Category Archives: Ben

Clinic Update: Ben

SAFE’s Herd Health Manager Melinda is now riding Ben to help get him ready for adoption. Here is what she had to say about her ride with Ben in last month’s Joel Conner clinic.

Ben and I participated in the riding portion of the Joel Conner clinic in November. I’ve just recently started riding him a few days per week so it was great timing to get some insight from Joel. Ben and I developed a rapport when I started doing groundwork with him at one of last year’s clinics, so I have enjoyed this opportunity to continue working with him. He’s a really fun horse!

Ben did great for the clinic. He was level-headed and calm with the busy activity level in the arena. He focused really well for the majority of the session, only fading a little bit at the very end–but in reality this was likely me that was fading, and him just going along with it.

One of my favorite things about Ben is how responsive he is. He’s a very sensitive man and picks up on the slightest cues from his rider. Joel was able to give me some good goals to work toward. Ben and I are going to focus on transitions off of seat aids, and figure 8’s to help keep him balanced.

This clinic was a lot of fun for me, because I have gotten to watch Ben’s progression in previous clinics with his other rider, Lisa. He’s come a long way and I look forward to getting to continue this work with him.

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Ben vs the Cows!

Photos courtesy of Jami Davis

Here is what volunteer rider Lisa had to share about her time spent with Ben at a Horsemanship and Ranch Riding clinic October 6th:

This past weekend, Ben and I attended the Ricky Quinn clinic in Ellensburg and, yet again, this horse has blown me away. We started each of the 3 days in a Horsemanship class, improving the finesse of some seemingly-basic skills; balance, flexion, collection, and transitions. By the third morning, Ben was moving calmly and punctually off of my seat and leg on even circles and figure-eights, and up and down through transitions. Before the clinic, he was doing all of this, but it was just a little late, and just a little sloppy… what a huge change!

The afternoon sessions were a ranch roping & cow working clinic. On day one we worked on roping some dummies, including one that was drug around. Ben did just fine, following the dragged dummy and having a rope (poorly) swung over and off of him … despite the occasional flick on his ears! Day 2 was a whole new world- Ben saw real live cows for, as far as we know, the first time in his life! He did alright at first, following the herd around the round pen, until we were asked to come around the front of the herd and turn them. Ben was, at first, afraid of them, backing and spinning away, even nearly unseating me a couple of times. With Ricky constantly reminding me that I needed to have confidence so that Ben could have confidence, and that I had to support him to help him through his fear, we slowly closed in on the herd and (with a lot of me yelling at the cows) turned them. Ben became very focused and attentive, and we moved them back and forth several times, Ben getting quieter and less afraid with every pass. By the end of the clinic he even got to a point where he WANTED to approach the cows, and would even stomp a foot at them, just rarin’ ter go!

Thank you Jami Davis for capturing a few photos of Ben and Lisa working! You can find more about Jami’s work on her website:

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SAFE Horses at the SAFE Show!

Here are just a few of the photos from Jessica Farren of the current SAFE horses that competed at the SAFE Benefit Horse Show. It was a fabulous weekend of competition, and we all had a marvelous time!

Click to enlarge:

Photo Update: Ben

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Ben: Training Update

Here is a wonderful training update from Lisa, Ben’s volunteer rider:

Ben continues to amaze! When I broke my wrist in December and was forced to take a 3-month hiatus from his training, volunteer rider Jolene took over, continuing his groundwork, re-introducing lunging, and teaching him to stretch while in movement, which helps him connect comfort and relaxation to movement and work, instead of… well, just plain ol’ work! I came back mid-march to a horse that was even softer in responses than when I had last worked him, and seemed more comfortable reaching in both front and back.

When Ben was restarted in regular work, he never missed a step; which, for our big, goofy, handsome thoroughbred, is a great thing! He still seems to genuinely look forward to his time under saddle, learning new movements, tying his education to more advanced riding skills, and even hacking out around the beautiful new SAFE property. Ben still gets excited and a little nervous about new environments, so any time he is introduced to a new space (the indoor arena… then the covered outdoor arena…. Then the uncovered outdoor arena….), he needs some time to revisit his groundwork routine, then a good bout of basics from the saddle. Returning to his basic education calms him and reassures him that, no matter WHERE we are, he will not be made physically uncomfortable or asked to do too much, too fast. When he does settle into the space and move into our session calmly, this horse’s willingness to TRY and to THINK about what is being asked is absolutely amazing. He no longer gets frustrated when he doesn’t understand (he literally used to STOMP his feet in frustration like a toddler!), but he waits, watches, thinks, then moves… and if I continue to ask, he keeps thinking and tries something else, without panicking and flipping through is “Rolodex” of answers in anticipation.

