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Posse arena hosts horse clinic

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Oct 8, 2021

Amanda Dykes and her husband, Tommy, help fix the saddle on the horse of Stephanie Moratto during the CM & AT Performance Horses clinic at the Lee Posse Arena on Saturday. CHUCK BALLARO

No matter if you were a novice riding for the first time or a turner and burner at professional rodeos, there was something for everybody at the Lee County Posse Arena on Saturday.

CM & AT Performance Horses held its first of two planned barrel racing and horsemanship clinics on a beautiful sunlit day, with a full contingent of 20 horses and owners.

CM & AT Performance Horses is a North Fort Myers-based company that trains and sells horses and provides lessons for riders of all skill levels.

“We just thought there was a need for horsemanship and barrel racing clinics in the area. So, we started doing them and also take horses in for training,” said Amanda Dykes, who owns the company with Crystal McIntyre. “For everyone to get what they need out of the day, we limit the clinic to 20.”

Experienced riders were able to hone up on their basic horse skills, while new riders learned the basics of warming up horses and teaching them the cloverleaf pattern.

“We’re going to start with the basics for beginners all the way up to people who compete and have done this for years,” McIntyre said. “We start from square one in saddling their horse to competing and running barrels.”

The day began with horse warmups and a half-speed run of the barrels before they were put through their paces in a jam-packed day of instruction.

The riders, who mostly wore pink in homage to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, learned how to care for their horse and train them at home, handling horses during a performance and the ins and outs of getting the most from your horse while running the cloverleaf.

McIntyre and Dykes watched the riders carefully, jotting down things they need to work on before letting them go on a final barrel run to see how much improvement the rider and horse made.

The posse arena takes its barrel racing very seriously. It’s the bread-and-butter of what they do. If the riders weren’t barrel racing already, they were preparing for the sport.

Hailey Stewart, 19, of Alva, said she came because she liked working with the people and wanted to learn more than she already knows.

“I want to learn good horsemanship and to be better with my horse. I don’t barrel race professionally, but I want to one year,” Stewart said, who started riding horses as a baby. “If you think you know more than you do, you’ll learn you don’t know as much as you think.”

Michelle Waters, from Bonita Springs, has raced barrels with her mare, who doesn’t have a left eye, and said she wanted to become one with her horse.

“I wanted us to be a better team. I want to make sure I’m communicating with my mare and that she knows what I’m asking of her,” Waters said. “People think we’re just on top of the horse as it does as we trained them to do. Actually, we’re writing a poem and communicating around this barrel.”

Amanda Nabozny, the mother of Winter Hays, 11, said her daughter came to gain more experience and knowledge in her barrel racing endeavors.

“There’s always something new to learn for these kids and she wants to get to the next level,” Nabozny said. “This clinic and everything they teach these kids, we always take something away from them and it shows when she’s out there performing.”

“I want to get better at barrel racing. I have a new horse and this is a work in progress,” Hays said. “The clinic will help the horses and me get better and maybe be a champion one day.”