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Vantage Point Farm Annual Clinic Another Huge Success

by Ann Bullard

February in Texas. Like the rest of the country, you never know what to expect. This winter, temperatures have ranged from the teens to almost 70. But the thought of braving Texas cold and wind didn’t affect the 50 registered participants at Vantage Point Farm LLC’s annual Saddle Seat Clinic. With world’s grand champion trainers Smith and Alexandra Lilly coming to Conroe, Texas (just north of Houston,) they bundled up and stepped up to ride.
And step up they did – from as far away as Wichita, Kansas and Edmond, Okla., and as nearby as Magnolia, Houston and Katy, Texas, to spend the more-than-chilly weekend of Feb. 7-9, 2014, at the Lone Star Exposition Center. Friday featured small groups organized by discipline. Saturday opened with a one-hour in-hand clinic. The rest of the day centered on small groups, with both Smith and Alexandra giving individual attention to each riding team. Trainers joined the clinicians in the ring so they, too, could benefit from the suggestions and advice being given.

Having Smith Lilly, one of the industry’s leaders in the preparation, training and showing of in-hand horses, as one of the clinicians gave area owners and trainers the opportunity to learn more about this phase of the sport. While Texas no longer has as many large Saddlebred breeding operations as in years past, the number of individuals breeding a few mares each year continues to grow; so does the Texas Futurity. Vantage Point Farm donated a portion of each in-hand clinic fee to the Amateur Futurity of Texas purse.
 Whether it was a “name” rider on a big-time horse or the youngest walk-and-trotter aboard a Saddlebred Rescue mount, each participant received individual attention and the opportunity to work on the areas they needed most. And it showed. On Sunday, riders put their newfound skills to the test in an informal horse show judged by Smith. Each received feedback from Smith and Alexandra for their efforts.
May and Steve Chadick, owners and trainers of Vantage Point Farm, had their proverbial running shoes on. Between organizing the event, putting 24 horse and rider teams in the ring, helping the clinicians and other trainers and keeping things on schedule, both stayed busy from before dawn to well after dark.
Riders, trainers and supporters enjoyed a continental breakfast each day and a catered lunch on Saturday. The Vantage Point Farm hospitality area kept plenty of hot coffee and cocoa on hand to help alleviate the days’ chills.
During Saturday’s lunch break, Smith challenged his riders to answer the question,What is Saddle Seat?
 “How do you explain our sport to those outside of it,” he queried; then answering his own question, continued. “Saddle Seat is natural; people have been riding this way for centuries. Take a look at Greek and Roman art, paintings and statuary depicting soldiers and royalty riding high-headed horses with their necks arched and legs prancing. Our riding style is designed to bring out the majesty and natural exuberance of the horse.”
Putting on such an event is a tremendous task. However, the Chadicks saw this weekend as a way to promote the American Saddlebred and Saddle Seat riding to the Houston area. On Friday morning, a camera crew from the local Fox Broadcasting Station interviewed both Chadick and Smith. The resulting piece played for three minutes in prime time on the 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. news segments on Friday and Saturday. Three local newspapers also covered the event.
Trainers had nothing but praise for the weekend event.

“Smith and Alexandra were good at giving individuals time. All our clients are happy … they got a lot done. If a rider needed to make changes, they were made,” said Milo Jones of Lone Star Saddlebreds.
 Lone Star’s Koren Mercer added, “Smith and Alexandra were well-spoken, enthusiastic and easy to comprehend. Our clients are motivated and ready for spring because of them. The clinic was well put on. May and Steve did a great job organizing the weekend.”
Cheryl Manahan and her Wichita Riding Academy student Maci Crowder came the farthest distance … and left with nothing but positive things to say about the weekend. 
“I thought it was fantastic, and certainly worthwhile,” Cheryl said. “It seems the instructors got as much out it as the students. Our customer particularly enjoyed the Sunday horse show as Smith not only tied the class but explained how and why he placed a rider. We had a great time and appreciated all the hospitality. Everyone was so positive and complimentary.”
At the end of the clinic, participants were heard to say, “How do they top this next year.”

Riders came from near and far to ride under the Lilly’s direction.

May Chadick and Smith Lilly addressed riders, trainers and family members during Saturday’s lunch break.

Lone Star Saddlebreds brought a large group of riders and parents.

Maci Crowder of Wichita Riding Academy came all the way from Kansas to ride at the clinic.

Vantage Point Farm riders joined Smith and Alexandra at clinic’s end.

Ginny Currey, Emily Young, Laura Curry and Angelique Young represented Mill-Again and Cross Creek Stables.

Sydney Young received pointers on leg position from Alexandra and Smith.

Hannah Houske gives her new mount, Just Outrageous, a well-deserved pat on the neck after their Sunday morning performance.

Brian Eagleton (left) and Todd Kimbrough get pointers from Smith during the Saturday morning In-Hand class.

Audrey Buckley used her clinic time to get used to her new mount, Dolce La Vita.


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