Ben is progressing BEAUTIFULLY at the walk and trot (including a (*gasp!*) VARIETY of speeds and movements in each gait!) and continues to improve his canter transitions in terms of balance and smoothness. He still exhibits the occasional, “canter… canter… can-RUN!!” tendency, but those moments are fewer, farther between, and calmly collected and slowed.

With the weather FINALLY moving toward a real spring and some dry days, I am working on getting Ben out of the arenas more often, with the hopes of introducing him to and working on the trails in Farrel McWhirter Park (right next door to our new home!) and into a couple of spring schooling shows and ride & reviews around the area.

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Joel Conner Clinic Report: Ben

SAFE’s volunteer riders and their horses spent last weekend working with Joel Conner. Here’s a report from Melinda SAFE’s Herd Health Manager about her session with Ben:

I had the pleasure of working with Ben for both groundwork sessions of the Joel Conner clinic over the weekend. He was a rock star! Lisa has done an incredible job in building his confidence and getting him to relax and focus. I wasn’t sure at first about how he would behave with a relative stranger at the other end of the rope, but from the get-go he was attentive and respectful of me. There were a few times when something would distract him, but just a gentle reminder to pay attention was all he ever needed.

He knows the groundwork exercises well. He responds with a soft feel easily when backing and is sensitive enough to body language that he picks up on what you’re about to ask him almost before even needing to ask it. It was like he was the “old pro” in the arena, there to show all the newcomers how things are done. Heck, he was the old pro in the arena who was there to show me how things are done! Whenever I fumbled, he’d wait for me to get my act together and try again. I was very appreciative of his patience.

I wasn’t able to make it to the most recent clinic in August, but I audited the two clinics prior and got to see Ben’s progression. The work that has gone into getting him where he is now has paid off tenfold. The gelding who first came to us as a bundle of energy mixed with fear and insecurity is now a calm, cool, collected kind of guy. Even when one of the other horses spooked and caused a bit of commotion, Ben just stood there and watched on, totally unfazed.

It warms my heart when I think about the changes we’ve seen in Ben. I really can’t say enough about how much he impressed me this weekend. He really is something special and I’m glad I got the chance to know him a little better.

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Ben at the Joel Conner Clinic, September 9-11, 2016

ben_09_11_2016(as reported by his regular rider, Lisa Garr)
In September, Ben and I once again worked under the tutelage of Joel Conner at a SAFE-hosted clinic. This weekend showed a completely new horse in our big ol’ redheaded fellow. Now able to handle pressure from the bit without panicking, we worked on soft feel, isolating front-quarters and hindquarters, and transitioning down off of two reins (although, always, continuing to use the seat to ask for transitions as well) for more punctuality. Ben is learning to reach for a soft feel and to collect himself at the walk and trot so he can stay balanced throughout his body. He worked through the entire weekend without ONCE mentally “checking out”, staying relaxed and confident. As we did in April, we worked on walk-trot-canter transitions around the group, but this time Ben was able to work THROUGH these transitions, up, down, and back up again, with my seat, my feel, and the bit as aids.

Ben has started progressing in leaps and bounds throughout the past six months. While we are still working on balance, proper engagement, punctual responses, and calm transitions, I can say with utter confidence that, with support, understanding, patience, and a FAIR approach, this lanky redhead is going to make someone a willing, smart, hardworking equine partner with enough heart and “try” to blow you away. I can’t express how proud I am of this horse nor how honored I am to be a part of the SAFE Training Team that gives these animals a chance to prove how truly amazing they can be.

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Hi Ho Stevie!

Stevie and Ben have a whale of a time together in turnout. Geldings love to pretend that they are fierce stallions battling it out on the wild plains. Well, Stevie does, anyway. From Ben’s expression, he might be wishing he was back with Oscar, who was a bit less rambunctious than Stevie is! Thanks to SAFE volunteer Caren M — who also sponsors Stevie with a monthly donation — for catching this action photo.