Carlos Tabernaberri Five Day Clinic 30th August to 3rd September 2017
Over the Foundation Day long weekend, riders from all over WA competed in the fifth Challa Station Mill Run Endurance Ride, riding distances between 20km and 160km along the windmill tracks and past the watering points. The Mill Run has become a favourite on the West Australian Endurance Riders’ Association calendar and people travelled from as far away as Margaret River to compete in the unique event.
Checking windmills is a vital part of station life. These days the mill runs are done in a vehicle, but in the old days they were done on horseback. The Challa Mill Run celebrates the efforts of the pioneers who opened up the station country and brought water, and life, to this dry land.
Challa Station is situated approx. 600km north of Perth and has been in the Dowden family since 1888. Good rains in March and April meant that the country looked magnificent and the course was in top shape for the event. The long, uncluttered roads allowed riders to maintain a steady speed and the flat ground meant relatively easy going for the horses. A completion rate of over 90% was testament to the great course and well managed horses.
There were eleven riders competing in the two day, 260km ride and all but one completed. Frances Overheu, riding Poseidon Moon, won the Middleweight division of the 160km ride and averaged just under 14km an hour for the course. She also won the “Best Conditioned Horse” prize in her division. Linda Dix rode her mare Gungurri Xena to victory in the lightweight 2 day 160km ride and also took out the Best Conditioned prize, whilst Emma Swarbrick won the Heavyweight 160km division and Bruce Hullett won the heavyweight Best Conditioned 160km.
In the 80km section, Glen Dix won on Nizhoni Sioux, taking out Best Conditioned as well. This was a particularly sweet victory for Glen as two years ago, Sioux tore both a tendon and ligament in her fore leg and was given a slim chance of having a career under saddle, let alone and endurance career! Ady McIntosh won the Middleweight division and Best Conditioned on her gelding, Whitby Park Superstition, and this was his first 80km ride.
A number of riders participated in the social 40km and 20km rides over the two days and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The combination of camping out under the stars, great friendship and some awesome riding meant that the riders went home with an appreciation of the beauty of the outback and the people who opened up this country.
Carlos Tabernaberri Clinic 2014
Carlos Tabernaberri 2013
Carlos Tabernaberri was mounted on Shotgun, a stunning paint gelding owned by Debi Craven. Debi was one of ten people who had travelled 600km to the five day clinic at Challa Station and she, like the rest, wouldn’t be disappointed. “Do you trust your horse?” Carlos asked Deb. “I don’t know, maybe” she replied. “Well I do,” said Carlos. And to demonstrate his trust for this young horse who had only ridden for a few minutes, he stood up on the saddle, reins hanging loose. He was not in a round yard or arena, but on a wide open flat where Shotgun could have galloped off into the distance if he wanted to. But he didn’t; Shotgun stood quietly with Deb watching, open mouthed, in awe of the horseman’s skills.
Carlos clearly understands how horses think and how they behave. He passes on his knowledge to devoted students all around the world. We were lucky to have him in Western Australia yet again, just prior to his trip the Chicago. He travelled up to Challa Station, a Morgan Horse stud and pastoral property near Mt Magnet again in August for a five day intensive horsemanship clinic. This is the second clinic he has held at Challa and both have been booked out well in advance, with most people knowing about the clinics by word of mouth.
Building a better relationship with your horse is what Carlos helps his students do. He is famous worldwide for refusing to use any of whip, bit or spur on a horse. He encourages the type of unity between a horse and rider that can only develop without force.
Carlos’ clinics begin with groundwork and Carlos has begun to introduce some classical dressage movements into his clinics. He showed us how he would teach piaffe without the use of any force, just by gently encouraging the horse to respond to his well placed cues. Horses responded by lowering their quarters and bringing their hind legs under them, movements that could eventually be built into a correct, classical piaffe. Carlos also uses lateral work on the ground to soften the horse and to prepare it for further work under saddle.
Most of the participants at Carlos’ clinics choose to ride bitless. Those who don’t are usually ready to try in their own time and gradually bridles are swapped for halters or bitless bridles during the clinic. However, it is becoming a bit of a tradition at the Challa clinic to take bitless one step further and learn to ride in a cordeo. A cordeo is a simple rope around the horses’ neck. The bridle or halter is removed and the rider controls the horse largely using legs and seat, with the cordeo for assistance if required. Trust and training are the key ingredients for success. Trust for both the riders and the horses and well established training to bring them both together as a harmonious team.
Few of the riders really believed that they could control their horse with the Cordeo. Carlos was happy to ride the horse first, ensuring that the horse could be turned, stopped and backed up safely with no reins. He would then invite the horse’s owner to try, but would walk alongside explaining the technique and encouraging them until they were ready to go solo. Most riders were a little hesitant but elated when they achieved success with Carlos’ encouragement and guidance.
