Nokota Horse Clinic: A Huge Success!
A Painted View Ranch in Westcliffe was the
picturesque locale for the Nokota Horse Clinic held from Wednesday, July 17-19.
The Nokota Horse Conservancy has a clear mission. “The mission of the Nokota Horse Conservancy is to ensure the survival of its historically and culturally important breed. Through the establishment of a Nokota Horse sanctuary and continuing educational research, it seeks to advance an understanding of the
importance of preserving and protecting the Nokota horse.” Participants and those that watched from outside the arena were able to see these magnificent beasts in all their majesty. While wild at first, through the gentle
yet firm training of horse trainer, Michael Battenfield participants learned how to tame the horses. According to Lee Ryan Cornehis Owens, day one was very eventful. “Battenfield placed a paint mare in a corral with seven other mares who had been together for several months. We observed how the herd reacted to the new-comer and how the paint responded. We then joined the herd in the corral and began rodearing. (similar to sheep herding) Once the horses began to calm (maybe an hour) we then took turns walking through the herd. Eventually, the mares
accepted that we were just hanging out. It was so cool to watch their body language change and to see herd dynamics and the phases one horse uses on another. A bay mare (Corrine) was the dominant mare and treated the paint (Medicine Woman) like crap. Corrine charged, ran, kicked and bit Medicine Woman. Eventually, we drove the herd into an arena and into a round pen. We kept the horses moving until they decided it was less work to just let us be there and catch them. I learned today that I have no natural talent for roping. I practiced on a water bottle and after I first roped myself, got tangled and made some miserable attempts, my best effort yielded me
knocking over the water bottle. I considered it a
victory as the Ozarka bottle was too intimidated to
right itself and remained on its side in a surrender
position. By around 2pm, the mares were exhausted
and Michael used my rope and caught the paint mare.
She lost her mind for a moment and quickly learned she needed to do what he asked. Once she was cooperative, he led her out of the round pen, told me to follow, and I learned she would be my horse for the clinic. I worked with her, placing tension on the 22ft lead and then bumping her if she didn’t respond. Once she faced me, I relaxed the lead. Meanwhile, the remaining mares were being run all around the round pen. When they would spook or hit against a panel, my horse would get anxious, no doubt concerned they were coming after her some more. At one point she rared up and came down sitting back and pulling, taking me off my feet. She ran and the lead rope raced through my hands leaving a lovely sear. I caught her again and she got the lead rope
wrapped around one of her feet and then panicked and pulled me down again. My instructor came over and caught her and then worked her hard. She pulled him half way around the arena, twice. He looked like he was waterskiing. Eventually he convinced her he
was boss. He gave her back to me and we worked
and worked and she pulled me two other times but not enough for me to lose control. Finally, I could lead her around and she would come to me without my pull and I was able to pet her head, neck and upper back. 12K steps and 14 hours later I am exhausted, sore, and so happy. These horses are beautiful and their ancestry is traced back to Sitting Bull’s horses confiscated from him at Ft. Buford in 1881. The conservatory for Nakota horses is doing good work and I am fortunate to have this experience. One of the founding brothers, Frank Kuntz, is here at the clinic teaching us about these noble creatures.”
On day two, the participants made sweeping motions with their hands to show the horses that they need not be afraid when they were pet. It was stunning to see these creatures warm to human touch and remain calm. They also used a rope made into a lasso to show the horses that they didn’t need to be scared or alerted by the distraction.
Throughout the day, the participants learned how to put a lead on their horse successfully and the horse learned to accept it and
fear was lessened dramatically. That evening, Ralph and Donna Hood, owners of A
Painted View Ranch invited everyone to an evening of great music by Smythe @ Taylor, a local and internationally-acclaimed trio, a chuckwagon dinner that included juicy ribeyes cooked to perfection, beans, rolls, and mouth-watering peach cobbler with rum sauce. Frank Kuntz, Exec. Dir. of the Nakota Horse Conservancy, gave moving speech on how the
Conservancy came about and paid tribute to his
brother, Leo, whom passed away last year. There
wasn’t a dry eye to be seen as Kuntz shared his story and that of the beloved Nakota horses.
