Can We Go Down The Trail Together? Update On My Clinics

After canceling a couple of clinics, folks began to ask, “Charley, when are you going to have another clinic?”

Truth be told, over these last few months, I had to step back and do some soul searching. I had to ask myself, “Am I just a conduit for information or, instead, a source of education and help that has a lasting, beneficial effect for both the human and the horse?”

What initially triggered this was the fact that there are aspects about the traditional clinic format that do not suit me as a person. For example, I do not care much for large crowds because you never really get to know anyone on a deeper level or develop genuinely, meaningful relationships. Consequently, smaller groups and one-to-one interactions are more suited to how I am wired. Or, maybe it is because that it the way the Lord Jesus works so personally with us, one-on-one that intrigues me so.

The same holds true for me in the horsemanship world. The traditional clinic format has its place. There are several, though not very many, excellent horsemen out there who have ample knowledge and the wisdom to help folks along. I owe a lot of my understanding to a couple of them. As stated, I like things more personal than being in a crowd.

However, more than just my style or personality was brewing here.

In the last year or so, I have become increasingly disturbed and grieved about what I see happening in the horse world. It is clear to me that, despite the rampant availability of clinics, most riders are not getting solid or connected with their horses. Instead of people being able to see the big, important picture of how to get to a horse’s thoughts and build a conversation from that place, many are only running in their own round pen of mechanical techniques and endless gadgets to accomplish their means.

As a result, both the horse and human have not been able to operate from a place of peace and understanding.

Take the round pen for instance:

A generation or so ago, the round pen was a very good tool for handling range broncs. I am talking about big, ol’ snotty five to eight year old horses that had never been handled. When we came into the age of mechanization, the round pen went by the wayside for several decades until Ray Hunt came along and brought the round pen back into vogue and usefulness.

Fast forward to now. Everywhere you look these days, you will see another round pen and, despite decent intentions, the vast majority of riders are using the round pen in a way that, frankly, borders on abuse to the horse. The shape and size of the pen is of little consequence; people are using the round pen in ways that often wreck their horses.

Similarly, a very bothersome thing to me is how folks are using the flag. Instead of the flag being used as an aid for the horse, the flag has become an object of worry and misunderstanding to the horse.

Above all else, the most troublesome thing to me is all the horses that I see and work with that are operating from a place of trouble and not one of peace.

Again, this is happening because folks do not understand how to look at things from the inside of the horse.

From one who has spent most all his life at this cowboy business, I realized that I had reached my limit with the status quo. Bottom line, again, it became painfully apparent to me that a lot of well-meaning riders did not have a clue of the place I come from when I work with a horse.

Friends, the horse is a living, breathing, thinking and changing creature. To be able to operate from a place of no trouble with their riders and have some purpose and meaning are big things to them. Mechanical techniques help but they are the shallow end of the pool. You can have all the techniques in the world and never get to a horse’s thoughts.

The thinking side of the horse will always produce the better result. The horse knows how to do it, if it is offered in a way that he understands and has meaning. He knows and he would like you to know.

Again, the horse is not some machine. They are thinking creatures. What works for you and him today might not work for you tomorrow. As the human, it is incumbent upon us to have something different to offer to the horse, sometimes on a moment-by-moment basis. Often, decisions within decisions need to be made. Tragically, many riders these days miss the whole point of connecting with the horse’s thoughts and end up being a source of worry to the horse and very often frustrated within themselves.

The good news is that when a rider begins to understand and practice what I am saying here, they realize there are a number of ways to arrive at the same result and that techniques are secondary to producing a horse that is pleasant to be around, well-mannered and willing to do what we ask.

As I get older and slower, this whole deal has become more and more important. Unless the Lord changes the program, horses are going to be part of my life until He calls me home. Speaking for myself, I am someone who is continually striving to find easier and better ways to work with horses and livestock in general. Like anyone who has spent a lifetime accumulating a vast storehouse of knowledge and wisdom in what they love to do, I have a desire to pass it on to those who are desirous of the same things.

Sounds simple, and yet again.

It is strangely difficult to teach and impart something that comes from within so that people get it. What I want is to enable people to truly enjoy what they are doing with their horses and, equally, to enable the horse to enjoy what he is doing with the human.

These things have all sort of come together in these last few months and have caused me to reconsider my clinics. Giving this some quality thought, I feel I have now a good idea of the clinic format that would be able to help people and their horse to the greatest advantage.

Among the changes is that my clinics will be limited to six riders only. The small group format will allow me to focus on each person and their horse individually. Riders will get the advantage of me working one-on-one with them while watching me work with the other riders and their horses. This type of format also allows for the auditors to have more interaction with the group.

I am hunting for riders who want much more than another round of techniques. Those who desire to understand that their horses are asking, “Can we have a conversation? Can we go along and enjoy the scenery?” “Can we go down the trail together?”


If that is you, I would like to get acquainted with you and your horse. My next clinic is scheduled for the first weekend in November. Check my Facebook page (Charley Snell – Cowboy / Horseman / Custom Saddle Maker) or for details.

Blessings and Happy Trails,


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  1. Julie on October 10, 2015 at 4:35 am

    Hi, charley, Now I remember why ducky and I always felt so peaceful and happy after a clinic with you. Sign me up for November and I will start saving my pennies. Have missed you. Julie

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Jamie Inman on October 10, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    Top of my bucket list used to be to learn to ride a horse without fear. I took lessons at a very nice place with nice people who taught me to put on the saddle and gear, clean the hooves, etc before riding. Then she taught me proper technique and said I was doing great! The problem was I was still terrified and ended each lesson 30 minutes early because I couldn’t handle the stress. She never worked on the relationship part. So I stopped the lessons and took that goal off the bucket list. I wish I had come to you in the first place. Bless you!

  3. Sarah Jackson on December 23, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    I could not agree more with all you have written here. I only wish you were in this area (central Texas) so that my horse and I might work with you. It as you say sad that too many folks and clinicians work with their horses in a way that creates worry for the horse. I desire another way myself, and want to help my horse feel better, and to keep his thought with me, and for him to know that is good for him….. But finding a horseman to help us along that path isn’t easy. Thank you for your words and your thoughts on this matter, and I wish you the very best of success…and feel sure the right people will find you !!

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