Icelandic Horse Connection

Brandon Carpenter Gaited Horse Clinic Reports

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There were 12 riders and a few more observers. Many of the riders were new to horses and/or gaited horses. I think all the horses there were TWH.

The first day had an emphasis on round penning. Brandon did a demo first and then used each participant's horse and then brought in the owner/rider to show them how to use their body and energy to get the horse to do what they wanted the horse to do.

Indigo was the only horse who really didn't care for the close quarters (the round pen was 30ft) and a stranger telling him what to do. To be fair, I have to say this was only his second time in an indoor arena and the first time was early last year. Also, he's never been worked in a round pen.

He has been worked in a much larger outdoor arena on a longe line because I don't have a round pen. So, he was really out of his element with all these people in chairs close to the round pen and being indoors and, as I said, closer quarters than what he's used to. So, he arched his neck and started bolting around kicking out with his back feet at Brandon some of the time and striking out with his front feet - not really at Brandon but just in general. So mostly he just worked on getting him to settle and focus, which he did before too long.

When I came into the RP with Brandon, Indigo got a bit worked up again but slowed when I asked and stopped when I asked. One really interesting thing was, as he was going around, I asked Brandon "Should I ask him to stop now?" and when I said that, Indigo tipped his nose towards me and slowed up, anticipating a cue to stop. It was very noticeable and a good demonstration of what Brandon was trying to get across about "thoughts are things". I thought it and Indigo was already responding to the thought before I overtly did anything else.

Meanwhile, over the two days the 12 riders were broken up into groups of 3 for more individual work for approx an hour. So we alternated between the round penning and the small group work. I was in the small group last thing in the afternoon where Brandon watched me ride. He said I was sitting nice and flat and noticed that Indigo was going in and out of a foxtrot and trot.

The interesting thing that he noticed and that I noticed when slo-moing a video before, is that Indigo doesn't move both sets of diagonals the same. The timing is different in the two sets. In the video, he was trotting on one set of diagonals and foxtrotting on the other set. Brandon noticed him doing something similar that first day. He had me picture a bubble of energy coming out behind me to bring his hind end under him and going out in front of me to move him forward. It helped him move better when I did that.

He spent a lot of time with me after we were scheduled to be done, looking at the underside of Indigo's feet and thinking that he has somewhat of a tendency towards a club foot in one front. We talked a lot about the Natural Balance trim and he suggested I get the video from Gene Ovnicek, which I had ordered 2 days before! So we were in sync there.

He seemed genuinely interested in knowing what changes it would make for him to have his feet trimmed in this way. Right now, he and I both agree that his heel was left too long the last time the farrier came. So, my hoof issues still are not completely resolved! I appreciated the sincere individual attention.

Many of us went to a potluck at the host's home that first night and that was a lot of fun too. Nice folks all around. Some of the participants went to see Garrison Keilor that night as he was in Missoula doing his Prairie Home Companion show. I hadn't known about it and wished I had known and that it was on a different day! I love Garrison Keilor.

The second day we did some riding all around together and he remarked that Indigo was travelling much better. He was doing a nice flatwalk and holding it pretty well. I said Indigo was more relaxed the second day and Brandon pointed out that I probably was too.

We worked from the ground on having them turn on the hind and fore. Then we worked on it from in the saddle. Indigo did it beautifully whenever Brandon wasn't looking! lol! This was in preparation for negotiating trail obstacles later out in the outdoor arena. I appreciated this basic training because I believe too many people, and maybe gaited people in particular, bypass a lot of this to just jump on and GO.

So, this was about giving to pressure and having the horse move off your leg, one step at a time. The thing I noticed, which I have noticed before but always seem to lose sight of, is that as long as I was concentrating on the mechanics of the movement, we had trouble. When I forgot about all that and just "thought it", expecting the movement to happen, it did.

Before going outside, we did some gait identification using 3 horses - one that trotted, one that did a Foxtrot and RW, and one that paced and racked. He taped their legs with pink and yellow vet wrap to help observers see what the legs were doing. I think because so many of the people were relatively new to gaited horses, that part was still a little confusing for a lot of people, but to be fair, that part is confusing to a lot of veteran gaited horse people! ;)

We finished up the day doing the trail obstacles, moving in tight turns slowly around jumps using our bodies and not reins unless absolutely necessary. Indigo did very well with that because we've done a lot of that sort of thing but one thing Brandon kept catching me doing was dropping my shoulder in the turns. I appreciated that feedback because I forget to pay attention to that. That will help me remember in the future.

When Brandon's son first laid out a blue tarp, Indigo went over to it and tried to pick it up and chew on it and walked over it. He's done a lot of that too. But, then there was a horse right off that didn't want to go over it and made a big fuss. When I took Indigo to do it again after that horse, he was all afraid of it then because of the other horse's reaction. So, he had to sniff it again and be really cautious but then crossed with no trouble.

We had planned to do some tarp dragging too, which I was looking forward to because I've only dragged anything once - it was an empty feedbag on a rope and Indigo killed it with deadly mule-like accuracy with his back feet. It was scary how fast he blasted that thing. But, we didn't get to that because one of the horses would NOT go over it. Brandon took the time to keep encouraging the rider (a brand new rider who, bless her heart, did VERY well) but after nearly an hour, with the clinic time almost over and me being a bit anxious about getting on the road so I might get home before dark, I went ahead and left a little early. I could hear however that it sounded like Brandon got on the horse and still had some difficulty but managed to get him over the tarp.

