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Building trust between horse and rider

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POWELL - Cindy Clancy had successfully moved her Paint horse, Takoda, through several challenges at the Fly’n O Ranch. But the horse wasn’t keen on moving through a large, green tarp draped in the corner of the ranch’s indoor riding facility.

Every time she moved him in position, he refused to budge.

Clancy was patient, reassuring Takoda everything was safe. But the 10-year-old gelding was as stubborn as a toddler refusing to leave the candy aisle. She walked him from side to side, showing him there was nothing to fear.

Eventually, the two put their heads down and walked through the cut sections of the tarp challenge. It’s all about building trust, she said.

“This is a challenge that he won’t get exposed to (on a trail),” she said. “The challenge helps him trust me to take him through it.”

Several horse owners from across the region were at the Fly’n O Saturday to build better relationships with their horses.

The training at the ranch east of Powell was provided free by the Shoshone Back Country Horsemen — something they do every year with the help of noted horse trainer and saddle maker, Ron Ostrom. After the tragic loss of his brother, Daniel, during a horseback outing 26 years ago, Ostrom dedicated his life to helping others build trust between riders and horses.

“This builds a relationship between the horse and the rider so that when they encounter something on the trail, whether it’s a grizzly bear, or a flying feedsack,” Ostrom said, “the horse looks at the rider and says, ‘What do you want me to do,’” versus their natural instinct to run off.

Ostrom and his brother were riding in Crandall in the spring of 1996 looking for antlers “like we did when we were young,” he said.

The horse and rider went over a snowdrift, but the horse lost its footing. It fell and rolled over the top of Daniel. They finished the ride, but Daniel later complained about a headache.

“We didn’t know anything was wrong at the time,” Ostrom said. “By the time we got him life-flighted out of there and to Billings, it was just too late.”

The accident changed Ron’s life. He wanted to turn the life-altering event into something positive.

He spent the next few years of his life training with law enforcement mounted patrols from Los Angeles to New York and following experienced cowboys into the backcountry, hoping to combine his experiences to teach horsemanship to area riders.

His training eventually led to the business, as he found a serious need across the West.

Last year he helped train more than 1,300 riders both here in Powell and on the road.

“Last week I was in Utah (training) a mounted patrol police outfit,” he said.

But Saturday was a free community event “so we can keep people riding and going to the mountains where they all want to go right and have a safe trip.”

Riding organizations like the Shoshone Back Country Horsemen and the Boot & Bottle Riding Club in Cody assist by donating to help with expenses for the training opportunities for their members. Ostrom is also a member of the Back Country Horsemen.

Yet another positive coming from Daniel’s tragic accident is the Dano Youth Camp. The nonprofit organization provides eight-day backpacking wilderness adventures to teenagers in the Park County area.

“Our camps seek to promote and foster character qualities in campers such as responsibility, courage, compassion, loyalty, honesty, friendship, persistence, hard work, self-discipline, and faith,” according to the group’s mission statement.

To be eligible to apply, campers must be 13 years or older. Camps are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis, with a priority given to Park County residents.

“Our camps are unique in that we provide the equipment (tents, backpacks, camping gear, food, etc.) needed for the trip. The only requirement of the campers is to fill out the appropriate paperwork, make a commitment to the time frame, bring a few personal items, and be prepared for summer fun!” the group advertises.

There is no charge to participate.

To help keep the camp going strong, the Shoshone Back Country Horsemen sponsored a raffle for a retired saw decorated with a mountain scene painted by Powell Middle School art teacher Jane Woods. The group brought in $1,000 through the raffle, and all proceeds are being donated to the camp.

Woods dedicated the saw to two of her former students, Shelby and Danika Fagan, who are members of the organization that clears more than 100 miles of mountain trails per year. The idea was brought to the group by former president Dale Olson, who passed away last year before the project could be finished. James Seckman, of Powell’s Seckman and Thomas CPAs, won the saw and funds from the raffle will be presented to camp officials in a June ceremony.

To donate to the youth camp named for Daniel Ostrom: info@danoyouthcamp.org

This story was published on May 3, 2022.

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