Friday, February 22, 2008

A Baby Boomer Dreams of Arabian Horses - Rhythm's Story - Tommy Garland - Part 4

Part One of the Baby Boomer Series

Rhythm's Story starts here

I had talked to Brittany before she even went to the Arabian horse show about the things she should look for to show at this level. There is so much to learn and what better place than nationals, itself. Coming from a region that's not known for it's western pleasure horses Brittany didn't have a true measure of what to expect in that division at this level.

Before Brittany and Rich had even taken Rhythm to Tommy Garland's for their little mini clinic, we had had discussions about big name western trainers. Those talks weren't just about who the big names were but their techniques as well. It's easy to look at pictures in the big Arabian horse magazines and see those horses in frame thinking they've all gotten there the same way. Yet nothing is farther from the truth.

So many horses are "gimmicked" into a frame instead of being trained how to carry themselves that way. The pictures don't tell how the frame was attained but the truly balanced western horse will jump out at you in the ring if you know what you're looking for. Not all horses have the talent to achieve that look either, so not every horse a trainer rides will shine like a star. It takes the total package, the talented horse, the talented trainer and the time and training to get to that place.

Once Brittany could see western horses from across the country and lots of different styles of training, she would get the chance to compare. Odds were she would get the chance to see what the really great western horses look like.

What might have looked like a great horse at home may not even be competitive in this arena. Even what looked like a beautiful horse here would not necessarily make a great one. Those great horses are not just pretty but are smooth, easy moving horses locked in and committed to the bridle. Once you have really "seen" one it's easy to separate them from the rest.

Note I said committed to the bridle, not intimidated. There is a definite look that separates those committed horses from the intimidated ones. That look and that look alone is what separates the men from the boys, so to speak. Politics can't defeat the amazing western pleasure horse that is locked in and going around doing it's job. The rest of those horses are being picked up and bumped off the bridle on a pretty regular basis. The great horse gives a ride that looks like there are no cues. The horse is so soft, the cues so subtle, the rein never moves. It's truly amazing.

For me, watching schooling tells me lots about whether or not I want those guys on my horse. That was part of what I had told Brittany to watch those big guns schooling their horses. Watch how the horses were going and watch to see what the trainers were doing to get them that way. Make sure those horses were doing a true two beat jog and a true three beat lope. Just going slow wasn't going to cut it, the gaits had to be true and the horses happy and steady. Once she could see those things, it would be easy to tell who the cream of the crop of the trainers would be.

Throughout the show Brittany was able to see the most successful western trainers in the country schooling their horses. As she was lunging horses for Tommy Garland, she was surrounded by trainers doing their thing. She soaked the information up like a sponge and it wasn't long before she was beginning to tell who the cream of the crop for trainers were.

When the championships began, the excitement went up a notch. The actual number of Top Tens won at the Garland barn escapes me, but just like other years it was an impressive display. Adding in the bronzes, neck garlands and ribbons awarded to the champions and reserve champions, the number of awards at Tommy Garland's stalls looked almost sinful. If Brittany hadn't already figured out by then that Tommy's methods worked, it was hard to deny the results.

I remember my first year at Nationals walking by the display at Tommy's and being overwhelmed. I had never even heard of Tommy Garland before but everyone on the grounds was talking about him.

There were so many bronze statues for champions and reserves I couldn't even comprehend a barn could win that many at one horse show. It was right up there with the likes of Bobby Hart, the then king of western pleasure. It sure was something I had never been around before.

I wasn't a member of that barn like Brittany was. I can only imagine how she felt being a part of such a successful barn at the most prestigious show of the year. The hours of blood, sweat and tears seemed to get lost in the pride she felt for being a part of something so amazing.

What Brittany had seen clearly confirmed what I'd been telling her all along, there were only a handful of trainers in the country that could be trusted with a sensitive, but stubborn horse like Rhythm. The horse needed a special hand to deal with his attitude without ruining his trust. The only way for Rhythm to reach his potential was to have the work done by a true horseman who would get inside his head and show the horse how to be a partner in this endeavor.

By the time the show was over and there was still all the packing up to do and the long trip home, Brittany knew what she wanted. As much as Brittany didn't want anything more to do with working for Tommy Garland, she definitely knew that she wanted her horse put into the bridle in that barn. The trick would be convincing her dad.

To be continued..........

Tommy Garland Part 5

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  1. I think it was what 20 Meters said about the last post... This stuff is better than TV. She is so right, this is very good reading.

    The oppurtunity to be there must have surpassed the annoyance of such a large and strenuous job to do. It sounds like she really got a lot of just watching what was around her.

    I hope Dad agrees to Brittany's idea!!!

  2. So... not all bad either... she got learn and know some important tidbits.

  3. What absolutely gorgeous horses!!

  4. Hey thanks for checkin out my blog. I really appreciate you leaving a comment.

  5. Oh that's good news that she wanted to stick with the Garland barn.
    I've got two friends up in Scottsdale right this minute, enjoying that fine show. Wish I was there. Let's go next year, MiKael.

  6. It is so hard to find a good trainer, I am glad Brittany has decided to stay with Tommy Garland. I have no idea who he is, but from your posts,he sounds like a good guy. These days even if a trainer has a big name and lots of wins you never know if they are deserving of the "top trainer" title. So many of these horses are trained incorrectly to look correct and in proper form, but there is a tell in whether they got there naturally or were 'gimmicked' as you say. I guess that's one thing which all horse disciplines have common ground in, finding an educated trainer. Looking forward to more about the show and Rhythm.

  7. inkeq, it is amazing what there is to learn at a horse show like the nationals. So many great horses and trainers, I was glad that Brittany got the opportunity to go.

    amlovelee, no the trip was not all bad. Hey! I camped in the parking lot in a tent to attend that show, I so think it's worth it. lol

    cindys, thanks

    jamie, same to you!

    molly, I am so with you there. I told Dave I really want to go to Scottsdale next year. He never remembers my bday and I think it's about time he make up for the lost time and send me to the show! Don't you! What a bday present that would be. lol

    grey horse matters, Tommy Garland's techniques are very much like Harvey's and that's what Rhythm needs. Someone to prove they are in charge without scaring him half to death.

  8. What a fantastic experience this is for Brittany! Horse shows reveal as much about people/trainers as they do about horses!

    Look forward to hearing more details!

  9. Ok MiKael. I just looked and US Airways will get you round trip from Seattle to Phoenix for just about $350. Save those pennies. I can probably drive. I'll get more specifics from my friends about where to stay and where in Scottsdale it is.
    Woundn't this be fun?!!!

  10. so, I've had to google up Garland...what a beautiful barn he's got. My favorite horse trainer is in Scottsdale at the show - you will have to look him up next year!