Dec 172012

Hi All,

I have created a Forum section on this website.

There are currently Four Forums:

Forum 1  I hope will be used for day to day ‘chit chat’ among the Glen Gang members and friends.

Forum 2  I hope will be where members and friends can exchange their training and learning tips and experiences, discuss horse health issues and the like.

Forum 3  My hope is that Western horse people from around the world will tell us what is happening in their part of the world. We  have Western horse friends in USA, Sweden, Canada, Brazil, Germany, New Zealand, Australia,  Southern Ireland and a few other places. We would like to hear from them, would we not?

To participate, all you have to do is log in. Please read the instructions on the page which opens when the Forum tile on the Home page is clicked.  You will be sent, by email, a password and assigned an avatar. That will get you recognised and you become a participant in the Forums.

When you have chosen a Forum you can either add a posting to someone’s topic or post a topic of your own.

I expect that  this process will create a complete shambles  at first but, as the bravest people explore the possibilities,  we will all learn from their example.

Remember, Glen Gang, that this Forum is open for the whole world to see and respond to, so keep up our reputation for being fun loving, good people who love their horses and the Western way of going.

If you see anyone posting snivelling, divisive or vitriolic claptrap please ask them politely to stop, again and again if necessary, but don’t encourage them by entering into a dialogue with them.  As Mark Rashid once said,  ‘Don’t try to change another man’s opinion. It is a waste of your time. After all an opinion is only an opinion.’  However, if their opinion is expressed in a vitriolic or objectionable way,  it is best that it is heard, noted and then ignored.

Have fun and I look forward to interesting and exciting dialogue.



Dec 172012

Article by Emily Tenbruck, first published in the Highland Pony Journal in 2012

Article Pic_nThe kindest eyes I think I have ever seen looked up at me from underneath a mass of grey fuzzy Highland Pony forelock and I knew he was the one for me. Three days later he arrived home, my two year old grey dun Highland Pony gelding, Little Fenwick MacDonald nicknamed as ‘Donnie Boy’ and instantly it stuck!

I have always been fascinated by Western Riding and decided long ago that a riding holiday in the USA was definitely on my bucket list.  I would love to go and watch Reining in the home land of Western riding! Having been an English rider most of my horsey life it was about four years ago that I started watching lots of Western Riding on Sky TV, clinics by Clinton Anderson, Chris Cox, Craig Cameron, Monty Roberts.  I decided to follow this up with some You Tube videos and that was it. I was hooked.  By this time, Donnie was three years old and was broken (English).  We spent that summer riding English but I kept mentioning to my husband how fascinating all this Western stuff looked and how there seemed to be more to it than just being a ‘cowboy’.  Donnie and I had been playing around at natural horsemanship ground work, which was fun and worked really well, trying to put into practice what I was watching on TV.  We got some surprising results.  Then my husband bought us a Western saddle for Christmas!  I spent the next few months playing at Western, copying some of the exercises I saw and practising them over and over, watching the programmes again and again, over and over until I understood.  We were having great fun but I decided I needed to get Western lessons.  I looked on the Western Equestrian Society (WES) website and found I was part of Area 11.  The rep for Area 11 was (and still is) John Fyfe. I sent John an email mentioning what I had been up to and asking if he could recommend a Western Riding School I could go to for some lessons.  As I recall he sent me a very pleasant reply which suggested that “Western Riding Schools in Scotland (Area 11 at that time) were like hens teeth”!  However, he very kindly invited me to go along to his home, Blackford Glen in Edinburgh, to meet him and his horses and some of the other WES Area 11 members.

I had a great time and was made so welcome.  I learned a lot about Western riding, things I had never given much thought to before, like its origins and why Western horses jog so slowly.  It never made sense to me until John explained that, when cowboys are driving the herds of cows over many miles, the horses must be able to maintain a speed and gait for many hours without tiring and a gait which is comfortable for the rider.  Why do Western riders ride with one hand?  Well, traditionally you would ride with one hand, usually the left, so that the right hand is free to lasso the cow or to open the gate.  John explained that everything that is done for the show ring, such as reining manoeuvres like roll backs and sliding stops, originate from the real cow horses herding and corralling cattle.

By the way, did you know that, in America in the 1850’s and 1860’s, some of the young men who drove cattle north from Texas for thousands of miles were from Scottish drover families who had herded cattle from the backs of Highland ponies for many generations.

The first few times I went along to Blackford Glen I went horseless.  I continued to watch and learn so much about Western Riding and Horsemanship.  It is more technical than I had ever thought.  John kindly let me ride one of his beautiful Quarter Horses and gave me a few pointers.  Everyone was so supportive and helpful.  To be honest, I was completely surprised by what I found.  I myself had been very judgemental (human nature I guess) as I expected to see Quarter Horses, Paint Horses and maybe some Appaloosa Horses.  I honestly thought I would get laughed at when I told them I had a Highland Pony.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.   I did see Quarter Horses and Appaloosas but I also saw Cobs, Thoroughbred crosses, a Welsh Pony, an Arab, a Dales and an Icelandic Pony!  Donnie and I would fit right in!  I travelled over to Blackford Glen a few more times during the rest of that summer and autumn.  Everyone kept asking when I was going to bring Donnie over and I told them I would bring him the following spring.  He had injured himself in the field and was having the rest of that year off.

