Craig Cameron Clinic

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Article & photos by Kristi Crowe

Circle G Guest Ranch in Lynnville, Tennessee hosted a horsemanship clinic with founder of the Extreme Cowboy Association (EXCA), Craig Cameron, on August 31-September 2, 2018.  With his kind and understanding ways, Craig teaches his clinic participants that it is important to be a leader for their horse, not a feared handler. He says the secret to good horsemanship is:  “The better they back, the better they go sideways, the better they do everything;” it is all about control.  Horsemanship is also about the ability to multitask: a rider has to do about 25 things at once while on a horse. 

Twelve horse and rider teams attended the 3-day clinic, ranging from first time clinic participants to members of EXCA.  They rode a variety of horses, including Quarter Horse, Friesian Sporthorse, Tennessee Walker and Rocky Mountain.

Gregg and Cheryl Moore traveled from Amory, Mississippi so Gregg and his horse Smoky Lonesome could learn from Craig.  Since Gregg and Cheryl are part of the Advisory Board for Dixie Outlaw EXCA Club, Gregg loves the chance to be coached by the “man” of EXCA.  Other Dixie Outlaw members present for the weekend were Michael and Sherry Garmin from Nashville, Tennessee and Bob Hill from Florence, Alabama.

Kathleen Harvey and her 12-year-old Friesian Sporthorse, Charm, from Memphis, Tennessee, were looking to gain more knowledge. Kathleen commented “Craig Cameron is one of the best [clinicians]”. Geneen O’Bryan and her horse Blackberry were ready to work. Sherry Garmin’s Rocky Mountain horse Stormy is very sensitive when his rider uses too much leg pressure, so Sherry was hoping Craig could help her with that.

As riders made their way to the large, covered riding arena, Craig was mounted on J.C., a Quarter Horse owned by Circle G Guest Ranch owner Kimber Goodman, talking to people and answering questions. When all riders were mounted and in the arena, Craig had them line up at one end of the arena to go over expectations for the day’s work. Craig is big on rider participation when discussing what needs to be done, and utilizes a call-response format for teaching concepts. After discussion and questions, it was time to ride! And Craig had several exercises for them to do.

Four cones were set up in the middle of the arena to make a 50 foot square.  The first pattern had one rider start around the square, with the second rider starting when the first rider reached the half way point.  They would make two trips around at a canter then come to a stop before going to the end of the line of riders.  The purpose of this pattern was to be able to keep your horse under control, make nice corners, and stop your horse.  Most of the riders let their horses stop gradually; that was not what Craig wanted them to do.  Craig told one rider, “When you say whoa, stop! Don’t glide.” When everyone had a turn, it was time for the next pattern.

This time, it was one rider at a time.  At a canter, they would pass the first cone, circle the second cone, pass the third cone and circle the fourth cone.  The purpose of this exercise was to soften the horses and get them to bend around the circle.  It is important to remember that all signals work independently of each other.  While executing a nice round circle, the outside leg is behind the girth to bend the horse around the inside leg which is at the girth; the inside hand is raised to lift the horse’s shoulder, and the outside hand is held firm to keep the horse from running out.

The third exercise worked on lateral movement – leg yield. This required making an X between the cones, and was done at a trot. While a horse is making this lateral movement, their body is arced in the opposite direction of travel. When a horse does the leg yield properly, their front and hind legs cross over one another.

Susan and her horse were “the best of the day” in this lateral movement exercise.  Denny and his horse were having some issues with the direction of travel, so Craig rode J.C. next to them and coaxed them in the proper direction.  With Craig and J.C.’s help, Denny’s horse did the leg yield, crossing his legs. One could almost see the moment the horse understood what Denny was asking him to do!

After the lateral movement exercise, Craig had several other exercises that gradually increased the intensity of work.  It was impressive to see the partnership that was developing between rider and horse. 

One exercise required two riders trotting side by side, gently tossing a 3 foot wooden handle to each other.  Not only did they have to control their horse, they had to look at each other and catch a stick. Not one person dropped the stick!
After everyone had a chance to work with the stick, the riders walked along the rail of the arena, nose to tail. The lead rider picked up a canter and went around the arena, pulling up at the end of the line, as the new leader took off at a canter.  After all riders completed this task, the next step was to pick up the canter from the head of the line, canter up to and pass the line of riders who were still at a walk and pull up to the end of the line when they got there the second time.  It was fun to watch all the horses listening to their riders.

All of these exercises were done before lunch!  Before the riders put their horses away, Craig had everyone circle around him, including the auditors, to go over key points to remember when riding. One of these points is to plan when riding, know what you are going to do before you do it.  “Prepare, prepare, prepare,” he said.  To help riders understand how a horse learns, Craig said that the horse’s reward for doing what he is told is the release of pressure, whether that be reins, legs or seat.  The easiest way to get through to a horse is not with punishment, but to make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy.  With that knowledge, horsemanship is vastly improved. Then folks enjoyed a wonderful lunch prepared by Kimber.

Craig Cameron will be returning to Circle G Guest Ranch in 2019.  If you are interested in riding with Craig, check out the clinics at

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