Wanting to take full advantage of being on such a huge property, Carlos organised a few trail rides. Mounted upon the trusty Morgan gelding, Lenny, Carlos lead the riders on the trail. Trail riding can expose a number of problems that don’t emerge in an arena situation and Carlos was right there alongside the problematic horses guiding and encouraging the riders. Occasionally he would dismount and walk alongside a particularly fractious horse, reassuring the rider and offering assistance where necessary. He then lead the riders back to the arena and focused on the problem areas, familiarizing horses and riders with challenging situations and offering ways to ease the stress for both. Then it was back out on the trail a day or two later to practice new the skills.
One of the marvelous things about having the clinic at a station was the fact that everybody stayed together for the whole week. In the evenings everybody, including Carlos, would eat together and Carlos was very generous with his time, patiently answering the many questions that people had. Even after a whole five days of constant equine discussions he didn’t tire of talking about horses. Horses are his life and he is dedicated to showing the world that there is a kinder way. He does this, he says, for the sake of the horse.
Carlos will return to Challa Station in 2014 for another five day clinic. You can read more about Carlos at www.whisperingacres.com.au
Ian Leighton Horse Starting Clinic 2013
Ian Leighton Seven Day horse starting clinic at Challa Station
Horseman Ian Leighton held a seven day horse starting clinic at Challa Station in June. Six horses and their people attended the live in course to work with Ian on fine tuning their horsemanship skills and learning how to start horses under saddle. Some of these horses had been under saddle for a while and were there to advance their level of training. Ian’s training methods lend themselves to classical dressage and the more advanced horses were taught the finer points of counter canter, flying changes and half passes. Other horses had never had a saddle on before, let alone a rider. They were there to learn the very basics. By the end of the week all of the horses and riders would have advanced in their training significantly.
Ian Leighton likes a soft, responsive horse. He teaches that softness begins with the groundwork we do with even our youngest foals. He demonstrated his young horse techniques on two yearlings and within an hour had them both working softly and responsively to the slightest touch or movement. He explained that it is almost like teaching a horse to dance; you develop the lovely soft feel that makes a horse so pleasurable to be around and the slightest cue will alter the horses’ track. Once the groundwork is established it can be readily transferred to work under saddle. We watched the yearling fillies trotting softly for Ian; balanced and beautiful. Even without a rider on their backs they were learning how to engage their hindquarters ready for their future ridden careers. Ian doesn’t overwork the young horses. He does just enough with them every now and then so that by the time they are ready to be started, riding is a mere formality.
Not all horses have had the benefit of Ian’s early training. However, it doesn’t take long for them to begin to soften and work kindly on the ground. Ian doesn’t tolerate a pushy horse and his number one rule is that a horse should never bring its shoulder towards you. It doesn’t take long to see why he insists on that rule - It is much better to have the horse move around you than over you. When you are working with a horse that may be a little uncertain of the new sensation of having a saddle on its back it is doubly important to know that it will respect your space and not run over the top of you.
Ian spent plenty of time working one on one with the students. Whilst Ian worked with one horse/rider combination, other riders watched and learned and had the benefit of seeing Ian work with a variety of horses.
Ian Leighton has a unique and effective mouthing technique that doesn’t involve the horse’s head being tied back to a roller. Rather he is asking the horse to yield to the pressure of the bit and waiting for the soft feel before releasing. Timing is crucial to success and Ian patiently demonstrated his flawless timing on all of the horses at the clinic. By the end of the second day the horses were ready for their first saddle.
The method for the first ride depended upon the horse and rider. Ian didn’t push the riders who were a little worried about getting on the young horses for the first time. Rather, he rode the horses himself, until the riders felt confident enough to have a go. Some horses were mounted for the first time in the round yard, some in the arena. All horses were trotted on their first ride, with Ian insisting that the horse learns to go forward willingly, right from day one.
Each and every horse that was ridden was calm and willing by the end of the first ride. Not one horse showed any signs that they were worried about the rider on their back. Some had a few problems taking their first steps as they tried to work out what the rider was asking for. But every horse finished on a good note with the riders proud of their achievements.
By the end of the seven days most people were exhausted but excited with what they had seen and learned. The horses were all able to be ridden and the location of the ride on the last day depended largely upon the rider’s confidence. Some riders were happy to stay in the round yard with their newly broken horse, other riders were out and about on a bush ride by the time the clinic finished.
Ian Leighton instilled many skills on the horses and riders who attended his horse starting clinic at Challa Station. His patient explanations and keen eye for developing horsemanship skills meant that people went away with a deeper understanding of what starting a horse under saddle and advancing their training is all about.