And so, the following Spring approached and I guess you could say nervous doesn’t even begin to cover the way I was feeling while towing Donnie to Edinburgh to attend our first Blackford Glen Clinic Day.  Although I had been along myself and had met most of the people who were regulars, I was still the ‘newbie’ and a little worried about what they would say about my Donnie Boy, who, by this time, was five years old.  I dragged my poor husband Paul along for moral support that day and I pulled into the yard with Donnie standing patiently in the trailer behind us.

We had a brilliant day!  Donnie was a hit with everyone and they all loved his cheeky monkey expressions and they too call him Donnie Boy!  I got some really positive feedback.   People have since told me that they were impressed by Donnie’s responsiveness and softness, along with his natural ability in Trail courses.  Since that first day at Blackford Glen we have come a long way. We attend the Bob Mayhew clinics within WES Area 11 and are now ‘regulars’ at Blackford Glen. We also have our own club called the Blackford Glen Western Riders Club, more affectionately known as ‘The Glen Gang’ where we all share a fascination with Western riding and natural horsemanship. The Gang members range from those who have little experience to those who have competed at the highest level but, to us, we are all just like family.

Donnie and I have had a busy year.  We have been to lots of clinics and practice days and we competed at the WES Area 11 Show in a downpour where our judge, Bob Mayhew, referred to the Trail course as ‘Splash Throughs’ and ‘Turns in a Puddle!’.  However, the good old Western spirit came through and we had a great day.  Despite the rain and the mud we came home with a 1st, four 2nds and a 3rd from our first show. We also went to the Scottish Coloured Horse Show in Tayside where we did the two-tone classes, causing quite a stir, being the only Western rider at such a big show. Very many people came up to us asking about Western riding.  Donnie loved all the attention and cuddles he got that day.  We felt proud to be promoting our sport!  Finally, the season ended with the Western Equestrian Society Scottish Championship Show held at Ingliston Country Club.  We did the Novice Trail classes, Walk/Jog Pleasure, Novice Pleasure and Novice Horsemanship. There were horses and ponies of many breeds there and, again, we had a great time and caught up with friends old and new.  We are looking forward to next year when we might try our hoof at a bit of reining (or cowboy dressage!).

And so I think one of the important things I found through joining WES and taking up Western riding is that firstly you can ride Western with any horse.  Firstly, the people are so genuine, friendly and supportive of each other, whether it be cheering on someone who has managed a lope (canter) for their first time or cheering on someone who has qualified for National events.  Secondly, I believe that we, as people, are too quick to judge what we don’t understand.  If it is something we don’t know enough about we tend to be happy to go along with the myths and tales we have heard.  We are followers, when really we should be leaders, leading the way. So, please, come along to watch or attend a Western Clinic.  I can assure you that you will be made most welcome and it is definitely a way to quash myths about Western riding and, believe me, I have heard them all.

‘Western Riding is fine but you can’t do as much’ or ‘Western is lazy riding’ or ‘It’s all about big spurs and big bits’ or ‘You can only hack out in a Western saddle’ or, my all time favourite (and I’m sorry to say it came from the mouth of an of English rider), ‘You can’t do Western on a Highland Pony’.   Well sorry, but I have, I did and I do, with my Donnie Boy!

Thank you for reading this article.


Nov 172012

TENDERFOOT TALES by John Roy – the fourth in a twelve part series first published in the WES magazine.


(and the divorce)

It’s not long before Western riders get roped into shows and Tenderfoot was no exception.  His first attempt was Showmanship with his tutor’s horse Boots.  In order to do this our hero had to learn the art of grooming.

Up to this point his involvement with Boots had been no more than rolling up on time for the riding lesson, so now an entirely new facet of the riding game opened up before him.  All these lotions and potions he had noticed months back on the shelves of the Saddlers started to have reasons for their existence, even if some appeared to fly in the face of common sense.  In addition to a wide variety of products for the maintenance of your average equine, there is also the fact that every horse person appears to have their own variation on grooming. Some of these variations are definitely horse driven.  If you have one of those stoical equine buddies, you are “quids in”.  If you do not, then some grooming techniques produce footwork falling somewhere between the waltz and the flamenco with a few athletic leaps added for good measure (if not personal safety).   As he got into the swing of brushing off mud, loose hair, scurf and other items of flora and fauna (which treat your horse as home or the local parking lot), Tenderfoot noted the manner in which owners/handlers addressed their horses.

