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Joanna Wilburn Clinic


By Pam Gamble and Brooke Ballinger

Kimberlin Farms and The Nashoba Carriage Association hosted Joanna Wilburn for a two-day driving clinic, March 16 and 17, 2013.  The spring like weather was comfortable with mild temperatures and Bradford Pear trees blooming along the edge of the dressage arena. A touch of fog and a few raindrops Sunday morning did nothing to dampen the students’ enthusiasm. Many people had not been driving much through the winter, and this was their first opportunity for a lesson and some feedback for the upcoming season. Joanna’s enthusiasm was infectious and people had smiles on their faces in their lessons.  

The dressage arena was set up with cones in the center for bending exercises, plus three cones courses and a “hazard” made of round hay bales.  Even though Joanna's lessons were tailored specifically to each person’s needs, everyone started their lesson in the dressage ring working on their bending and rein contact.

Bending a horse in a carriage is much more difficult than bending one while riding. The whip aid takes the place of the leg and is more difficult to teach the horse. Some of the larger ponies or horses have an advantage if they are ridden as well, as their training under saddle can be a stepping stone to understanding bending while being driven.

Tonna Bruce brought her pony Cotton, whom Tonna says likes to “Go!” The first part of her lesson was teaching the pony to walk and relax. Joanna reminded Tonna that the walk is important and is counted “times 2” in the dressage ring.

Wanda Chancellor, fresh from the winter show circuit with her pony Uppity, put on quite a show learning the extended trot.  Joanna had Wanda doing a series of serpentines across the short side of the ring, as Wanda took her time to balance Uppity through the turn and then asked for a few strides of extension.  He floated across the ring! Joanna explained that when the driven horse is extending properly, he will lower his body and fully use his shoulders and hindquarters. 

Rose Marie Lawson brought her mare, Scooter, to work on even rein contact and bending as Joanna instructed them through a series of circles. Rose Marie is a full-time hunter-jumper trainer at Oak View Stables, but she makes time to drive whenever possible. “This is what I do for fun,” she said.  

Junior driver Sarah Foster, granddaughter of the late W.N. “Sonny” Foster, drove her grandfather's Haflinger, Major, while Anne Snowden got her Haflinger, Jan, back into the traces.  

From her base at Rollingwoods Farm in Olive Branch, MS, Joanna Wilburn is navigator for Paul Maye and his pony Markus, a German Riding Pony stallion.  Paul, Joanna and Markus are top contenders for a spot on the team for the FEI World Driving Championships for Combined Ponies, to be held this fall in Pau, France.  

Brooke Ballenger, president of Nashoba Carriage Association, spoke for everyone, “We hope that Joanna will not be with us for the Nashoba Carriage Classic this fall, because we want her to be in France with Paul and Markus! Last year, we helped send Sterling Graburn to the World Championships with his horse Ulano. This year, we want to join with Joanna and Paul in their quest for the world team by learning from her experience as a navigator, and what it takes to get a pony to the world championships,” she said.

Nashoba Carriage Association has a series of schooling shows and clinics scheduled for this season.  Four shows will be included in Nashoba's new high-point award system:  two schooling shows, the Germantown Charity Horse Show, and the Nashoba Carriage Classic.  

Tom O’Carroll, known for his instruction in using light, educated hands to guide the driving horse, will give a clinic on April 5-7 at Split Tree Farm in Moscow, TN.  Two days of lessons will be followed by an Arena Driving Trial (ADT) on Sunday, April 7. Tom’s training center is Good Hands Training Center, in Navasota, TX.

Sherri Lower of Williston, FL, will conduct a clinic May 10 and 12, and will judge a schooling Pleasure Show on Saturday, May 11, all held at Kimberlin Farms in Olive Branch, MS. Sherri is an expert in turnout for the pleasure driving horse, and is an excellent dressage trainer. She also will bring her mobile Hats Off Boutique.
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