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Trina Campbell Brings Her Inner Cowgirl To The Mid-South


By Lisa Sparks

The need for accountability is what brought Fellowship Of The Hoof members to Trina Campbell’s one-day clinic on July 7, 2018 at Circle G Guest Ranch near Lynnville, TN.  Twice a year the group attends clinics to keep our understanding of the vaquero style of horsemanship true to form. Our hope was that this clinic would give us a better idea of what the horses needed so that we could be more effective with them. Learning more about how to use the rein in relationship to moving their feet was one of our major concerns. Our horses have some issues with forward motion and staying straight.

Trina Campbell became my clinician of choice because of the huge impact her late husband, Peter Campbell, had on local bridled horseman, Zach Johnson.  He restarted my horse GiGi and started two of my other horses, so we were familiar with bridled techniques. Having a woman’s point of view and discovering the “inner cowgirl” proved to be quite interesting for me and my young students: Autumn Watson, age 20; Anna Fulcher, age 15; and Mia Gaskins, age 14.

We brought three horses to the clinic: Mandy, a 24-year-old Arabian mare; Dancer, a 12-year-old Appaloosa gelding; and GiGi, my 11-year-old Quarter Horse mare.  When we arrived at the facility, we received a warm welcome from owner Kimber Goodman and her crew.  Dee Tomshamy was our hostess for the clinic and made sure our horses had everything they needed: stabled in stalls that were fit for kings’ horses, complete with fresh shavings, water and a personal fan.  Because of the threat of rain, the girls set up their tent in the dining hall, while I slept on my cot close to the big fan. 

The next morning as Trina entered the mirrored arena, she was calm and confident, giving an account of the numerous horses she had started and ridden. She gave credit to her husband and the late Tom Dorrance. She observed that many people do not spend a lot of time riding their horses until they come to a clinic. Her desire was to make us successful, starting from where we were with our horses.  Others in the clinic were Jeff the rancher, my group the trail riders, Helen the teenage barrel racer, Narci the barn manager, and Dee the clinic hostess.  Not only did we come from different walks of life, but also our skill levels varied. One by one Trina addressed the braced or stiff areas the horses presented. The bracing was a tactic the horses used to protect themselves, so they don’t give their feet willingly.  For example, the barrel horse had a high stiff head, so Trina worked with him until he was relaxed, licking, and chewing.  Then he could be led around with a soft feel.

Quickly Trina picked up on the disrespect my horse demonstrated while tossing her head on the lead rope, pointing out that she was not mentally with me. She encouraged me not to judge my horse, but to put aside my own agenda and figure out what the horse needs to do better.  In my case, I needed to change my approach so that I could give her better guidance and support. Losing her mental focus on me caused her to focus on something else.

Trina could not remember ever being with a horse without having a job in mind.  Giving the horse a job works the mind of a horse, giving him a strong sense of purpose. Trina’s father was a packer and outfitter in Canmore, Alberta, Canada.  When she married Peter, they moved to California where they worked on ranches, and it was during this time they learned from Tom Dorrance.  When they moved to their ranch in Wyoming, she helped Peter give clinics.

While we did ground work with our horses, Trina stressed the importance of untracking the hindquarters by using the inside front foot as a pivot foot. Without this important piece of the puzzle, it is difficult to separate the hindquarters from the front quarters.  Once we untracked the hindquarters, we relaxed the ropes, asking the horses to stand still looking at us.  To keep them straight, we made adjustments with the lead rope. From this exercise we could see how the rope influenced each foot to keep them looking at us in a straight line. By understanding straightness, we had a better idea of what it means to keep our horse between our reins and legs when we ride.

At lunch time, homemade goodies were available as we fellowshipped with each other, talking about our horses.  Every aspect of the clinic became a learning environment for me and the girls.

I was expecting the afternoon session to be all of us riding in a circle around the rail while Trina critiqued our riding.  To my surprise we were instructed to work on riding our horses up to poles on the ground, untracking their hindquarters without forward motion, and keeping them straight.  Next we rode down the pole keeping it between the horse’s legs, once again striving for straightness.  Backing up along the pole was another mental exercise.  For fun we attempted to side pass down the pole with straightness in mind.  The mirrors helped me with my timing because I could see my mistakes.  It was more effective when I used leg cues first, and then used my rein.  My crowning moment was when I realized how little I had to do to cue her, sometimes just a suggestion!

Dee had been to several of Trina’s clinics, so she was further along with her “inner cowgirl.”  To demonstrate how all this comes together, Trina rode Bear, Dee’s Haflinger gelding, with collection that came from a relaxed head, back feet that moved underneath, and front feet that reached outward.  There was no bracing to interfere with Bear balancing on his feet.  He was confident and soft, first mentally then physically.

I could not stand it any longer so I struck out on my own and walked Gigi on the rail. But Trina’s watchful eye spotted the resistance GiGi had moving off my legs and she remarked, “She is pushing on your legs.”  Pushing on me while I rode was the missing piece of the puzzle.  I felt it, but could not put it into words.  The problem, I thought, needed spurs, but really needed better connection of her feet with the reins.  A braced horse is protecting itself!  The “inner cowgirl” challenges me to consider my horse’s needs in relation to the way they think and feel.  My approach needed to be more compassionate and less egotistical. Where my horse is in the moment is more important than my goals. If we meet the horses where they are, this changes our attitude toward them and the possibility of a partnership emerges.

The Fellowship Of The Hoof ladies and I have discovered our “inner cowgirl” and want to develop it further at Trina’s November clinic in El Paso, Arkansas, hosted by Kay Turley. This time it will be a two-day clinic offering horsemanship and cow work. 

The addendum to our Trina Campbell clinic was the eventful trip home. It is impossible to travel with teenagers and horses and not experience misadventures of some kind. After the clinic was over and horses were taken care of, dinner was served, but my girls opted to discover the rope over the creek and then drive to town for Chic-Fil-A.  I got the best of both worlds – dining with Trina and clinic friends, and then laughing with the lively teens.

On the way home a miscalculation redirected our trip to Williams Port Highway, a winding two lane county road.  Without warning, an explosion sounded and our right back trailer tire was flat. With no phone service, I searched for other options, only to behold two men seated on their front porch peering down at us from their house on the hill.  Right away this scene struck horror in my young riders.  Huddled in the back seat of my truck were the teen girls who had faced challenges in the woods on horseback, but now I was the one elected to face the unknown.

I trekked up the hill and found the men unmoved by my dilemma.  Following a very brief discussion, it was decided that one of them would go inside and get the house phone. After I failed to contact my husband, my only choice left was to call 911. Within minutes an officer came to change my tire. But first the horses had to be unloaded, so the huddle broke apart and the girls demonstrated skill with unloading horses on the highway then leading them up a hill wearing flip flops.  Although Officer Roger Maddux got us rolling again, it was the guys on the front porch who remained first in line for hero status. Without the landline, there would have been no rescue.  I guess I just had to meet them where they were!

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