A very few said nothing at all; a large number used a tone normally reserved for small children and a small residue just seemed to growl most of the time. Tenderfoot noted that voice patterns had a habit of switching dramatically whenever the equine partner decided to stand on the foot of the groom in question.  Being stood on, like unscheduled dismounts (aka “falling off”), appears to be part of the rich tapestry of learning to ride.  Tenderfoot learned the hard way that, whilst you can have several close encounters of the hoof kind, it is only when your best equine buddy transfers his/her full weight onto your toe that steel tipped footwear becomes something you should have bought yesterday.  “Speechless” kinda covers the feeling.  Having had one such initiation, Tenderfoot understood where the “Tom and Jerry” cartoonists obtained the image of the cat’s wrinkled lips when encountering pain.  It also galvanises the handler into working on his equine buddy’s groundwork to avoid future encounters.  {From “coochie-coo diddums” to “GETAFFAMAFOOT!” in less than a heartbeat.}

Having got the coat all slicked up, the application of show sheen worked out and not where the saddle goes, you get to work on mane and tail.  Ah!  Now we get to the sexist bit.  Tenderfoot never passed through the “Hippie” scene, nor does he possess the hairstyle of celebrity interior decorators, thus long hair became yet another hurdle for him.  His attempts usually brought forth instant help from the ladies of the stables who had had the advantage of developing long-hair handling skills from very shortly after being able to walk. Such help usually left Tenderfoot with a certain feeling of inadequacy similar to that when being soundly defeated in a computer game by a five to six year old.  Still, it stopped the horse looking at him with those pitying eyes and that “WHAT are you doing?” expression.  Having got the mane and tail detangled, shampooed and conditioned, there is always some helpful wee soul around who suggests that plaiting or braiding might help.  These particular skills Tenderfoot avoided like the plague, working on the Clint Eastwood line “a man should know his limitations”.

And so it was that Tenderfoot and Boots stepped out into the mid-morning sun early one summer aiming to take on all comers in a WES Showmanship class. The duo had the advantage that the show was in their own back yard so to speak, viz. Trisha Wren’s place at Haddington.  As they were about the first ready, Tenderfoot led Boots to a spot where the horse could graze but not get his feet dirty.  (Tenderfoot had also just acquired the art painting horse feet whilst not painting his show clothing.) It was about then that he was to make his first encounter with a WES Judge.

“Are you showing like that?”  The enquiry came from Roger Wells. Tenderfoot was puzzled but noted the hint of a smile in the tone of the enquiry and also on the Judge’s face.  “Like what?” came back the nervous reply.  “Like with a tail bandage” grinned Roger.  A hurried glance revealed all.  As part of the preparation of “Boots” his tail had been wrapped in a bright red tail bandage but in all the excitement this had never been removed.  Now, removing the bandage was not a problem but Tenderfoot did succeed in a pretty good demonstration of lunging in a four-foot circle whilst recovering the situation.

The class commenced and, as guided by his tutor, Tenderfoot placed himself and his horse in the middle of the group.  This gives one the chance of observing one’s fellow competitors and noting how things should be.  (This always assumes that they know what it’s all about and can remember the pattern.)  Things went ok for our tyros but, when you and your horse exit the arena, isn’t that feeling of relaxation something else?

For those of you who have been reading along these tales in previous issues you will recall that Tenderfoot acquired his own horse “Princess”.  It is with this mare that our hero “boldly goes”.  The show was at Perth some 40 odd miles away requiring the hiring of a trailer, tow vehicle and some driving tuition.  Just another facet of this horse riding life!

For those of you who remember, Princess is a fast lady and Tenderfoot’s speed control is, shall we say, in its early stages of development.  Critics might even be justified in saying it was still on the drawing board but – hell – we have all got to start somewhere.  And so it came to pass that man and mare were entered for the Novice Rider Western Pleasure class.  Showmanship had been fine, so here goes Pleasure.  Relax, show the Judge that your horse is a pleasure to ride, smile. Oh Yeah!

“Competitors, lope your horses.”  (Ever watch “Star Trek”?  One second the Enterprise is there then it’s a streak of light.)  Kinda like Princess.  Princess had done WES competitions many times before but with an experienced rider.  It was a nice lope.  It was perhaps a tad quick and, really, we did not need to pass everyone in the class, did we?  As the minutes passed, Tenderfoot got the feeling that, with an ounce or two more effort, the duo could have moved up onto the kick boards of the arena and circled like a “wall of death” motorcyclist.  We survived.

Time went on and Princess could always be counted on to raise the adrenaline level of her old rider.  There was Tenderfoot’s attempt at Western Riding.  It is better to retire from a class as soon as you know you have blown it.  You’ve usually blown it when the Judge moves out of the path of horse and rider.  For an old printer, Roger Wells can still move damn fast if he has to!

The photograph in a previous article with the caption “Tense moments at Little Rahane Show” was taken only seconds before one of Princess’s golden moments.  In the Trail class, we had arrived at the bridge.  Crossing bridges at home was a piece of cake but here in competition she had just locked up.  Front legs braced and an “ain’t  goin’ nowhere buddy” attitude materialised.  Then a member of the audience decided to take a picture.  All it took was the click of a camera shutter.  Princess spun 180° and shot off into a lope.  As a  roll back”, it would have been prize winning.  If she had kept spinning, it was a Reiner’s dream.  Tenderfoot swears that she was so fast that his hat was still pointing south whilst he and Princess were heading north.  After one Western Pleasure class the Judge, Richard Allan, commented that he always knew where Tenderfoot was by the darkly muttered “whoa, whoa” as horse and rider passed him.

