Julie Winkel’s USHJA Trainer Certification Program Clinic

By HH Contributor Kristina McCombie

Clinician Julie Winkel works on rein aids with Nicole Davis and her junior hunter, Bond.

Northern Colorado learned from a legend on June 5th and 6th when judge, rider and trainer Julie Winkel (Reno, NV) brought her expertise to Fall River Farm in Ft. Lupton for a USHJA Trainer Certification Program clinic. Winkel taught groups for two days, and participated in a lunch and evening round table session each day that was well-attended by auditors and trainers alike.

The clinic was presented in conjunction with Jill Pelzel’s Fall River Farm and Jen Duffy’s Colorado Horse Sales who ensured everything was just right. There was plenty of covered seating (though the wind tried to change that), audio for auditors, a beautiful course, and breakfast and lunch was provided for all attendees. Riders were grouped according to ability level, and it was a well-balanced group of green horses, green riders, and more seasoned of both throughout the day.

Riders rode in 90-minute groups where Winkel brought it back to basics – track, pace, and straightness. Together with their equine partners, riders worked on the different rein aids, approaches to jumps from different angles and comprehensive flat work, to name a few. The second day even featured an open-water session, where Winkel taught how to introduce horses to the ever-daunting open water jump.

“I’ve been to a lot of clinics, and to see how Jill (Pelzel) and Jen (Duffy) prepared for us today is great. It is so nice to see freshly painted jumps, a beautiful course and a clean property. It shows the respect they have for their clients and their business” Winkel said the second day.

Clincian Julie Winkel looks on as Katie Pelzel and Chase begin an exercise on straightness and track.

The clinic was a nice balance of learning for riders – and for trainers. Winkel was very intentional on explaining her rationale behind exercises for horse and rider to the over 15 trainers in attendance. Many frantically took notes to take back to their students and programs. At the end of each day, a wonderful question-and-answer session took place where trainers and riders asked the questions they’ve been dying to know answers to – everything from judging preferences to helping specific issues with horses and riders who did not attend the clinic.

One thing Winkel spent time explaining was the USHJA’s Trainer Certification Program (TCP) and the changes she anticipates it bringing to the sport. Currently, most European countries require “trainers” to have some sort of earned certification before designating themselves as such. The US does not currently have this requirement, meaning once someone declares themselves a professional, they have no further requirements to attend to before becoming a “trainer.” The TCP program, Winkel explained, seeks to change this, not only to help trainers get the training and experience they need, but also to connect the horse community in ways it hasn’t been before. She explained an idea of a leveled system – where a new trainer would be at the bronze level, working towards a silver level, gained from experiences, shows, and TCP clinics, for example. Levels would be public to help a new rider connect with a trainer who could best meet their needs, and trainers would need to continue learning and evolving as the sport does.

Jensen Visser and her Mod Am Jumper Jasper tackle the open water lesson with ease.

Listening to how passionately Winkel spoke about the future of this sport we all love was inspiring. Her vision for the future and her depth of knowledge on horses, riders and trainers was an absolute treat to learn from. She offers a number of other opportunities for learning at her Maplewood Stables in Nevada (including an Adult Whine and Ride camp!). You can learn more about Julie and her stable at www.maplewoodstables.com.

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