Challa Station Mill Run 2013
With much of the riding country around the metro area closing its gates to horses it’s nice to know that there still exists places in WA where the gates are wide open for a big equine welcome.
Ashley and Debbie Dowden, owners of Challa Station, once again welcomed endurance riders on to their 250 000 acre station for the “Mill Run.” The ride commemorates the days when the windmills were checked on horseback. Entrants could choose to ride a 20, 40, 83 or two day elevated 166km ride.
Unlike many endurance rides these days there is no seek permission from other landholders or DEC or go through the miles of red tape to organise the course. The ride is conducted around the existing mill run tracks on the south end of Challa Station and all the Dowdens have to before the weekend is lock up the Morgan horses and open the gates.
Challa Station is 600km north of Perth, about a day’s drive, and riders started to arrive on the Wednesday prior to the weekend. By Friday afternoon the camping area was filled with horses, trucks, floats and people anticipating the weekend ahead. Most riders agreed that the conditions for the ride were perfect. Recent rains had left an abundance of freshwater pools along the track and the track itself was very flat with firm sand underfoot for much of the way. Indeed, one rider likened the course to that which you would find in the United Arab Emirates endurance rides.
Early on Saturday morning, eight riders departed for the first leg of the 166km ride. It was cold and overcast as they departed past the shearer’s quarters and over the salt lake crossing. The 40km and 20km riders departed soon after. Riders were warmly welcomed at the checkpoints and the horses were invited to have a drink and snack of carrots and lucerne hay before continuing their adventure. After a thorough vet check and a rest they set off to finish the first 80km leg of the ride, most still looking as though they were just starting to settle down. By Saturday evening all riders had completed their distances and none of the two day 166km horses vetted out.
After a cold night around blazing campfires the two day 166km riders saddled up again and were joined this time by the 83km riders. The 40 km and 20km riders took off shortly afterwards. Once again there were regular checkpoints and the compulsory vet checks and rest periods. By Sunday evening the last of the two day 166km riders rode over the finish line to great applause from the waiting crowd and the ride was over. Again, none of the 166km horses were vetted out, nor were any of the 83km horses, a great testament to the skills of their riders and strappers.
This year’s Mill Run would not have been possible without the support of the major sponsor, Fire Suppression Services, who stepped in and offered to support the ride after the previous sponsor pulled out. Representatives from Fire Suppression Services were there to hand out the trophies and prizes to the riders who completed the Challa Station Mill Run 2013.
Carlos Tabernaberri 2012
Carlos Tabernaberri is an extraordinary horseman. Extraordinary in his kindness and compassion in an industry that has long been dominated by whips, spurs and brute force. Carlos is probably best known for refusing to use bits on any horse he rides, saying that the only bit a horse needs is a bit of understanding. Nor will he use any type of violence or force with a horse. Horses respond to his training as though he is a member of their herd, not a two legged predator, as he asks horses to work with him, not for him. He treasures the relationship he has with every horse he works with and it is his desire to pass on his methods to as many people as possible, for the sake of the horses.
Popular demand lead him to travel to Challa Station near Mt Magnet, for a five day clinic. The clinic was booked out within 24 hours of it being announced, and months before the actual date. Eleven riders travelled the 600km up to Challa and camped at the shearer’s quarters for what was to be a memorable five days.
As soon as Carlos arrived he began with groundwork which allowed him to meet the participants and get to know their goals as well as any problems they were having with their horses. He then went on to do some liberty work – outside the arena, where the horses had 250 000 acres to run - and then work under saddle, socialising the horses in preparation for a trail ride the next day.
Day two saw the riders do some desensitisation of the horses, tackling different obstacles and being guided by Carlos when they ran into trouble. Then it was on to a roping demonstration and float loading techniques. Then the riders saddled up again and went for a wonderful trail ride, through some magnificent station country, returning home after the sun had set. This ride exposed new problems for some riders and set new goals for them that they would work to resolve over the next 3 days.
Day three was a day of private lessons, each rider having a session with Carlos to work through their individual issues. Problems ranged from a pushy Fresian mare who was difficult to handle on the ground, to an endurance horse who hated being strapped, a showjumper who wouldn’t go straight, a mare who resented being saddled up and a big standardbred who found cantering very difficult. As each rider worked with Carlos, the other riders watched and learnt how to deal with a large range of problems. I wanted to work on my horse bridleless, using only a Cordeo (a string around my horses neck ) and Carlos was able to show me how to refine my technique and to prepare for the next stage of riding without the cordeo, just using subtle body cues to control my horse. Day 3 finished with a bareback riding session, followed by a drive to the breakaways to watch the sun set on the magnificent country.