Another rider was about to come into or, more correctly, return to Princess’s life.  About a year after Tenderfoot’s acquisition of her, he received a phone call from a WES member.  “Mags” had ridden Princess many years ago, had now returned to the UK and was trying to locate her horse.  Was I happy with her?  Would I like to sell Princess?  Perhaps Tenderfoot is not your average male but, even if things are a little less than brilliant, he is not going to admit it.  Unlikely ever to a female friend  and sure as hell not to an unknown lady.  And so, over the following months/years a regular series of conversation took place between Tenderfoot and Mags.  You had to give it to Mags.  She had perseverance.  She wanted Princess.  Tenderfoot was attached to Princess.  She was his first horse and he had learned much from her but things were not working out as he had hoped.  Nobody’s fault.  Rider and horse were speaking the same language but never seemed to be on the same page.  The decision came after a Centaur Horsemanship Clinic with Mark Rashid.  Princess had shot of into one of her unstoppable canters resulting in Tenderfoot “bailing out”.  Mark’s comment was “If you had spent the same time sorting out the problem as you had looking for a soft spot to land in, you would have been ok.”  He went on to point out that Princess was standing quietly “having got rid of her problem”.  So she was.  The problem for her was Tenderfoot.  Some very serious thinking started being done by the rider/owner.  And so it came to pass that Mags got a phone call and, within days, lady and horse were back together.

Selling a horse that has become a major part of your life cannot ever be easy.  For Tenderfoot it was lump in the throat time.  The task was made much easier since Mags considered Princess as a soul mate and, tucked away in his file on Princess, is a letter from a lady promising to love and cherish a certain horse for ever and a day.  Dolly Parton’s song “I will always love you” has the line “We both know that I’m not what you need” and it expresses the position that Tenderfoot and Princess found themselves to be in much better than he could himself.

Without a horse, what is a WES member to do?  You help out at the Shows, that’s what.  If you have never done it just wait for the next instalment!


Speak to you next time.

John Roy


Nov 172012

TENDERFOOT TALES by John Roy – the third in a twelve part series first published in the WES magazine.

Part three……..A HORSE OF YOUR OWN?

Princess!  Where do I start this part of the tale?

By now readers will have begun to form an idea of Tenderfoot’s limitations as a rider – Western or otherwise.  Having commenced this recreation, or way of life, in his later years, the acquisition of his own horse had never been a first priority.  However, the injury to Boots meant that his tutor and mentor no longer had a horse to lend him for his continued tuition and thus the seeds of owning a horse of his own were sown.

What was required was a “schoolmaster” preferably Western trained and, as Tenderfoot was a Scot by birth, an Accountant by training and a “tight wad” by nature, at a modest price.  The search commenced and on a rainy day Tenderfoot and tutor arrived at a stable near Milngavie where resided a quarter horse mare who appeared to fit the bill.  Test rides were conducted; horse was vetted and a deal was struck.  Tenderfoot had the “little Western rider’s kit” in one deal – horse, saddle, bridles, rugs and anti wind-sucking collar all in one package.  So!  Princess was not perfect, but a lady in all other respects – a fast lady, but more of that later.

The purchase/delivery took place whilst Tenderfoot was off on the second of his Stateside riding holidays which was damn frustrating for him as he was in and out of all these Western tack shops but without the necessary sizing data for his newly acquired horse.  That said, he and his lady friend managed to find a fair number of “essential” items to bring back – as evidenced by a three-page credit card statement and an excess baggage charge.  No sooner was he unpacked than he was off to Haddington to see how his new “girl” had settled in.

Princess had settled in well and had pretty much assumed the role of the first lady of the herd and was obviously just waiting to get started on the training of her new owner.  Not that he knew this at the time, him thinking that the roles were the other way around.  (At this point, the “Western” TV addicts among you may recall the phrase “There is much still to learn, Grasshopper”.

Now, Princess at this time was some eleven years of age and had been imported, with some friends, from Canada into Scotland.  She had been ridden Western successfully over the years.  There then was a break in her career when it appears she was ridden “English” and “popped over a few poles”.  Now Tenderfoot, with help and encouragement from Trisha Wren, commenced setting about getting her back into work Western style.  Several weeks went by and we had a horse that went well.  In truth, going was not a problem.  Slowing down was an interesting proposition.

Proposition seems the best word to describe the situation.  Tenderfoot would ask, Princess would give the matter her consideration and, if in an amenable frame of mind, would present a graceful halt.  If the request did not fit in with her feelings of the moment then – tough ****!  This situation worried Tenderfoot and also annoyed him somewhat.  The annoyance came from the fact that, with a competent rider aboard, Princess was truly brilliant.  With her owner sat on her, her mind seemed to go off to the planet Zog.  The worry came from not having any brakes.

Not having an “off” switch in an enclosed area such as the school is one thing but, in an open space, it gets real exciting real quick.  The first hack out was in company.  We rode down a country road and into some fields and, after jogging for some time, Tenderfoot was asked if he felt happy to try cantering out here in the open.  The field was long and uphill and it seemed a logical progression.  The group was comprised of one other quarter horse mare and a large black cob gelding by the name of Crow.  It was pointed out to Tenderfoot that the ground “dropped away” just over the crest of the hill so he was advised to slow or halt about 100 yards from the top.

