University of Vermont AAHS

Harmony: Bullriding Clinicians at the ‘Super Clinic’ at Camp Stewart for Boys and the Ultimate Trail Ride

by Jan Dawson

President, AAHS
[reprinted from Caution: Horses (Summer 1998 Vol. 3, No. 2)]

This turned out to be one of the most memorable summers we have ever had mostly because of two bullriders from Arizona, Harry Begaye and James "JP" Paddock. We met these men at the clinic at Seba Dalkai Boarding School on the Navajo Nation in Arizona in October of 1994. They came to Texas in July of 1997 as part of our grant from the Indian Health Service, Navajo Division.

This year they were back to complete their training as clinicians which they did at the AAHS Instructor Certification Clinic at Camp Stewart for Boys. This clinic has become, due to the excellent facilities, horses, and equipment, the AAHS training ground for clinicians and well as the site of the first annual AAHS Board Meeting. It was a pleasure and an honor to work with these two gentlemen and it is a pleasure to call them friends. We are looking forward to a lengthy and rewarding association with them.

As is common at any instructor certification clinic during camp season, we were faced with numerous candidates who had been riding all their lives but who had never had or witnessed a serious mishap, even though their personal habits around horses incited problems. Having two well-known rodeo figures explaining the risks and the way they do things eliminated a lot of the usual arguments over defensible practices versus indefensible practices. Hey, if the rodeo guys think its dangerous it must really be DANGEROUS. It was thoroughly refreshing.

JP and Harry brought an immense amount of experience to the clinic, certainly a different kind than most of us were used to. Both men are fathers as well as known figures in the rodeo world so there's was a unique perspective to bring to the training of riding instructors. JP, who is currently a ranked bullrider, had definite ideas on how much risk is too much with a child, especially when he faces the ultimate kind of risk frequently. Both men impressed everyone present.  Because we had seven staff members at the Clinic who were clinician level riders we were able to do a trail ride demonstration that had a lasting impact on all participants. We took out a ride that was 27 riders long. There was a staff member every six horses and an outrider. It soon became obvious to all how little communication there was within the ride, and certainly between the leader and the back half.

To bring the point home, we had room about halfway through the ride to swap positions between the front and back halves. That in itself was an interesting maneuver as the instructor candidates who had been in the front got to see the reaction of their horses as the other half of the ride passed them. Most were amazed that some of these gentle horses were not happy to see the others go by, even with many horses still with them. All the candidates became aware of why it is important to have a staff person every six horses as they really couldn't see farther ahead than six horses. Nor could the leader or the drag rider see far enough in either direction to know what was happening in the middle.

Several of the riders had participated before in really big trail rides and were amazed to see how difficult it is to keep everything under control so that the small problems that can arise on any ride remain small.

It was apparent to all that rides with more than twelve students can be especially dangerous just because of the number of riders. Walkie-talkies would be a help since the out-rider or swing-rider cannot always get up and down the line. With novice riders, a ride of this size presents serious problems and one is faced with making the admission that it is up to the horses to take care of the riders unless there is adequate staff.

Without doubt, none of the above could have happened without the help and support of Camp Stewart for Boys in Hunt, Texas, owned by Kathy and Sy Ragsdale. Camp Stewart hosted our Board of Directors as well as our clinician candidates. Betsy Greene, Ph.D. Equine Extension Specialist from Washington State University and Professor, Bob Dawson of the University of Texas School of Law stayed far much of the clinic and taught the sessions on equine science and negligence law, respectively. Because of the facilities and the number of horse professionals present, it became the ultimate clinic. There was an expert present for nearly every type of horsemanship related question.

Jeepers Ragsdale, co-directar of Camp Stewart, and Paul Brand, also of Camp Stewart have joined our Board of Directors and we are delighted to have them. Paul has also become one of our clinicians and I am confident that he will be one of the best that we have.

We are all looking forward to next year with our generous friends from the Texas Hill Country.

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