World Equestrian Games? You Bet!

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A more Western style of training than many international attendees and TV viewers are used to seeing will be on display this fall, at the first World Equestrian Games ever to be held in the United States. Clinton Anderson will be among the featured clinicians at WEG, which takes place at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, September 25 to October 10. He says WEG will be a unique learning opportunity for all.

Editor's note: Clinton Anderson will be one of the featured clinicians at the Alltech *FEI World Equestrian Games, which come to the United States for the first time ever this fall. WEG will take place September 25 to October 10 in Lexington, Kentucky, where the world-class competition will include reining along with dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, para dressage (for riders with physical disabilities), and vaulting. (For a quick history of the Games, see box.)

The popular educator will be presenting his signature problem-solving and advanced horsemanship clinics at the Equine Village, WEG's headquarters for education and trade-show exhibits.

We decided to find out what's up with the man from downunder (he's Australian by birth) with respect to this buzz-generating event.

H&R: You're a busy guy. Why are you taking the time to be involved with WEG?

CLINTON: I want to be a part of history. This is the first time this event, which is literally huge in the eyes of horsemen all around the world, is coming to the USA. I want to be a part of that.

Then, too, it's going to be a great way for me to expose Downunder Horsemanship to literally hundreds of thousands of horse people around the world. At my regular clinics, I can reach thousands of people at one time, but at WEG, it'll be a hundred times that, from all over the globe. An opportunity like that doesn't come around very often!

H&R: What do you personally hope to learn by being a part of WEG?what do you hope to take away from it all?

CLINTON: I'm really looking forward to seeing the best horses in the world in all the disciplines. It doesn't matter whether it's dressage or jumping or whatever; you have to respect how talented these horses and their trainers are to get to this point. I plan to do a lot of watching, both at the competitions and at other folks' clinics. There's going to be a smorgasbord of opportunities to learn.

Also, by participating myself, I'm going to meet trainers from around the world, so this will be a terrific networking opportunity. I'll be saying, "Hey, can I come see you later, in your country?" There's no better way to make connections.

H&R: Have you been to any of the Games when they've been presented in other countries?

CLINTON: No, but I've talked to Shawn Flarida and other reining competitors who've been overseas. They say it's a wonderful experience. They say the crowds there are fascinated with everything about the Western horse world. Western isn't part of their culture?though that's beginning to change in some places. But in general, they're eager for anything Western. Everyone wants to be John Wayne! It's intriguing to them, because they find it so different.

H&R: Now that reining's part of international equestrian competition and WEG, what does this mean for our reining industry? Obviously, it's going to benefit from WEG coming here?

CLINTON: Very much so?it's going to be a huge boost for reining, most importantly toward reining's becoming an Olympic sport someday. We need more involvement in reining internationally?more competitors, more competitions. Reining needs to become more popular around the world, and WEG's being here is certainly going to contribute to that.

H&R: And U.S. breeders of reining horses?obviously, this should help promote our stallions and breeding programs to other countries and improve the market for U.S.-bred horses abroad?

CLINTON: No question. This is going to be a fabulous opportunity for Americans to showcase Western horses of all types, actually.

H&R: You mentioned learning from the world-class equestrians who'll be there. Could you tell us more about that?

WEG From Then To Now

The first World Equestrian Games were held in Stockholm in 1990. Before then, the world championships for each of six disciplines?jumping, dressage, eventing, driving, endurance, and vaulting?were held separately. Venues depended on who won; that is, the world champions in each discipline were accorded the privilege of hosting the next world championship in that discipline four years later. For example, the Kentucky Horse Park was selected to host the Eventing World Championship in 1978 after American Bruce Davidson won the 1974 title at Burghley, England. Reining debuted at the 2002 Games in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. This year, when WEG will be held September 25 to October 10 at the Kentucky Horse Park, marks the first time the Games have left Europe.

VENUES

2010 - Lexington, Kentucky

2006 - Aachen, Germany

2002 - Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

1998 - Rome, Italy

1994 - The Hague, Netherlands

1990 - Stockholm, Sweden

CLINTON:You can learn great things from any trainer, in any discipline. It doesn't necessarily mean you're going to change your approach to follow theirs exactly. But say I see someone suppling a horse a certain way?a dressage rider, a reiner from Germany, whatever?and I realize I can use that to my advantage in my own training program. I'm constantly doing this?looking to others and learning from them, gleaning nuggets that will work for me.

Here's a recent example: I bought a DVD featuring cutting trainer Boyd Rice?he's won several million dollars and has been highly successful in his field. In the DVD, he said something I already say, but he said it in a way that was really catchy.

It had to do with backing up a horse when he's being resistant. The horse is stiff, his head in the air. So Boyd uses his legs in the horse's belly to unlock the horse's feet and get him moving.

I do the same thing. What I say is, "When the feet stick, the head goes up, so use your legs to move the feet." Most people's instinct is to pull harder, but that just makes the horse more resistant.

But Boyd's twist on it is: "I use my feet to move their feet." Very clever! And easy to remember. It's a great way for people to link their horse's feet to their own feet and leg cues, so they'll remember to use their feet (instead of their hands) when their horses' feet stick.

This is a perfect example of why I buy educational materials from other people (and I'd be a fool not to, anyway?because I want them to buy mine, right?). That little phrase of Boyd's, alone, was well worth the $100-plus I spent for the DVD.

And at WEG, of course, there'll be endless opportunities to learn like this.

H&R: You're always encouraging your customers to learn from anyone they can, not just you.

CLINTON: That's right. I think it's because I myself have always had a craving for learning. A passion for it. All the little things you find and adapt to make your own?that's what keeps you constantly improving.

I tell people, never be afraid to ask someone how they do something. Always be humble enough to learn something new. Otherwise, it's only a matter of time before your knowledge becomes outdated.

H&R: Any final thoughts?

CLINTON: To have all this fabulous expertise right here in the USA, in our own backyard?great trainers, horses, the trade show, all that goes along with an international event of this magnitude?is just an unprecedented opportunity. So it's not the time to say, well, I'll wait for the next time it happens. It might be a long wait before it happens like this again. Jump on it!

I guess my bottom line is that any person who has a horse or is genuinely interested in horses and doesn't go?well, that person is just being foolish.

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