Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rancho Murietta Walkabout Tour Stop

Yes, I did it again. I volunteered for another Clinton Anderson Downunder Horsemanship Walkabout Tour Stop. This was my fourth tour stop and my third time as a volunteer. This one was held at the Rancho Murietta Equestrian Center, a fantastic equestrian facility nestled in the foothills of northern California.
Outdoor Turnouts

I went up a day earlier to visit with my brother who lives just outside of Sacramento. We had a nice visit. I arrived at 8:30am on Friday and we began setting things up. Much of the fixtures were assembled, but there was still alot to do, which was nice. (In Las Vegas most of the set up had been completed by Friday morning and there wasn't much to do.) We stayed busy most of the morning, stopped for pizza and introductions around 1 pm, and finished the setup early in the afternoon. Once we were released I grabbed my camera and took some photos of the facility. There was a gal practicing jumping and she said yes when I asked if I could practice taking action shots.

The nearest hotels were in Folsom about 15 miles away on a fairly winding road through the cattle pasture lands. It was really great scenery - rolling hills, grazing cattle, birds, and ponds. After a quick shower I set off walking to find a place to eat. There wasn't much to choose from - and Olive Garden and Island Burgers. I opted for the Island Burger and they sat me in the bar. Little did I know that much of the Downunder Crew was eating there as well. Half of them were eating at the bar and I think the other half were sitting outside. They are a fun grouop of people. I joined them for about an hour as I ate dinner and then headed back to my room.

Saturday morning was a bit cooler. We were told to not get there before 7:30, but I couldn't sleep. I was there about 6:30 and Clinton was in the arena setting up. I chose to head over to the jumping arena where the barn cat Baxter and I watched another rider working her horse. At 7:30 I worked the ticket line with Mari Joe and then went to halters and lead ropes to re-stock. It was great to see Clinton personally welcome everyone into the covered arena with a handshake up until it was time for him to start the show. I didn't get to see much of the opening "philosophy" talk. I did get to hear quite a bit of though and that's always enjoyable. The stands were packed. I think they held about 2500 people.

Later we setup the round pen for that demo. The Behlen round pen has to be one of the easiest pens I have set up. The disrectful horse demo was good. The paint horse they used was really spoiled and couldn't figure out for the longest time why he had been singled out for such an ordeal. By the time the session was over he was behaving himself quite nicely.

The "spooky" horse demo was the most fascinating. They used a big black gelding of some strange sounding breed. At first I wasn't aware of what was going on, but Clinton's apprentice Brittney was bringing the horse from the stalls to the arena and the horse was just being an ass about the whole thing. He was trying to run over her, rearing, and being pushy. She could hear Clinton waiting for the horse in the arena and finally they got there. Once in the arena Clinton let her work the horse for about 20 minutes. This horse was totoally disrespectful of humans. At one point Brittney was instructed by Clinton to whack the horse on the nose with her stick. It got the horse's attention, but not for very long. The horse had this huge head and neck and was really over-powering the apprentice. This horse really needed the roundpen session first.

Clinton finally took over and because he is stronger, was able to get the horse somewhat respectful. To his credit, and this is one of the things I like most about him, he didn't even try to do the de-spooking or the blocker tie ring demos with this horse becasue the horse just wasn't ready. You would think that maybe the tie-ring sales would be down after the demo and maybe they were, but the sales floor had it's busiest session after that exciting demo.

The afternoon Advanced Riding Demo with Diaz is always fun to watch and we were caught up enough that I got to see most of it. Diaz seemed a bit off and later I learned that he has been getting wise to the tours. It seems he had figured out he doesn't really have to put out 100% when he's in front of a crowd because he knows Clinton won't reprimand him. Well, he found out that didn't go far because on Sunday during the lunch break Cliinton brought him into the arena and really worked his butt off. Now isn't it amazing that such a highly trained horse like Diaz needs a tune-up now and then? Is it any surprise when our horses figure out new ways to show us up? I learn something from every tour stop and this was the important takeaway from Rancho: Fix problems when you see them. Your horse is going to be constantly looking for ways to get out of work. That's their nature. Look for it and stop it when it happens.

Clinton Anderson

Sunday morning the weather really took a cool turn. The wind was blowing right at us. It had been almost 90 degrees on Wednesday. I was lucky I had brought a light jacket. Volunteers only get to wear a t-shirt (of which I had on three).

After the fun intro of the Trailer Loading demo the volunteers met for tear-down instructions. I think one of the reasons I enjoy this part of the weekend so much is the teamwork aspect. You move from task to task packing stuff up with everyone working in a harmony that's very close to dancing. The employees all have their assigned tasks and they complete them with incredible efficiency. The volunteers Emily, Chris, Patty and the others were all great fun and easy to work with too.

At the end of the tear down Clinton comes out, takes a photo with us and hands us our free stuff for the effort. He is also available for questions. I didn't have any horse questions because, really, they are all answered on his dvd's somewhere, aren't they? I had missed a something at the Las Vegas show last time about personality testing, so I got to ask him about that. It took me a little aback when he answered so easily and asked about my experiences. My previous encouters had all been polite, but curt and efficient. I said good-bye to the crew. It was nice they asked when I would volunteer again. Most of the other stops are scattered across the country and it's just too expensive being a professional volunteer.

After washing some the arena dust off I headed for my car and a new set of adventures awaited. My keyless remote failed to open the doors. I opened the trunk to get my jacket out and the alarm went wailing. I worked on it for about 10 minutes before the crew came out and Cheryl, Clinton's mom asked about the problem. Everyone was tired but the sound guy came over with someone else, I not sure who he was, and they proceeded to analyze the situation. I called AAA and they were on the way. About 20 minutes into the process the boys got into the car and were able to reset the alarm system. Not sure how long I would have been stuck there without their help. After cancelling AAA I was on my home, pulling into my driveway around 3am. After a few hours sleep I was up and at work and the day seemed to fly by as I would recall little bits and conversations of the previous three days.
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