Now, a quarter horse has been defined as “a sleepy little critter which can move like greased lightning”.  Princess was to prove that she well and truly had the hang of the last part of this definition.  For lope, you didn’t have to ask twice.  Tenderfoot had no idea what warp factor she hit but the wind in his eyes was making them water.  Nobody was passing them!  In truth, nobody was near them!  Discretion being the better part of valour, Tenderfoot asked for a jog to which Princess slowed gracefully.  Then, behind them, could be heard Crow approaching as fast as he could.  He was a big horse – with a small rider.   Not only could Tenderfoot hear Crow’s hoof beats but he swears to this day that he could feel them and so could Princess.  Being passed was not on her ladyship’s agenda.  With a bound she was off again up the field.

The words “the ground drops away” sprang to Tenderfoot’s mind with all the clarity that personal survival can bring to a situation. A halt was achieved.  It wasn’t pretty but it was a halt – of sorts.

Tenderfoot was now aboard a really awake horse just raring to do it all again.  He had the feeling that there was a tightly wound up spring just beneath his backside sort of sensation.  Comments like “I didn’t think you were going to stop” and “You should have seen her backside move up that hill” created conflicting sentiments in his mind as he tried to breathe deeply, relax and walk his horse in a circle.  A pilot friend of Tenderfoot’s has frequently stated that any landing that you can walk away from is a good landing and this kind of thinking was to become a feature in the relationship betwixt man and mare.

Princess’s ability to take off at the slightest hint of that being what Tenderfoot wanted did have an effect on his riding “style”.  Legs were not wrapped round the barrel of the horse but kept well away from her sides.  This gave him the appearance of one of those old style wooden clothes pegs jammed onto a pole.  Crow’ rider even suggested that Tenderfoot might have some difficulty getting through certain gates at the yard but perhaps that was her retaliation for his comments that she and Crow had, on occasions, looked like something drawn by Thelwell.  We are friends here in the yard – honest.

Whilst this legs-off riding ”style” may have prevented unscheduled sprints, it was never going to look pretty or help keep Tenderfoot’s butt in the saddle.  Now, staying in the saddle had always been a priority to Tenderfoot but not one he has always been successful in achieving.  Two of his unscheduled dismounts are fast becoming legend in WES Area 11.  One was downright funny, if painful, the other potentially disastrous.  Let’s look at the safety one first.

The tale is set at a WESW training clinic.  It has been raining throughout the day and, after lunch, we all mount up and head out into the arena.  Now, both horse and rider are not all that keen on the rain but they start off on their turn at a horsemanship pattern.  This called for a lope.  Princess shot off at a gallop catching Tenderfoot off balance.  His weight moved to the outside and he felt the saddle slip.  A better rider/faster thinker might have recovered the situation but not our hero.  Churned up wet sand would appear to be just fine for dismounted riders to do sliding stops on.  Tenderfoot took on all of the appearance of a stone being skipped across water and, between ricochets, he saw in horror that the saddle was now below the belly of the horse.  Princess was now in a dead run circling the arena, bucking and kicking to get rid of the offending item.  During her second lap, half-way down the long side of the arena, she raced up the embankment which formed the end of the arena and disappeared from view.

By now, tenderfoot was up and running in the direction of his horse.  He could see her racing across the adjoining field with the best part of his saddle beneath her and items being shed from it.  “She must have cleared the fence”, thought Tenderfoot, there being a wire fence at the bottom of the far side of the embankment separating field from arena.  You may imagine the cold, empty feeling in the pit of his stomach when he saw the three-strand fence ripped apart.  His horse has by now run through the open gate into the next field and is standing viewing the further hill field as a means of escaping the remains of the saddle still slung below her.  Tenderfoot was legging it across the rain soaked grass in a pretty emotional state.  Had his stupidity maimed Princess?

Princess was wide-eyed and trembling but stood quite still as Tenderfoot removed the saddle remnants from underneath her.  One of her reins had gone but her mouth appeared unmarked.  Tenderfoot now looked fearfully down at her legs and chest.  Not a mark.  Impossible.  It was a three-strand wire fence she had ploughed through.  We can only assume that the angels were on the side of this two that day.  Within seconds other WES members arrived offering aid and comfort to the duo.  Tenderfoot led Princess back to her stall as various bits of saddle were collected from the site of her run.  Many minutes later when horse and rider had settled, Ian Brennan arrived with face cloth and towel, the comment being “Have you seen your face?”  Tenderfoot hadn’t but knew that his vision in one eye was not all it could be.  With the cleansing off of half a pound of arena sand, normal vision was restored.  Turning a high-pressure hose on it was the only way to clean his oilskin riding coat.  His saddle took two days to clean and re-assemble. Princess was still speaking to him.  He ached for a few days but reflected on the lines that “advice you get for free, experience you have to pay for”.  He had just purchased some experience but had probably used up a whole tad of luck doing so.  A few months later Tenderfoot rode past George Short who was observing the Western Pleasure class Tenderfoot was taking part in and, as he passed, George grinned and said, “I’ll bet that cinch is tightened up!”  Almost every time they meet this subject is raised but then, what are friends for?  So now you all know to check that cinch.  You might not be so lucky.

