Clinic report from Martin Black, Shoofly Ranch clinic, ID, Clinic 2023.

I was able to get into a weeklong private clinic with Martin, thanks to Katie Wilking of Utah who had booked a week with Martin to get help with two of her own horses.

Martin’s clinics are always client focused, although he seems most at ease when working cattle and other forms of stockmanship.  This clinic was no different in format than others I have attended.  Each day starts with a Q&A with Martin during which we can discuss the previous day’s lessons, other concerns with our horses, training techniques, war stories or which wine tastes the best.

I have always found that Martin is very down to earth and easy to engage.  After the Q&A we saddle up and review the basics of moving the feet forwards, backwards and laterally, paying attention to which foot we are trying to influence and whether that will be accomplished with the seat, through a rein or with a leg cue.

The rest of the time is spent looking at practical applications for these basics holding cows in a rodea and separating them out in some form to work on the balance point and flight zone.  A great video to get an understanding of balance point and flight zone is Martin’s “Working Cattle in the A Pen”.

In the late afternoon and early evening hours, Katie and I were able to get up for a trail ride on some of the mesas that surround the valley in which the Shoofly Ranch is located.  The scenery is spectacular, with distant hills and mountains, the sagebrush sea described by Ian Tyson, and at night an impressive display of the Milky Way.

Martin’s horsemanship is always incredibly practical and functional and for people who haven’t attended one of his clinics yet, they are highly recommended.  Martin shared insights about legendary horsemen he has shared arenas with including Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt.

I must say that I always envy folks who are able to trailer over their own horses for these clinics, the experience can only be enriched by such a discovery.  However, Martin’s school horses are all very safe and easy to get along with.