Yankee Walkers, Gaited Horses of New England Club
Hosts Educational Clinic with Helen Weeman

April  6 & 7, 2013
Written by Julie Dillon and printed in the Equine Journal


The early spring chill did not keep our dedicated students from gathering at Tahuri Farm in Upton, Mass for our first Yankee Walker Clinic of 2013. On April 6 & 7 six horse and rider teams and several auditors braved the cold to attend the two day Helen Weeman Clinic. Helen is a certified TWHBEA Instructor and she also teaches gaited, non-gaited equitation and Saddleseat. She and her husband Dana own and operate Setting Sun Stable located in Saco, Maine.

This weekend clinic was not only an educational experience but also a relaxing retreat! Thanks to all of the horse and rider teams as well as the folks that braved the nasty winter winds to audit the sessions. We appreciate everyone coming out to participate and for making this a very successful weekend. Everyone enjoyed the opportunity to meet new friends and reconnect with others. The friendly dynamics and cheerful personalities of those attending resulted into one of the warmest events I have ever experienced.

Clinician, Helen Weeman was wonderful at attending to each horse and rider’s individual goals as well as addressing the group on the basics and beyond. On a personal note, my horse, John and I made real progress and found the weekend to be a bonding experience thanks to the work we put in with Helen.

We are also very fortunate to also have had Sandi Molinari's generous contribution of time and energy: she and husband Tony opened their beautiful lake house cabin provide cozy accommodations for participants. During the clinic Sandy filmed our lessons, coached and assisted everyone from the sidelines in the arena (even while keeping the poo picked up!). And after class each evening, she served us all home cooked delicious meals and replayed our riding sessions on a giant HDTV. This lady takes hospitality to a whole new level!

Everyone agreed that spending time riding at Tahuri Farm is always a special treat! Especially with Liz Benney looking after us and entertaining everyone with her charm and wit: Thanks a million, Liz...we are hoping to have other events at Tahuri Farm again later this year.

“This clinic surpassed my expectations! It was great to meet you all. I hope to be able to see you all again soon.” Teresa Boldwin and “Bodie of Oz”

“I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the clinic. Thank you Sandi for letting me stay at your beautiful lake house! Thanks to you Helen and your help with Penny and I enjoyed meeting everyone else…What a nice group of people and horses!!” Clare Aliberti

“I learned more there than all the reading and videos I have watched. I am so grateful that I didn’t purchase some of the horses that I have seen. I am planning to go up to Maine to take a lesson or two with Helen so I can feel the gaits so I will be better able to judge the horses I look at. “ Auditor, Patricia Daragan

“I had a great time, learned a lot, and can’t wait to get back on Scooby!” Daisy Gmitter and Scooby

“Everyone was so considerate and warm and appreciative … it makes holding clinics so worthwhile.” Liz Benney, Owner and Proprietor of Tahuri Farm.

“Many thanks to you all for even daring to bring your horses out so early in the season following a very snowy winter and being such eager and able learners. You all were really nice to work with and I see promising futures in the directions you are pursuing for your selves and your horses. Best wishes to you all.” Helen Weeman

I agree, ladies! It doesn’t get much better than this…well it could have been a lot warmer!


Jennie Jackson visits Maine
May 27 & 28, 2013


The folks from Setting Sun Stable in Kennebunk, were pleased to have Jennie Jackson extend her stay with them while she was already in Maine.  Jennie offered us a unique and impromptu opportunity to improve our dressage skills on Memorial Day afternoon and again the following morning.  The three Tennessee Walking Horse and rider teams included Sandi Molinari and her impressive gelding He’s Pushing Smoke, Kathy Richards riding her handsome golden champagne gelding Heir’s Golden Spirit along with Helen Weeman aboard her family’s talented gelding Adam’s Blaze of Glory.  All were anxious and thrilled to have their riding skills tested under the watchful eye and direction of Jennie.

Jennie quickly pointed out our strengths and weaknesses and soon had us effortlessly executing the shoulder-fore, and shoulder-in at the flat walk and running walk gaits. Sandi and Smoke got the clarity they needed to better understand the appropriate steepness needed to define the differences between the two movements they were executing.  A horse performing shoulder-fore will make 4 tracks one track per hoof. A horse performing shoulder-in will make three tracks. The shoulder-fore is usually taught prior to the shoulder-in. The shoulder-in is a lateral movement in dressage used to supple and balance the horse and encourage use of its hindquarters. It is performed on three tracks, where the horse is bent around the rider's inside leg so that the horse's inside hind leg and outside foreleg travel on the same line. We later worked on canter departs while keeping our horses correctly bent to the inside aids. Helen commented how foreign this was to her but was also able to recognized how sensible it was; rather than having to go to the aids to correctly bend the horse after the depart why not already have them correctly bending as you depart… duh who would have thunk it.

We later entertained Jennie with the customary Maine Lobster feast at the Pilot House in Kennebunkport where we enjoyed an array of appetizers including fried clams, shrimp and fish tacos followed by scrumptious boiled lobster and like a bunch of school girls who hadn’t seen each other in years we chatted excitedly, listened to the local musical talent and toasted to new and old friends.  The evening ended with a tour of the sites, and beaches Kennebunk and Kennebunkport have to offer and the promise to stop at the local seafood center to pack up lobster, and steamers to take home to her family the next evening.

The next morning we saddled up and headed out to the arena.  Jennie joined in on the riding aboard Helen’s mare Oops I’m A Yankee Belle and had her bending and responding to the rider aids in no time at all.  We continued to work the rail perfecting our shoulder-fore and shoulder-in.  Jennie then described the half-pass as a lateral movement, in which the horse moves forward and sideways at the same time and the proper aids used in executing this upper level movement. The half-pass is used to improve collection or impulsion and is a schooling movement that requires the horse to engage the hindquarters and increase its impulsion.  Blaze and Helen under Jennie’s instruction worked on executing the half-pass and after a few attempts they were able to accomplish the movement for a couple of steps then leg yield back to the rail.  We then worked on developing collection and roundness at the canter while crossing over caveleties with our horses.  Spirit showed off his jumping talent by crossing all the poles without striking any.  Jennie also explained how beneficial the hand gallop is to obtaining collection at the canter and left us with direct orders to “hand gallop, hand gallop, hand gallop, ladies.”