Now for the funny one.  It’s a mild day; we are all on a beach ride down at John Muir Country Park.  This is an area of beach and woodland set aside for recreational use on the estuary of the river Forth. All the WES members have had a good ride out and Tenderfoot is no exception.  “Let’s ride through the trees”, someone said.  So we did.  Perhaps there is a specific way of avoiding low branches but Tenderfoot had arrived at his own system.  He simply lay along Princess’s neck and allowed his hard hat to deflect any offending branch.  It worked well.  It had worked on holiday in the States and here in the Park on previous occasions – but not this time.  Being a warm day he had partially unzipped his riding jacket.  On leaning forward, this unzipped jacket now presented the open collar like a handle or loop ready to engage the first branch that felt like giving the squirrels hysteria.  You, dear reader, can see what is about to happen but Tenderfoot did not.  Oh, yes!  As Princess walked on under some low branches, a branch of modest size slipped under Tenderfoot’s jacket collar and proceeded to lift him from the saddle. Stop and back up. It’s so obvious – but no.  This is Tenderfoot on top of Princess.  His little mind had but one thought “GET OFF!” and so he did.  Feet out of stirrups, slide off the side.  Now, if our hero was loaded up with smarts, he might have done this the way English riders do – both legs together – but no.  He managed to get his left foot on the deck whilst the right was still up on Princess’s rump.  Tenderfoot’s inside leg measurement is 32½ inches.  Now we, as Western riders, have all seen the photographs of Rodeo riders limbering up.  Tenderfoot is no athlete, no Rodeo rider (clown maybe!) and, in his early fifties, this degree of flexibility is way, way beyond tolerance levels.  This dismount brought further peals of laughter from his companions on the day but damn little sympathy as he hobbled around the stables during the best part of the following week.  Who said this game wasn’t fun?

There will be more on Clinics and Shows with Princess and her successor Fencepost in the next instalments of Tenderfoot Tales.

Speak to you next time.

John Roy

Nov 172012

Hi All.

Kim Briggs here,

I decided after our AGM on Saturday that we need to start promoting western riding, so Fiona and I decided to hold a western trail ‘have a go’ at our livery yard on the Sunday.  I made up a small trail pattern with a gate, box, L back through, side pass and back through cones, all simple trail obstacles.   I asked a few people if they fancied coming and having a go and seeing what Fiona and I do on a daily basis.  To my amazement there were 8 horses and riders came round to the school.  These ranged from happy hackers and new horses to riders to very good dressage horses (up toelementary/medium level) from my horse that is a pure breed quarter horse to Molly a clydesdale.  They all warmed up and then I gave a brief description about trail riding and then showed then around the course on Levi.  Then it was their turn.  I helped them though the obstacles and explained how to negotiate the various obstacles.  The gate proved the hardest, but many of them walked through the open gate.  The whole idea of the event was for them to experience what we do, in a calm environment and not to get in a panic.  All the horses and riders fully enjoyed themselves.  A lot of people at the yard now have a slightly better understanding at what Fiona and I do, which I think makes the day a complete success!

May 072012

Hi All Area 11 WES Members and the Blackford Glen Gang

The Western Equestrian Society have upgraded their Rules concerning the wearing of safety helmets while riding during any WES event. The WES Rule book will be amended accordingly in due course.

The following is a brief statement on behalf of WES Council by Judy Jones, WES Council Secretary.

Everyone riding at a WES Activity must wear an approved hard hat. However,
competitors at a WES approved show can continue to wear a Stetson in both
competition and warm up areas subject to providing the Society with a signed
disclaimer which is to be handed to the Show Secretary on arrival at the show ground,
or submitted with their entry.

The hard hats which are currently acceptable are:

PAS 015:1998 – these have now been superseded by PAS 015:2011 but we will still
accept the 1998 standard as helmets are valid for 5 years. The European standard
compliant hats are marked with the standard of BS EN 1384 and the American
standard is ASTM/SEI this covers the Troxel helmets most members use.

(Most manufacturers recommend replacement of helmets after a period of 5 years, or
whenever the helmet takes a hard blow. When buying a new helmet it makes sense to
check the date especially if buying on line or from an auction site as some helmets
may well be old stock.)

We would also like to reinforce that if, during a WES Clinic, Instructors are going to ride
clients’ horses then they should wear a hard hat whilst mounted. We would expect
them to lead by example – also if they were injured we could be held responsible by
their insurers for not enforcing our own requirements.

Would you all please ensure that your County Reps (where you have them) are also
aware of the current Policy and it’s practical implications.


Jan 292012

TENDERFOOT TALES by John Roy – the second in a twelve part series first published in the WES magazine


(All horse names have been altered in these articles to protect the innocent.)

In the first article, readers will have learned that “Tenderfoot” got into horse riding, and Western horse riding at that, pretty much by accident.  So, there he was in his mid forties, in the tender care of Trisha Wren, getting up close and personal with a horse for the first time.

