From Endurance to Dressage
Horse Expo Clinics (Part 3)
TM and I have seen a lot of big names at Equine Affaire (now Horse Expo). We've seen John Lyons (humblest guy ever), Pat Parelli (too much show boating for my taste), Julie Goodnight (very approachable), Monty Roberts (that horse did NOT Join Up!), Craig Cameron (Extreme Cowboy Race - FUN!), Nick Karazissis (twice now), and of course Christian Schacht. There have been other bigs names as well, but they weren't familiar to me at the time.
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 best thing Chris did was endorse the use of helmets. He started his lecture with a story about his young daughter and how she always wears a helmet. He admitted that he doesn't wear one, but went on to explain (erroneously, of course) that with his skill and knowledge he felt safe enough without the use of a helmet. Even with that, I still appreciated that a top trainer was urging less experienced riders to protect themselves.
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.
2/9/2013 12:29:31 am
I haven't seen him yet. BRAVO to him for advocating helmets. I do like watching all of these guys, even if I don't like certain ones for their conceit and sales pitches and dissing of helmet-wearers. you can still learn a lot watching them. I was impressed with Guy McLean when I saw him at a small expo.
2/9/2013 12:32:41 am
I agree - watching anyone good at what they do, regardless of the discipline, can be a learning experience. And yes, he hit the helmet thing pretty hard. I am not familiar with Guy McLean ... Maybe now he'll crop up since I've heard his name! :0)
2/9/2013 01:17:32 am
Chris Cox gave a clinic (here in NJ) at the farm I worked at years ago. This was before I had Harley, but I adopted some of his groundwork techniques and still prefer them today.
2/9/2013 07:34:47 am
I have seen him on TV many times, but this was the first personal encounter. I LOVED that he was more concerned about the horses than about the people. It must not hurt his business too much as he has quite a following!
2/9/2013 07:25:44 am
It was ... Ohio's EA is probably bigger than our event which means you'll probably get a wide variety of clinicians. I hope you'll share who you get to see!
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
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Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
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