On this particular day at Horse Expo, the final clinic we saw was done by Chris Cox. Chris is a regular on RFDTV, and while I am not into western riding, his topic piqued my interest, "Building Rider's Confidence." Right up my alley; we took a seat.
The point of his lecture was to help riders who lack confidence find some. Chris pointed out that it is through education that we build confidence. We need to replace fear with knowledge. He stressed that ALL riders need to find professional help, especially those who lack confidence. He also stressed the importance of having a horse that suits your experience level. He joked about uneducated owners who buy 2 year olds. Bad combination. Sadly, I heard people murmuring in the stands how that was them.
While Chris talked about how to stay safe and get an education, he began working with three different horses while their owners watched. The first horse he worked with was an amazing mustang. The owner was terrified of him, but it was obvious that he was a very nice horse. Chris demonstrated that virtually all of the problems we see are actually caused by the riders themselves. To demonstrate, he cantered, did a million changes of directions, did some halts, and a variety of other things to get the horses' feet unstuck. None of the three were scary or naughty at all.
The mustang was simply lovely, the second seemed very willing, and the third was just uneducated with a rider who lacked even more knowledge than the horse. In each of the three cases, the riders were riding with tensed, hunched over bodies, clutching at their horses' mouths. He showed the riders how to open up their hip angles and let go of their horses' mouths.
There were times when I thought he was a bit harsh in his comments to the riders, but they probably deserved it. The first thing he asked each lady was why she didn't have a helmet. And when they hemmed and hawed in their answers, he just dug a little deeper at them. He next criticized one of the riders for the huge spurs she was wearing; I could see them from where we were sitting. He pointed out, quite correctly I thought, if someone needs more confidence and is fearful of the horse, she shouldn't be wearing spurs.
It was a very serious clinic addressing very serious issues. Yes, he was hard on the riders, but I could see where he was coming from. I am sure that he gets sick of seeing people who hurt their horses, or themselves, simply because they don't know what the heck they're doing, and they won't get the help of a trainer.
Near the end of the clinic, Chris finally had each woman get on her horse and ride him around. Each was successful. When they got off, he gave each a big hug and told her that she could do this. I am not sure that any of them developed a new sense of confidence, but I am certain that the audience, which was huge, learned a few things about being smarter in how we choose to ride what we ride.
The one thing I really appreciated about Chris Cox was his complete lack of salesmanship. He wasn't there to sell a program or a halter. He was just trying to get people to think about their relationship with their horses and to evaluate it honestly. He also pointed out stupid when he saw it which is a trait I admire. He might have lost some followers with his biting honesty, but I know he gained a few because of it. He's a trainer that I'll keep my eye on.