The 4th Annual Light Hands Horsemanship clinic, sponsored by Spalding Labs, was held May 20-23 in Santa Ynez, California. The weekend clinic featured professionals who shared their approach to handling and riding horses with a light hand. Owners and trainers that wanted to build a partnership with their horse based on trust and reward went home with a lot of new information.

Tours through The Museum of the Cowboy, the Santa Ynez Historical Museum and Carriage House and the Intrepid Collection Museum were also offered. There was a wine tasting on the first night and catered meals each day. Intrepid Farm was an ideal location. Large shade trees, grassy pens and rose bushes line each pasture.

In addition to the fun, attendees received the most comprehensive instruction available. Richard Winters and Jon Ensign focused on colt starting. Richard took a two year old through her first saddling and ride. He explained the need to understand when to release pressure and the importance of variety in each lesson. Jon rode a horse that had 30 days of training. He rode this horse over and around obstacles such as a bridge and a teeter-totter. Jon shared with the group how to help their horses through new situations by keeping him focused but not pushing him forward until he is relaxed and confident.

Lester Buckley, who has an international trainers license in dressage and sport jumping from the German F.N. spoke about applying dressage principles to everyday riding. On the third day Lester shared examples of how ranch work can help keep a horse balanced. Eitan Beth-Halachmy, known for Cowboy Dressage, which is a combination of traditional western and classical horsemanship, entertained attendees as well as instructed them. As Eitan rode he gave examples of what can be achieved with the lightest touch.

Jack Brainard, a legendary Texas horseman, shared how to get control of a horse's body and why this control is so essential when riding. Jack also gave a demonstration that clearly illustrated footfalls and cadence. As Jewels Adams rode around the arena Jack asked her to identify when the left front hoof left the ground. He continued this through all four hooves until Jewels could consistently identify when each hoof moved. As a result she will have better timing for cues and better communication with the horse.

Dr. Robert Miller, best known for his principles on imprint training, gave lectures each morning and talked about why lightness is the exception and not the rule of horsemanship worldwide and how that is changing. Dr. Miller explained that 100 years ago horses were beasts of burden. A horse's purpose was to work transporting people or working in fields. Today, Dr. Miller said, horses have a much different roll that has changed how relationships with them are developed. Dr. Miller pointed out that even in the last few decades, horsemanship has changed to creating a better relationship with the horse through better understanding and training methods.

Monty Roberts treated attendees at Light Hands Horsemanship 2010 with a presentation. While Monty rode he demonstrated with a number of examples what can be achieved with the lightest touch. Monty told a story about fishing line that defined how light-handed you could train a horse to be. Monty said he used to use a lightweight fishing line in place of a bit. Anything but a very light touch would obviously break the line. Monty used this fishing line in many demos to show what can be achieved.

Rick Lamb emceed the event as well as gave lectures. Rick's first lecture was The Seven Key Qualities of a Horseman. This lecture explored qualities that horsemen share and develop through their relationships with horses. Rick's lecture, Horsemen of the Past - Forefathers of a Revolution, examined how horse training and relationships with horses have changed over the centuries. Starting in ancient Greece and continuing through present day, Rick shared stories of great horsemen's triumphs and tribulations in horse training including the public's doubt, scorn and eventual admiration.

The days did not end with the last session. Petrine Mitchum, author and daughter of actor Robert Mitchum, gave a presentation based on her book, Hollywood Hoofbeats: Trails Blazed Across the Silver Screen. The next evening featured cowboy poetry. Monty Roberts, Dr. Robert Miller, Jack Brainard, Lester Buckley, Sheila Varian of Varian Arabians, and Ernie Morris shared stories of horses, childhood ... and each other.

Spalding Labs has been the proud sponsor for this event since it started. To learn more about this event and to watch for next year's dates please visit lighthandshorsemanship.com. If you would be interested in receiving information for Light Hands Horsemanship 2011 or DVDs from 2010 please send an email to lhh@spalding-labs.com.