Day three was summed up by another participant that shared the experience. “We went to the mares and this time they approached us. We mingled with them and came close to being able to halter one. We moved the herd to the arena and round pen as we had before. Once inside, we walked through them and some would stand still and allow you to pet them. Once all were settled, the lovely Medicine Woman
‘volunteered’ (Mr. B roped her and she didn’t fight it). I haltered her and I led her out of the round pen. I repeated all my ground work of touching her entire body and rubbing and noted she was twitchy if I touched two separate regions of her such at the same time such as her neck and belly. I continued rubbing her legs, hindquarters, back, chest, face, ears, nose
until she just stood there, leg cocked and head low. I learned that horses lick their lips when they’ve relaxed. I used the end of my rope to toss it around her and on her and wrapped it around her body, legs until she didn’t react to it at all. I repeated the drunk, staggering, skipping around her, the bouncing next to her and and the jumping up on her back (not completely of course because moving this 54- year old, fluffy body vertically from 10” deep sand at this altitude is like asking me to do magic). I noticed today my horse was so much more relaxed and others could lead their horses around and people could come and go and crinkle water bottles or sneeze and she
I was more confident in my horsemanship and thus a better leader for her and she could relax. After lunch, we returned to the round pen
and haltered our horse with no chasing and fighting this was doable in part because Mr. B had left the 3 mares who were squirrelly - Blondie, Quest, and Licorice in a different round pen. We brought saddles and put them on the top of the fence of the round pen. The horses sniffed and eyed these items warily. Another participant who works at the ranch, Ashton,
worked with my horse for a while “introducing the humans” where she jumped in the horse’s back and hung there, rubbing the opposite side of its body and then sliding off. The next step was taking the saddle pads and tucking it under your arm, next to your body and then approaching the horse. The horses sniffed
and nibbled the pads. The next step was moving the pad around their sides and then on and off their backs and then onto their backs and then sliding the pad up and down their spines. Once the horse was comfortable the pad is left on their back. Next came saddles. Mr. B helped most of us but the system was placing the saddle atop the pad and then bringing the
girth underneath and holding it against their belly while strapping it, avoiding it swinging underneath. Cordelia, the horse Meg worked, lost her mind when it came to the girth. It appeared her belly and leg needed to be better ground-worked and Mr. B educated us that missing a step early on can come back to bite us later. Michael backed her all around the round pen and she reared up a few times and he
never stopped working her until she finally stood and then he released pressure. The other horses were a bit spooked by Cordelia’s panic and scrambled to move away from her tantrum. Once all (except Corrine) had saddles on, we removed their halters and left them in the round pen. The horses immediately examined
each other’s saddles. A few bumped stirrups and would flinch or hop and then they’d all react but quickly settle.
We observed an interesting dynamic
that Corrine, who did not have a saddle was no longer being dominant. After the horses had relaxed, we returned to the pen and haltered them again and we began new groundwork. We taught the horses to flex (turn their head to their left almost looking backwards). We also did work to familiarize them with the thing strapped to them such as lifting a stirrup away from their body and letting it fall against their side, rubbing the stirrup back and forth on their sides, tugging on the stirrups, then placing weight in
a stirrup. We then bounced up on to their backs,
draped over the saddle, weight in one stirrup and our left hand braced to serve as a pivot point to get off if needed. My horse walked around in circles a bit when I was first draped over her and then settled and I slid down. We repeated this a few times until she didn’t move. Then I went up again and swung my leg
over and voila, I was in the saddle. She moved a bit and I used the lead rope to turn her head to the left (flexing) and when she stopped, released the pressure. Since some of the participants did not have a horse to mount, we swapped. Cordelia was mounted by an experienced woman, Regina. Cordelia didn’t really care for the saddle which sat up high and
wasn’t as familiar with Regina and spooked, finally throwing Regina who fortunately was not hurt. Medicine Woman darted to the other side of the pen to escape Cordelia’s path which gave me a hefty burst of adrenaline as I sat atop a horse that three days earlier had never had a person on her back and only wore a bridal and lead rope. I stayed on, and she eventually relaxed. Michael then put Keegan on Cordelia while she was being held so she would not
end training on a bad note. Then we all dismounted, removed saddles and pads and led them out of the round pen. Michael then caught and brought crazy Quest into the pen. Using a stick and string he showed us how to get hindquarter control by not allowing the horse to do anything but look at him with both eyes. If she turned one eye, he applied light
pressure with the stick, twirling it.