I had a good time and had some good reminders about using my energy and thoughts to get what I want.

Brandon is very patient and maintains high positive energy throughout the entire two days. He smiles a lot and has a quick, witty, sharp humor that helps keep people engaged. I like his background with training "using horses" because it doesn't overlook some things that I consider basic - like the ground work in the round pen and moving the hind and fore/moving off pressure.

He tries to cover a lot of basics while giving a lot of individual attention to help each person at their own level so that everyone can get something out of it. I like that over what some clinicians do where they just have an agenda and that is all that is covered, period. He has an agenda, but tries to tailor the agenda to that particular group while meeting individual needs as well.

That's all I remember right now!



Brandon Carpenter Clinic Steve and I traveled to northern Maine from CT with Dusty our foxtrotter for our first clinic with a horse ever.

The title Gaiting & Horsemanship does not explain by half what a information packed experience it was. This would be the first time anyone with gaited horse knowledge would see me ride and I wanted to make sure I was doing things correctly. First of all Brandon has an easy going way about him and was able to share his wealth of knowledge and experiences simply and directly with a bit of humor.

In this clinic the ages ran from 13 to 60's with more on the older side. In experience from some to highly trained in dressage. A wide range in horses mostly non gaited but with even with so much diversity we all learned from each horse how different each was but also how similiar they act.

We each watched Brandon work our horse in the round pen and then we came in and worked our horses with his guidance. Brandon showed us how to use our own positive energy to encourage and push our horses to move as we directed them.

You could see and feel the differences between each of us, some so quiet and laid back they really had to work to push their energy out. Then there was me and the comments were made I was pushing them over outside the ring in their folding chairs. LOL Who knew I could do this. You should have seen Dusty move! I had to calm it down and relax. Dusty was going around the ring with this wide eyed look Brandon thought maybe she had a vision problem. I think she was just so surprised by what was going on she was keeping a close watch both inside and outside the ring not knowing what would happen next! LOL

We all worked our horses in the round pen and later in the arena while on leads in different ways disengaging the front and rear, backing and leading correctly. Brandon answered tons of questions and never lost his smile. We all watched him work with the smaller groups of three and observed saddling and bridle issues we were all able to discuss. Sat ended with a great potluck dinner and later we visited and gave Brandon a potato basket filled with products from Maine.

Before I go further I want to tell you Dee Hawksley put this all together and did a wonderful job. Many observers made comments that they wished they had brought their horses to attend the clinic and plan to in the future. Food and everyone was warm and welcoming.

Sunday first thing I was a part of that group. Good news the saddle was a good fit but we quickly found out all the nodding Dusty did was from the aluminum low port short shanked bit. Brandon had me try a mylar comfort snaffle sweet iron bit and after mouthing it a little Dusty showed me how much she liked it. She still had her nod but she relaxed, moved out with a longer stride and did lower her head. I could immediately feel her relax more and although she had gaited fine before was even better and more consistant with the snaffle.

When the clinic started again Dusty was used for conformation and then the gaiting demo along with a standardbred pacer and a quarter horse. With the demo I let those who wanted to ride Dusty try it out and the big grins when they felt how smooth the ride they experienced was priceless. lol Dusty was her sweet self and never put a foot wrong everyone thought she was about three since she looked so sweet and were surprised she was an experienced 8 yr old trail horse.

We all mounted up and practiced various things in the saddle we had done on the ground plus riding at various speeds and directions with Brandon keeping an eye to how we rode and handled our horses. We ended with working various trail items. Although this explanation is long it is not complete. This clinic is something I would reccommend to anyone who has a horse or thinks they want a horse no matter what your experience level is.

If you have any questions just email me.

Best to all Shirley


Thanks for your report, having been there, I have to agree completely that it was a wonderful clinic.

My husband participated as well with his QH's, and he said it was the best experience he'd had with the horses in a long time. I'm very grateful for that since one of the horses he took was a 6year old that is still unridden and has had very little done with him. Finally my husband has some inspiration to get started and a direction to take with this horse... THANK YOU BRANDON.

Another big thing my husband brought home was new knowledge about gaits. He's not really paid a lot of attention to gaits even though my horse is gaited, so it was a huge eye-opener to him that there was so much to it, and that it was so interesting.

I've never organized anything like this before, and was able to get it done. I don't know about where you live, but there were mostly non-gaited horses here, and the people auditing mostly were of non-gaited background. They all enjoyed it very much, and thanks to Shirley letting some ride her horse we may have some converts in our area. I would suggest getting help though so you have plenty of time to think about yourself and what you want to get out of it.

My biggest wish would have been to have been able to spend more individualized time working with Brandon and my horse to work on gaiting. I was just wiped out by the time the clinic was ending and really couldn't ride any more. I haven't had enough time to ride much this summer, so I'm terribly out of shape. The next day my husband said he could have ridden for me, but we didn't think of that in time.

If any of you do get the chance to participate in one of Brandon's clnic, TAKE IT. You will not be sorry.

Dee in ME

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