches, then follow it.


Jr/Sc/Pl: Z1 Driving Game.  Handler asks horse to swing HQ to simulate mounting.

Open: Z3, Driving Game, side pass towards the mounting object.


Jr/Sc/Pl: Stand next to horse, picking up both front feet from just one side.

Open: Pick up all four feet from just one side.

Don’t Feed the Bears-

Z1 while backing away from the obstacle, horse behind you.

Open- Handler in Z5 while driving horse forward away from obstacle, one hand on lines, one on pulley rope (ribboned, not coiled), back up to lower.

Don’t Spray Me-

Send the horse to the object to see if he will touch it with his nose as a Friendly Game.  Spray neck.

Open: Spray ears, neck, belly, and legs.


Can use Stick to me Game (Z2) or Driving Game Z2, 3, 4.

Open: Stop at bottom of hill for 10 count.


Z1 with handler pulling drag and horse following. Horse travels straight.

Open: Z5 Driving with handler pulling drag behind him, (one hand on lines, one on the drag rope, (ribboned, not coiled)

OR Z1, backing horse in front of Handler as he pulls the drag toward horse.  Horse backs straight.

Frog in a Pond-

Jr/ Sc/ Pl: Toss frog from Z1, horse behind handler.

Open: Toss frog from other side of pond towards horse into the water.


Send horse through without bumping into gate.  Keep one hand on gate at all times.  Horse turns and faces on other side, can send back through the other direction.

Open- horse backs through with handler at Z1 or long line through from Z5. (one hand on the lines, one on the gate.)

Hat Pick up-

Send horse to touch hat with his nose as a Friendly Game.

Open- Can tell horse to fetch the hat.


Z2, 3, 4 Send horse over the jump using Driving Game.

Open-  Send horse at canter.  Z5 long lines- jump, halt back up.


This is completed as a Porcupine Game from Z1

Open Z1 or Z5 with long lines.

Optional, can back by the tail for a plus.


Porcupine Game at Z1.

Open- Z1 OR Z5 with long lines.

May back by tail for a plus.


Send horse (Driving Game) to put his nose on the mailbox (Friendly Game.)

Open: Side pass horse to mailbox.


Simulate mounting.

Handler gets up on block, stump, fence, etc. and asks horse to side pass toward it. Rub and scratch horse’s back.

Open- horse straddles log for simulated mounting.

Noise Control-

Jr/Sc/Pl stands in Z1 between horse and noise.

Open- Horse is asked to follow noise with Handler in Z1, 2, 3.

Z5 long lines, back horse towards noise for plus. (DO NOT back towards noise from Z1).

Perfect Picture-

Jr/Sc/Pl: Send horse to stand in ring.  Take picture as horse stands quietly.

Open: Have 2 rings, one for the horse and one for the handler.  Stand in small ring and send the horse to his.  Take his picture as he stands quietly.


Jr/Sc/Pl: Z2, 3, 4.

This can be done as a Stick to me Game or a Driving Game.

Open- 45’ lariat or long lines.


Jr/ Sc/ Pl: Z2, 3, 4 as a Driving Game.

Open: Handler has horse stand quietly in center, then back out.

Side Pass-

To be completed from Z1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 as a Porcupine Game or Driving Game.

Open: Handler asks horse to side pass both directions.


Jr/Sc/Pl Friendly Game.  Send your horse to put his nose on the raincoat.

Rub your horse in Z2.

Open- Send horse to put his nose on it then rub all over.

Spanish Pole-

Lift pole and send horse through to turn and face on other side.

Open- send through, holding pole, turn and send through the other direction.

Spider web-

Stand in Z2, 3, 4, or 5 using the Driving Game to send through.

Open: Horse trots through.


Friendly Game- stand in between horse and target in Z1, 2.

Open- can complete as a Stick to me Game.


Z2, 3, 4, or 5.  Driving Game.

Open: Stop and Back 10 steps.

Straight Arrow-

Z2, 3, 4, or 5. Stick to me or Driving Game.

Open: Go through and Back 10 steps.


Z2, 3, 4, or 5. Driving Game.

Open: Stop in middle for 10 seconds, back out.

Trot transitions-

Z2, 3, 4, or 5.  Stick to me or Driving Game.

Open: Afterwards, stop for a count of 10 seconds.

Trot Weave-

Use cones, barrels, etc. (low ground objects for this obstacle).

Z2, 3, 4, or 5. Stick to me or Driving Game.

Open: Handler on off side.

Turn on the Forehand-

Z4 Using Porcupine or Driving Game.

Open: Both directions.

Turn on the Haunches-

Z2 Using Porcupine or Driving Game.

Open: Both directions.


Z2, 3, 4, or 5.  Can be completed as Stick to me Game or Driving Game.

Vine Simulator-

Z2, 3, 4, or 5.  Send horse through, turn, face, and wait.

Wagon Wheel-

Stand on one side of the wheel, send horse through.

Open can long line around wheel.

Water Obstacle-

Z2, 3, 4, or 5.  Driving Game.

Wildlife Box-

Z2, 3, 4, or 5. Driving Game.


Z2. 3, 4, or 5. Driving Game.

Broken Rein-

Stand next to horse at the shoulder, and bend his head around as an indirect rein, yielding his HQ 360% both directions, rub face while bent to a stop.

Open- 360 % both directions AND back horse from Z2 by lifting rope straight up (towards horse’s ears.)

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 >>