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Equine Agility Sports at Bison Ranch next

Dog agility and Frisbee Dog competitions are some of the fastest growing areas of the dog show world.

“Athletic-partnership” sports between owners and their pets are making their way into the equine community.

Leslie Nichols, Phoenix’s most innovative horse trainer, has pioneered Equine Agility Sports™ and is coming to Bison Ranch in Heber to put on a two-day clinic to teach the fundamentals of equine agility to owners of horses, ponies and miniature horses in the area.

Equine Agility Sports is an activity where the handler directs the horse (or other equine) through a pattern of obstacles… all without a line attached, or what is termed liberty in horse training. “Equine Agility Sports is truly unique because it is open to all equine: horses, ponies, miniature horses, mules, burros, donkeys and more,” says Nichols, “and it is a great way to enjoy your horse experience without ever putting a saddle on your equine friend!”

In the clinic, Nichols will present the sport with her horses that are trained in Equine Agility Sports. She will teach the fundamentals which begin with teaching your “equine-partner” to work at liberty, or off-line. The group will also learn a very specific communication system to guide the horse’s every movement, and the equine-handler teams will learn how to teach their horses to go through, around, and over a variety of obstacles.

Nichols has worked as an equine professional in the Phoenix area for eight years. She has developed a specialty in working with challenging horses and has pioneered numerous horsemanship innovations to help horses with “special needs,” among them the comprehensive Leslie Nichols Relaxation Program™ which features the Relaxation Response for horses and Yoga for Horses.

“I have been using liberty training (working horses off-line) to rehabilitate horses for years,” says Nichols. “Further, asking horses to go through, over and around obstacles has been a trust exercise that I have incorporated into my groundwork program. Blending the two to create Equine Agility Sports has been an obvious and easy leap for me. Besides it’s the most fun I think I’ve ever had with horses, and they really seem to enjoy it as well!”

At the end of the second day of the clinic equine-handler teams will be invited to show off what they can do in a fun competition, which will touch on all of the areas that they have been learning and practicing for the previous two days.

The Equine Agility Sports clinic is hosted by Bison Ranch in Heber. The clinic will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 7 and Sunday, Aug. 8, with a break for lunch. Attendees of the clinic may dine at Bison Ranch for lunch or enjoy the ranch amenities during their break.

The clinic is open to owners of horses, ponies and miniature horses (but please leave stallions at home). Nichols is accepting only 20 equine-handler teams, so space is limited. The fee is $80 per team. Members of 4-H are invited to attend for a discounted fee of $70 per team. Auditors are welcome for a daily fee of $15. Equine-handler teams are encouraged to sign up early to reserve their space.

Bison Ranch offers accommodations for clinic attendees to keep their horse at the ranch over the weekend. There are also rooms available for overnight stays. Be sure to make reservations in advance, as space may be limited.

Owners of horses, ponies and miniature horses who want to know more about the Equine Agility Sports two-day clinic or to reserve your spot are encouraged to call Nichols at 602-571-7121 or contact her by email: leslienicholshorsemanship@gmail.com.

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