LEESBURG, VA. — Three well-known horse specialists played to an overflow crowd -- including several from Carroll County -- last weekend at the Performance Horse Symposium organized by Trail Blazer Magazine of Creston, Calif.
More than 300 horse enthusiasts huddled under blankets, down comforters and even horse blankets for two frigid days to hear the latest on riding techniques, shoeing techniques and "touch" techniques from Sally Swift, Tony Gonzales and Linda Tellington-Jones.
"I want to give the audience the leading edge of what is going onin the horse world," said organizer Donnis Thran. "I want horse people to recognize that each year they can come to this symposium and see the very latest techniques. I expect the presenters to give us the best in terms of what they have to say and how they say it."
The symposium moves to California this weekend for its West Coast version.The East Coast event drew participants from as far away as Maine, Florida and Michigan, with much of the audience coming from Maryland and Virginia.
On Saturday morning, each of the three presenters offered an introduction to technique. That afternoon, each presenter gavea performance evaluation of two horses to illustrate various techniques.
Tellington-Jones explained the three parts of The Tellington-Jones Equine Awareness Method: touches on the horse's body, ground exercises and work under saddle.
"We want to connect to our horse's mind and make his connection to his body better," Tellington-Jones said. "You want to get your horse in balance physically, emotionally and mentally.
"All good athletes have body work and our horses are athletes so they should have body work, too."
She used a very tenseand wary 6-year-old Virginia horse to demonstrate her technique, pointing out that "when the horse is afraid, you must quietly work around the fear until it is gone. There is no sense in yelling at or punishing the horse."
Carroll County combined-training competitor BonnyLanphear and her horse I Can Do was a demonstration team.
Lanphear, who has worked extensively with Swift, said she would like to see her 8-year-old gelding have more engagement, a higher poll and betterbalance.
Swift said they would work on lowering Lanphear's centerof balance and doing better half-halts, a maneuver that re-balances a horse while he is working.
Horseshoer Tony Gonzales, developer of the Proper Balance Movement method of analyzing, trimming and shoeing a horse's feet, said the question that began his analysis of balance was, "Why will a horse go lame in just one foot?"
Since trying to answer that question, Gonzales has found that proper balance is natural or suitable to be natural.
Gonzales introduced his new system of measurements that consists of the PBM base measurement, length measurement and heel measurement.
"Remember to shoe for function, not for correction," he said.
On Sunday, the presenters worked withtheir demonstration horses and riders to correct and improve on the problems discovered Saturday.
Swift, Tellington-Jones and Gonzalesworked together on the demonstration horses, giving the input from their individual techniques to offer improvement for the horse and rider.
Sally Shirley of Taylorsville was among the Carroll County horse people in attendance. Shirley has studied with Swift and is an instructor of Swift's Centered Riding Technique. Shirley also has workedwith Tellington-Jones and uses TTEAM with her horses.
"This has basically been lots of review and a refresher course for me since I have worked a lot with both Sally (Swift) and Linda (Tellington-Jones)," Shirley said. "But I'm new to Tony Gonzales' work and I found it really interesting.
"His work with balance echoes the emphasis on balance that Linda and Sally do in their work. This was the first time I saw the measurements and the work Tony is doing with measuring the angles of a horse's foot."