Day four saw Carlos begin his horse starting demonstration. He worked quietly and with great respect for the brumby mare, Mt Welcome Inner Beauty. Although he didn’t set out with a plan to ride her, she responded so beautifully to him that he was able to sit on her bareback, with a halter, and she tentatively took her first few steps with a rider on her back. Carlos then went on to demonstrate how he works with young foals, using a Morgan Stockhorse filly as his student. He repeated some of the exercises that he had just demonstrated on the Brumby mare, and received the same willing, quiet response from the foal.
After day three’s Cordeo demonstration lesson, some riders were ready to have a try riding their horse with just the Cordeo, under Carlos’ careful guidance. Everybody tried and about half of the riders achieved control using the Cordeo, something that they had never dreamed they could do. Later in the afternoon the bitless bridles and halters were restored to the horses heads and the riders took on some more challenges, like stepping their horses over a poly pipe log being dragged by Carlos’ borrowed mount, Forest. Then it was out for another trail ride to try to resolve some of the problems that had risen during the last trail ride. For the final adventure of the day, everybody piled into the 4WDs and drove out into the colt’s 10 x 8km paddock in an attempt to find him and his gelding friends. Unfortunately he was nowhere to be seen but they returned the next morning and with the help of the aeroplane, located him.
The final day began with Carlos doing some ground work with the 3yo Morgan colt. Carlos declared that as he was ‘under the legal age’ he would not ride him, but promised that he would be back next year and he would be ready to ride by then. Riders then saddled up for a session on leg yielding, canter work and preparation for flying changes.
The clinic finished on a real high as Carlos saddled up Mt Welcome Inner Beauty for her second day of training. Beauty was a picture of relaxation and acceptance as Carlos rode her around the round yard. He demonstrated her complete trust in him by standing on the saddle and taking his hat off in a salute to the horse.
Over the course of the five days the strong camaraderie between riders and Carlos developed and people forged new friendships as well as developed new and kinder strategies to use for improving their horses. Whilst weekend clinics enable riders to learn a significant amount, this five day clinic really gave riders a chance to cement their training. Challa Station provided the perfect backdrop to the clinic and enabled Carlos to demonstrate his training on a variety of horses in a unique and spectacular environment. For more information on Carlos Tabernaberri’s clinics visit http://www.whisperingacres.com.au/
Challa Station Mill Run 2012
The Challa Station Mill Run Endurance Ride celebrates the rides of the early pastoralists who used to check the windmills on horseback in the days before motor vehicles took over. Now the “mill runs” are done using a motor vehicle, giving most of us little cause to stop and think about how difficult it must have been in the early days on a station in remote WA. However, for one day a year, riders have the chance to imagine what it could have been like all those years ago.
There’s something really special about an endurance ride in the outback. Maybe it’s the campfires, or the stars, or the inviting tracks meandering through the saltbush plains. Everybody who attended the Challa Mill Run on the June long weekend had an unforgettable time.
Over forty riders made the trek to Challa Station near Mount Magnet, 600km north of Perth, for the two day event. Four “tried and noted riders” took up the challenge of the two day, 160km endurance ride and all four finished the course exhausted but full of praise for the track.
Kerryn Willing won the lightweight and section of the ride, on Kaisi View Seduction in 14 hours, 22 minutes. She also took out the Best Conditioned Lightweight prize. In the middleweight division, Frances Overheu on Poseidon Moon won the 160km ride in 13 hours and 6 minutes with Rebecca Wicks hot on her heels. Frances also received the Best Conditioned Middleweight prize. Popular identity Liz Callum won the Best Conditioned Heavyweight and won the heavyweight division riding Phoebe the 160km in 14 hours, 56 minutes.
For those who weren’t quite ready for the 160km event, there was the option to ride 80km or to do either the 40km or 20km social rides on both the Saturday and the Sunday. There were a good number of riders from the Mid West region who were having a go at their first endurance ride. The youngest rider was ten year old Cobb Fowler from Milly Milly station, who rode his little grey pony, also called Phoebe, on the 20km rides on both Saturday and Sunday.
Because it was a long weekend, most people camped for three nights, using the shearers quarters as a base. Riders, volunteers and their support crews enjoyed a Bush Ballad evening on the Saturday night around a warm fire. The camaraderie that developed on that night really added to the friendly and relaxed atmosphere that prevailed over the weekend.
The track this year for the Challa Mill Run was described as hard and fast. The weather was fine with a welcome cool breeze on the Sunday. The surface underfoot was beautiful for riding, offering a large proportion of firm sandy tracks with some patches of deeper sand or stony ground. The terrain, which can only be described as very flat, arguably offers some of the best endurance riding conditions in the country. Organisers opted to include a 10km straight for the 80 and 160km section, which some riders found very challenging. The tracks ventured out into low hills, through mulga scrub and out onto low saltplain country, always passing by the windmills and watering points that so many people have ridden by in times long forgotten.