Not too long ago, if you wanted to learn to rope or ride a barrel horse or sit on a reining horse, you’d find a trainer and take lessons. With luck, there was a qualified person nearby. If not, you just struggled to figure things out on your own. Plenty of people have learned to ride by trial and error, but now you can learn a lot by sitting in front of your computer.
I was impressed, but not totally surprised, when I talked with Speed Williams and Al Dunning for an article on online instruction in the May issue. Both are multiple world champions, Williams in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Dunning in the American Quarter Horse Association. Both have given numerous clinics through the years and are proven instructors. There’s no doubt they know their stuff! But in the past year, they’ve ventured into new territory by sharing their knowledge online.
Williams’ site, www.speedroping.com, offers a library of videos on topics of interest to team ropers. Have a problem scoring? There’s a video on that. Need to know about the best angle for pulling a steer? Speed can help with that. There are thousands of videos available, and more are loaded every day.
Dunning’s approach is a bit different. His site, www.teamadinternational.com, allows people to join at different levels for different benefits. They vary from getting a newsletter to gaining access to a video library to having the privilege of sending in videos for personal evaluation. The highest level is essentially a trade school for prospective trainers.
There are plenty of other learning opportunities out there. An online search for your favorite horse sport will bring up options. Some of the top clinicians have launched new interactive sites this year, and other sites are aimed at participants in disciplines like reining or Western pleasure. The membership fees are generally low—usually a month for about what a single lesson might cost. They don’t replace hands-on instruction by any means, but those who want a little more or who can’t get to a trainer on a regular basis can sure benefit.
Growing up in a small South Texas town, I didn’t have access to trainers and clinics. Riding was more of a do-it-yourself project. What great opportunities there are now, at the click of a mouse.
Sitting in front of a computer doesn’t make up for time spent in the saddle, but it can make a difference in how those rides go!