By Kelley Carlson
While last weekend’s storms sent most local residents scurrying for cover, a group of riders didn’t let the rain dampen their interest in a horsemanship clinic.
Natural horseman clinician Bryan Neubert made a special appearance from Nov. 4 through 6 at the Rancho Riding Club in Rancho Santa Fe to address safety issues and answer questions from the 16 participants.
Neubert, from Alturas, is renowned for handling wild horses, and was featured in a Western Horseman magazine article titled “Taking the wild out of mustangs” in 1996. He appeals to horses’ instincts, building a partnership with them that resembles relationships between horses. Neubert has been conducting horsemanship and roping clinics at home and around the country full time for about 20 years, working with various breeds of horses and addressing issues such as colt starting and problem solving.
“People generally need to realize it’s not their horse they’re working on, it’s them,” Neubert said.
As the clinic at the Rancho Riding Club kicked off, riders centered their attention on Neubert, as they sat tall in their saddles, water dripping down the brims of their hats, in a riding ring. Neubert took turns focusing his bright blue eyes on participants, asking each one about their main concerns, which ranged from using hackamore headgear to a horse being “dead sided” (not responsive to leg signals).
In his first demonstration, Neubert stood on the ground and used a flag on a chestnut horse he was planning to ride to help it become comfortable with the new experience of a flapping object.
“As it was raining and he was wearing a long yellow slicker, it’s better to check this out on the ground than to climb on and find out the horse has a fear of such things,” said Debbie Rocha, a trainer at the club and organizer of the clinic. “He was showing how the horse could go from being totally confused and afraid of something to being confident and interested.”
Participants continued to ask Neubert questions, and he proceeded to answer and provide several examples. He also demonstrated with a horse to give riders a picture of what he was trying to convey, Rocha said.
John Alcorn, a horseman who works with the nonprofit rescue organization Horses of Tir Na Nog, said he learned several things from the clinic, including diverting attention from that which bothers a horse, such as tightening a cinch on a saddle.
“I can say that I am always amazed at the generosity of the natural horseman clinicians,” said Alcorn, who was visiting the riding club for the first time. “Every one I’ve met has been forthright and open and more than willing to explain and help the folks who attend.
“I had never been to one of Bryan’s clinics, but I am very aware of him and his reputation, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come out and visit with him.”
Neubert said that it was his first time at the Rancho Riding Club, although he had previously been to San Diego and Riverside counties.
Rocha had previously been advised by her instructor, Ray Hunt, whom he would recommend for a teacher. His suggestions: Neubert and Joe Wolter.
“Both were guys that I knew of by reputation,” Rocha said. “Since Ray’s death, I decided to seek these guys out. I had planned to ride with Bryan this same weekend in Benson, Ariz., but the clinic didn’t fill and was canceled. I called him and asked if I could try and have the clinic at RRC. He agreed, and I started calling people and got the word out. I had 16 riders signed up in three days.”
Rocha holds a couple of clinics at the Rancho Riding Club each year, and often teams up with fellow horsewoman Amy LeSatz.
For more information about the club, go to
; for more about Neubert, go to