“Big isn’t it” thought Tenderfoot on being introduced to “Boots” the quarter horse gelding that was to be his schoolmaster for the first few years.  “Smells a bit too.”  Then it was off to the school where Trisha showed off what Boots could do and explained how one sat, held the reins and how easy it all was.  It looked easy enough.  Tenderfoot was not too bad a car driver and boat handler, played with dangerous things like pistols and assault rifles and got on well with most dogs and the occasional cat.  (The four-legged variety, that is!)  So let’s try a horse.

Up the steps of the mounting block and gently sit in the saddle.  Hey, never mind the width, look at the view!   Tenderfoot was led around the arena with Boots imparting that gentle sway that his quarter horse butt generated.   In a matter of seconds Tenderfoot was hooked.  His long-suffering friend Anne was also smitten.  So this pair commenced weekly, and occasionally twice weekly, lessons aboard Boots.

In the early days, all the hard work of grooming and tacking up was done for you.  You just rolled up, mounted up and got on with being shouted at.  Shouting.  Over the years I have become aware of just how much shouting a riding instructor has to do.  For those of a military background, your average Drill Sergeant with the “awkward squad” is a mere beginner when it comes to the art of “voice projection” when compared to a riding instructor. True, your DS will introduce you to a fine selection of expletives but for true wit and stiletto like sarcasm you need to hear a riding instructor in full song.  Perhaps it’s because the novice rider, however elegant and precise on his two legs, seems to lose all notion of co-ordination when ascending onto a horse.  The idea of being capable of doing more than one task at a time falls into the same area as running too many programmes on the PC at the same time.  Things kinda get hung up.

The TV cartoon character Homer Simpson encapsulated this when he said that “when he put something new into his brain, something old fell out”.  The idea that you can – make sure that the reins are the correct length; you have light contact: you are sitting correctly; your arms, elbows and wrists are correctly aligned; your legs are correct; your heels are down, is all fine BUT to look where you are going as well???  Get real!

Every time I looked where I was going, one of the other tasks failed.  My personal view is that we can get so used to using inert equipment which, short of a mechanical or electrical failure, produces the required result at the touch of a button, that beginners expect the same from a horse.  It took me several lessons before I became fully aware that our equine buddies do have a mind, eyes, ears and an agenda of their own.  Luckily for us we can usually influence them into doing what we ask when we want but, interestingly, not all of the time.  My early endeavours at staying in the saddle (aka “on the horse”) went reasonably well and my first of many unscheduled dismounts was much later when practicing a lope.

Tenderfoots other “dismounts” will be retold later but, for now, let’s examine the first and its effects on a novice rider.  Perhaps, like Tenderfoot, you last considered the “Laws of Physics” some years back but you will no doubt recall the adage “what goes up must come down”.  This thought stayed in Tenderfoot’s mind pretty much from day one.  Almost immediately after admiring the view from Boots’ back, a quiet wee voice in his head whispered, “It’s a long way down”. This negative thought lurked in the back roads of Tenderfoot’s memory, together with the inescapable fact that he knew that he no longer bounced as well as he did in this younger days, until that fateful day when the **** hit the fan, (or Tenderfoot bit the dust).

It was dark.  It was an evening lesson after work and the outside arena was lit, with pools of light interspaced with areas of shadows.  So what?  We had been here many nights before without incident.  What caused Boots and Tenderfoot to part company is a mystery to this day but part they did.  Seconds after a lope departure, so did the rider, on a bend at the end of the school.

In situations like this people say that everything slows down.  This Tenderfoot can confirm but, in actual fact, it’s more like your brain goes from a walk to a cattle-cutting sprint in less time than it takes to squeak “oops!”  Being a little slow, Tenderfoot didn’t manage even the squeak.  He knew things were not right when he passed down the right hand side of Boots’ neck.  He knew he still had at least one rein but was holding it loosely.  (No point in hanging onto his mouth.)  He had an excellent view of Boots’ cantering feet and time to consider that ending up under them got you no “brownie points”.  He even had time to consider the old rider’s tale that “a horse will not stand on you if it can help it”.  There was even time to check on how fast terra firma was coming up (or, if you prefer the converse – how fast Tenderfoot was going down).

“Thump!”  Tenderfoot landed.  Boots took a couple of strides, stopped and looked back.  Even a novice rider like Tenderfoot could partly “read” the horse’s expression.  Further exposure to Clinics and other horses would expand on this ability but, for now, the word “prat” seemed the correct translation.

“Are you alright?” asked Trisha.  Now, for all their shouting, there are a few occasions when riding instructors show concern.  Most of the time it relates to the horse but just now and then it will be for the rider.  So it was this time.  Gathering up his manly pride from the furrow it had just ploughed in the arena sand, Tenderfoot muttered that he was just fine.  The next question from Trisha was “What went wrong?”

“Dunno” said Tenderfoot.  Boots probably knew but was saying nothing.  “If you’re ok, mount up again” said Trisha. Doesn’t compassion evaporate quickly?  His lesson continued without mishap but another mental hurdle had been cleared.  Tenderfoot had come off but was just as keen to stay with the programme.  That said, Tenderfoot’s unscheduled dismounts have left him with a kind of fetish.  At clinics and events, especially prior to his riding, he is to be found helpfully removing “horse apples” from the arena sand.

