If you are reading this article, you are probably wondering what a horsemanship study group is. Perhaps you have heard about them. Maybe you want to start one up in your area. This series of articles will answer the most common questions, examine how to create a horsemanship study group, and look into the many benefits of having access one in your area.
CONCEPT: A horsemanship study group is a group of “students of the horse” who gather together to improve their skills and relationship with their horses. These individuals may follow a particular approach or nationally known Clinician or may embrace a variety of approaches with a similar “theme” that they all enjoy. The group may meet monthly or quarterly for practices, special rides, activities, and special events. In most cases, the t goal of the group is to create a supportive learning environment that is non-judgmental and very low to no drama (NOTE: We recommend avoiding those study groups that are too strict or demand you buy certain equipment/DVD’s before your participate. If the group is not welcoming, it is not a group you want to be part of).
FINDING AN EXISTING GROUP: Start with a simple online search by using “horsemanship clubs”. You may be surprised at the variety of groups that are out there. Some follow a particular Clinician like Chris Cox, Pat Parelli or Clinton Anderson, while other groups follow more “general principles” of the art of horsemanship. You have to decide what works for you and you may have to explore several groups to find the right one. You are going to have to reach out to those groups that interest you and get some information, find out what they are about, where/when they meet and how you can attend a session. We recommend visiting a group twice before committing to “join” so you can get a good feel for the group and its culture. Leave your horse home (unless you got a good feel from your initial contact) on your first visit. This allows you to really see how the group interacts and communicates. If the first visit feels good, plan to go back with your horse and see how it goes. Yes, it is an investment in time and energy on your part but the investment will pay off in some very positive ways once you find the right group.
CREATION: Let’s be clear. If doing a simple online search and making some calls/writing some emails is “too much work” for you, in order to find a horsemanship study group that is a good fit, then CREATING a horsemanship study group is going to be WAY more difficult for you because it actually takes work to create, organize and maintain.
The initial phase of creation has several parts. Each part will need to be as complete as it can be before “going public” with your group. Each part will take some effort, thought and action to complete. If you skip any of these steps, the foundation of your group is weak. Like with our horses, we need to have a solid, well-developed foundation upon which to build something awesome and valuable. You will have to ask yourself (and maybe your horse-minded friends) a few questions: What do you want to be? What approach/approaches do you want the group to focus on? How will you be organized?
MISSION/VISION STATEMENT: Crafting up a Mission/Vision Statement will answer the “what do you want to be” questions. Here is an example of a Mission/Vision statement for the Golden State Horsemanship Club (which was founded by Laurie Frohn and Michael Canfield in 2011): Mission Statement: The Golden State Horsemanship Club is an independent study group of students and practitioners of a variety of “natural horsemanship” and “classical horsemanship” training approaches. All approaches are welcomed and we encourage the sharing of skills and experiences from all members. Our members use these approach to improve their horsemanship, their horses and their human/horse partnership. Through practice sessions, training activities and online discussion members support and inspire each other to achieve their horsemanship goals in a culture that offers support, fellowship, inspiration, and FUN!
Goals of the Group: To achieve a level of understanding, satisfaction, and knowledge of horsemanship through the use of various training approaches that help the horse and the human to build a solid foundation of respect and useful skills in a variety of disciplines. The group hopes to inspire, coach and support one another in the spirit of fellowship and improvement by sharing our experiences with their horsemanship journey that we have each learned along our own paths. To gather together to practice and train our horses in the spirit of support and fellowship. To inspire and encourage members to engage in independent and consistent training at home and at practices with our horses.
As you can see, the Mission/Vision statement answers the first two of the three questions put forward. Once you have a clear Mission/Vision statement you can begin to promote your group, recruit members and plan sessions. The next step (which happens during your session planning/ member recruitment) is clarifying how your group will be organized. Having a clear plan of organization will really help keep the “drama levels” low and the group focused on moving forward in a positive manner. A group charter can be as simple as a set of governing practices and standards as the group gets started and can evolve as the group grows.
THE CHARTER: This can be a simple document with just a few guidelines for organization. It can outline how gatherings are organized and who does what. As the group grows, clauses can be added to address the needs of the group. The charter helps keep the group on track. When a decision about the group has to be made the charter is there to ensure that the goals and well-being of the group are kept in mind. This helps to avoid the drama of personal agendas and making choices that cater to a minority. You may opt to have Group Officers who handle different duties for the group, and as such those duties should be outlined in the charter. When combined with the Mission/Vision Statement, the charter is a powerful tool for growth and recruitment.
If you are thinking of forming a horsemanship study group and need some advice, you can reach out to the Golden State Horsemanship Club by emailing them a G S H C at G MAIL dot COM. They can help you form your own group and answer questions.
In the next segment of this series, the aspects of recruitment, benefits, and management of the horsemanship study group will be explored! Horsemanship Study groups are a great way to improve your skills, have fun, meet great people and not break the bank!
Thanks for reading!