University of Wyoming students travel abroad for AQHA horsemanship clinicsWritten by Saige Albert
Four University of Wyoming students returned from a month-long trip to Europe on July 30 after visiting seven countries and teaching horsemanship clinics across Europe.
“Our clinics focused on improving the rider, improving the horse and looking at some of the new competitions that AQHA offers,” explains UW Equine Lecturer and Extension Equine Specialist Amy McLean, who joined the students on the excursion. “We left of June 28 and did clinics in Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Ireland.”
The four students included Kaitlyn Ewing of Sydney, Neb., Lindsey Hanking of Wellington, Colo., Corinna Slingerland of Lander and Lacey Teigen of Laramie.
Starting an adventure
“We sent a grant to the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) to teach international horsemanship camps, and we were approved,” explains Teigen of Laramie, “so we traveled all over Europe and taught western riding clinics.”
The program, organized by AQHA, offers a competitive grant to four U.S. schools, and McLean says, “I was thrilled that we were selected.”
McLean explains that the UW students were selected based on their experience showing and training others.
“Our grant was selected based on the riding and training experience of my students and the curriculum we proposed,” she adds.
Teigen, a student in the animal science program at UW, says, “We flew to Denmark and spent a week in Copenhagen teaching a clinic. Then we flew to Sweden and did a clinic there.”
Following the first two clinics, the group spent time in Scotland, Spain and Portugal before returning to the United Kingdom and Ireland for two more clinics.
“We visited seven different countries in a month,” comments Teigen.
McLean notes, “This is a unique program in that the students involved are responsible for teaching the clinics – not me.”
“I know that in my life, I would have never gone to some of those countries if I hadn’t had this opportunity,” adds Teigen. “The experience was great.”
The three- to four-day clinics ranged in size from 11 to more than 20 participants and included people of all ages and backgrounds.
“The students worked with people of all ages and levels,” comments McLean. “They dealt with a wide variety of personalities of people and horses.”
The UW students worked together to make sure participants were able to grasp the concepts being taught.
“If the rider didn’t understand what we were asking, all four girls helped or demonstrated on the horse or helped the person work through the skills,” she notes.
One focus of the clinics was introducing the concept of ranch horse versatility.
“As part of our grant proposal we had to pick something to specialize in, so we chose ranch horse versatility,” says recent UW graduate Slingerland. “We introduced ranch horse pleasure, cow work, ranch reining and ranch trail. We also taught them how to rope.”
“Ranch horse versatility introduces the idea of an all-around horse,” Teigen adds.
In bringing in the idea of ranch horse versatility, the clinics focused on basic horsemanship for the first part of the camp, integrating ranch horse versatility later.
“Each clinic ended with a mock show,” McLean adds. “We would place the classes, and students would give feedback and positive criticism. It gave our students a chance to use their horse judging skills as well.”
Western riding in Europe
Slingerland comments that western riding isn’t common in Europe and says, “English hunter and jumping is so huge in Europe. To see these people try something different was cool.”
She continues, explaining that much of the equipment must be purchased in the U.S. and is taxed very high, also noting that the horseman work to keep up on correct equipment and even the latest style trends.
“I also learned a lot about how versatile the American Quarter Horse is and how important they are,” she adds. “The overall experience was amazing.”
With some downtime between clinics, the group traveled Europe exploring other equine activities.
“When we weren’t teaching clinics, we got to travel to the Royal Stables, where we got a private behind-the-scenes tour,” says McLean. “We also visited The Donkey Sanctuary in Devon.”
She explains that The Donkey Sanctuary is a world renowned facility that takes in rescue animals. In Portugal, the group also visited a donkey center and farms where the animals are still used in farming.
“The girls got to help an 88-year-old lady plow with donkeys,” she says as an example of the experiences students shared.
Aside from improving their skills in teaching others horsemanship and learning about the equine industry worldwide, the students also gained perspective.
“I learned a lot about different countries,” says Teigen, “especially about how fortunate we are in the U.S. Things are so easy here. It really opened my eyes.”
“We were the first group to go to Ireland to put on an AQHA clinic,” adds Slingerland. “We broke the barrier there. That was neat.”
Teigen also says that her communication skills improved because of the language barrier.
“It was great teaching people how to ride horses and better themselves as riders,” she comments. “It was a great experience, and I’m really thankful to AQHA for giving me the opportunity and to UW for donating some money and helping us as well.”