Equestrian Center Hosts Sisters Riding for Haiti Cause
Some unexpected overnight guests bunked at the Held Equestrian Center on Wednesday night—Brandy and Ashley Nelsey, who are on a trip from West Branch to Houston. The sisters are riding on horseback from their central Michigan hometown to Texas to raise money for a clean-water project In Haiti.
On most college and university campuses nation-wide, when first-year students want to travel home on a weekend, the explanation is usually homesickness. Not so for Albion first-year Emily Love when she traveled home to Petoskey, Michigan over the weekend of September 17 and 18. She was presented with the opportunity to ride in a clinic with famous horse whisperer Buck Brannaman and had no intention of missing it!
“It was an experience I will never forget,” Love said when it was over.
While her own horse Ordained remained at the Albion College Nancy G. Held Equestrian Center for the weekend, Love borrowed Tamarisk, a 24 year old Trakhener mare belonging to a friend for the clinic, which was held at the Bay Harbor Equestrian Club in Harbor Springs, Michigan. The theme of the clinic was general horsemanship skills both on the ground and in the saddle – which on Saturday meant that Love and the other clinic participants first worked with their horses in an unmounted session, desensitizing them to ropes and flags and getting the horses to move away from the slightest pressure of the handler.
Brannaman consistently stressed to his students that their horses needed to fully understand what was being asked of them at all times. Love reported that he led by example with his own horse, a young gray mare with only a total of 25 rides on her prior to her arrival in Michigan.
“You wouldn’t guess that if you had seen the way she behaved,” Love said. “She watched Buck every time he moved a hand, leg, and head or even slightly turned his body.”
Brannaman and the clinics he gives nation-wide are currently riding a wave of popularity following the Sundance Film Festival premiere of the documentary of his life and work entitled Buck. After enduring an abusive upbringing at the hands of his father, who forced Buck and his brother to perform on the rodeo circuit as pint-sized trick ropers, Brannaman was put into foster care in high school and eventually found his way to master horseman Ray Hunt, who became his mentor. With Hunt’s help, he learned how to communicate with horses in a way that instills trust instead of fear. As his reputation as a horseman grew, he later became the inspiration for the main character in Nicholas Evans' novel The Horse Whisperer and was Robert Redford's technical advisor during the making of the film of the same name.
Today, Brannaman spends 40 weeks per year on the road teaching horsemanship clinics like the one at Bay Harbor, which is an annual event. Love said that he also treated the assembled audience to a few rope tricks, though he didn’t perform for too long, telling everyone, “I better stop soon before I mess up - I’m a little rusty.”
By the time she returned to campus following the clinic, Love reported that she had acquired several new horse handling skills and a different approach to communicating with not only her own horse, but with horses in general.
What's more, she is also a newly-minted Buck Brannaman fan.
“I will definitely try to ride with him again!” she said.
Equestrian Symposium at Albion College Draws Olympian Instructor
Before classes could even begin for the fall semester at Albion College, instruction was already under way Aug. 20-21 at the Nancy G. Held Equestrian Center. At the head of the class was three-time Olympic dressage rider Steffen Peters, who conducted the weekend-long symposium to share his training methods with the assembled crowd.
Representing a range of ages and experience levels, nearly 150 auditors from four states converged in Albion with pens and notebooks in hand, ready to learn from the talented 46 year-old horseman, whose three bronze medals at the 2010 World Equestrian Games were the first individual medals for an American dressage rider since 1932.
Capping an event-filled competition season that saw her sit out part of the spring with a broken wrist, Albion's senior dressage team captain Kjirsten Sneed (Washburn, WI/Washburn) traveled to the Intercollegiate Dressage Association national championship show on April 30 and May 1, 2011 and finished her collegiate career with a Top Ten placing.Dressage coach Danielle Menteer and team captain Kjirsten Sneed at the 2011 IDA National Championship.
Sneed, who returned to the dressage team as a seniorafter taking a sabbatical to concentrate on her studies and spend one semester studying in France, was named regional champion at First Level en route to her IDA Nationals berth - which was no mean feat after she sat out the last regular season meet of the year with her injury. Still, her earlier high scores held and her wrist healed in time for her to return to the saddle for the championship show.
"Kjirsten was a great leader for her team this season," coach Danielle Menteer said. "She's also a great competitor and I really enjoyed working with her again this season."
Of her championship ride, Sneed remarked, "There were some great horses and riders here and it was a great experience. The scores in my class were very close - within six percentage points - and the IDA is all about doing the best with what you draw. I think I managed to do that."
After graduation, Sneed is off to Michigan State University's law school, where she has received a full-ride scholarship.