Tenderfoot, like most beginners, found the co-ordination required in riding difficult.  It is a bit like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time.  “Heels down” was also a problem and the following thought may help others.  Try thinking “toes up”.  Tenderfoot’s wee brain tried getting his heels down but almost invariably this made him put pressure into the stirrups which, in turn, pushed his backside up out of the saddle.  The mental picture of “toes up” left his butt where it ought to b – in the saddle.

The lessons continued, each building on the previous, sometime back to the beginning to reinforce some of the basics (Remember? Something new in – something old out).  Boots just kept being his great self providing a schoolteacher to a greenhorn and making Tenderfoot keep coming back for more.

As all of you who ride know, horses have accidents and Boots was no exception.  He had an argument with a fence resulting in a badly cut foreleg which put him out of commission for a spell.  It has been said that a cowboy (or a native American) without a horse is a sorry sight and so it was with Tenderfoot.

The withdrawal symptoms were such that serious thoughts were given to his acquiring his own horse.  Thus Princess entered his life, but that’s another tale.


Speak to you next time,

John Roy

Dec 122011


TENDERFOOT TALES by John Roy – the first in a twelve part series first published in the WES magazine.


Every rider, whether Western or not, will have a different tale of the route he or she took to learning to ride.  In my case it happened almost by “accident”. I came to the equestrian scene in my middle years just a little short of the magic 50 year marker.  Before this, my interest had not extended beyond watching the odd horse race and “Westerns” on TV.  I would add that one TV Western series had always stuck in my mind, not the actual screen play but the closing film clip which ran only as long as credits rolled up the screen.  Please forgive me if I have trouble in remembering the series title as my memory seems to be fading as fast as my seat develops; probably as that’s where, according to my long suffering lady friend, I keep my brains.  I think the series was entitled “Cimarron Strip”. No matter what it was called, the clip showed a rider at a fast lope or gallop over scrubby semi-desert.  The image which always stuck in my mind was that the rider and horse appeared to be one entity.  There seemed to be no join between either of them.  The rider’s head and torso were erect and appeared motionless whereas, from the waist down, he was in perfect motion with the horse.  It looked right!  It looked as it should be!  And the teenage “tenderfoot” thought, “that looks real neat”, but did nothing about it.  Certainly, he was not thinking of riding “English” and appearing like a monkey on a greyhound’s back! Several decades late he found himself accompanying his lady on one of her clothes buying expeditions. (As all you fellows will agree this is where the average male’s mind attempts to find another planet to explore whilst leaving the body on auto pilot.) The expedition was to find her a “Musto” jacket and the local saddler shop had been listed as the main stockist.  Thus our hero found himself, on a Saturday afternoon, scanning with bored eyes racks of assorted jackets, jodhpurs, tins and jars of unbelievable goo and more chains and leather straps than you could shake a bondage freak at. The entire shop seemed to be filled by small earnest Thelwellian female customers supported and served by a lesser number of older and larger Thelwellian females.  As for other males – there were none. “What do you think of this shade?”  Her ladyship’s question received the standard male reply.  “It’s quite nice.”  However, before she could counter this with a request to compare different shades of garment, Tenderfoot spotted a distraction amongst the saddles.  There, in a corner, as out of place as he was himself, was a Western saddle.  His mind came back from its refuge and recalled the old image of the Western rider. Now, those of you who ride Western will be aware of the reaction of those who follow other riding styles.  But, to Tenderfoot, it came as a surprise. His enquiries re the saddle brought the response, “It’s in for repair”.  Undaunted, he enquired if there was anywhere where one could ride Western.  This brought the dismissive reply, “I think there’s a card on the board”.  Board?  What Board?  Where?  Gimmie!  Gimmie!  By now, her ladyship had become the proud owner of a new jacket and I had the name of a Western trainer. Having found her companion scribbling down a name and phone number, the interrogation started, all of which resulted in two middle aged individuals descending on one Trisha Wren. It can’t be easy trying to teach someone almost as old as your Dad the first thing about a horse but I hope it’s fun!  (More on this “Dad” bit in a later tale.)  Certainly all the trainers I have come across in this horse riding game appear to enjoy shouting.  Oh!  Those happy hours of hearing “heels down”, “look where you’re going”, “think pelvic thrusts”, to name but a few.  One of the first things I discovered when starting out was that your Public Library is unlikely to have many books on Western riding.  Your average tenderfoot needs some pretty basic stuff.  You know, poll, frog, withers, cantle, latigo, etc., etc.  This is a new world with new words and a whole lot of fun. From a beginner’s point of view, I can only emphasise that, if you don’t know, don’t be shy to say so. The instructor cannot guess and mine was only too happy to repeat and/or expand on any point. (Still does – has eyes in the back of her Stetson!) Personally, I doubt that you can be half-hearted in this riding game.  For me, it was love at first sit.  I read somewhere that the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man and I’ll agree with that.  That first walk around the school on Justin convinced me that I wanted to learn more.  Thus the first lesson started.

Speak to you next time, 
 John Roy