If she turned away completely, he would increase the pressure by making a popping sound. Gradually, she learned that if she stood and faced him, he would leave her alone
and so she did. This clinic was a fantastic experience and I am so happy to have shared it with Meg and the other participants, auditors, owners, and trainers. Many thanks to Michael Battenfield, trainer extraordinaire, his lovely and horse -savvy girls, Hailie and Brooklyn for their tips and photography, Marlena Battenfield, who doctored my rope burns, and our hosts, Donna Hood and her husband Ralph C. Hood Jr., for their hospitality and for allowing us to train their new Nokotas.” To learn more about the Nokota Horse Conservancy, please visit: www.Nokotahorses.org. You may also
donate online if you so choose. All donations go to preserve and protect the diverse bloodlines of the Nokota horse through a managed breeding program, help with the continuing expenses to provide grazing land and the ultimate acquisition of a permanent sanctuary for a core herd, promote awareness of the breed, its attributes and historical significance through educational outreach, and maintain a breed registry and archive, according to their brochure.
- by Tracy Ballard
Hayden Outdoors and Twila Geroux's Street Party Shows Gratitude While KneeOn Sisters Dazzle
Last weekend, locals and visitors alike, were treated
to a Street Party hosted by Twila Geroux of Hayden
Outdoors Real Estate, on Main Street in Westcliffe.
Geroux, a longtime Valley resident, has been doing
these Street Parties as a way of “giving back to the
community” and a welcome event for all of her
buyers and sellers. According to Ginger Dunham-
Smith, mother of the KneeOn Sisters, “Twila sells
homes here for a reason. She wants others to find
their slice of our dream too and to give others a taste
of our community spirit. Geroux has won Top Real
Estate Agent/Land Leader award with Hayden
Outdoors for the last three years in a row. She has
won this accolade not only for her hard work and
dedication, but for her big heart as well,” Dunham-
All that came out were treated to delicious pulled
pork sandwiches and great music by the Valley’s
own, KneeOn Sisters. They have been dazzling and
entertaining fans since 2017.
The Kneeon Sisters, Aerial-Grace and Skyler Smith,
are home schooled and feel living in the rural
mountains contributes to the “white noise” that
provides “protection from the many worldly
distractions that allows them to focus on their
Even though they didn’t grow up in a musical family,
they loved listening to vintage rock, blues, and
country genres of music, and its strongly influenced
their style. The girls were also on their church’s
worship team and concert-goers will notice their
Christian upbringing in their bold performance.
They are also actively involved in learning the
business-side of the music industry.
“What came to mind was an idea of bright neon
lights and standing out,” the girls said of the story
behind their band name. “When we moved to
Westcliffe, we started attending the Cowboy Church.
We liked the western symbol of the cowboy/cowgirl
kneeling at the cross. We decided to incorporate that
symbol into our neon idea. What we came up with
was “KneeOn”, spelled the way it is to represent
kneeling (praying) on, continuing on; spoken the way
it is to show our individuality and how we want to
stand out.” Skyler and Aerial-Grace also compose
their own music.
Of the KneeOn Sisters, Geroux said she has chosen
them the last couple of years as the entertainers
because “they are good, they are local, and play my
style of music.”
The KneeOn Sisters perform throughout the U.S.A.
and bring their style of music and talent to the
masses. Their next local gig is on Friday, Aug. 9 at
the “River on the River Camping, Rafting, and Music
Festival.” This event is sponsored by River Runners
Rafting in Buena Vista. For more details and to
follow the KneeOn Sisters, please visit
www.kneeonsister.com. You can also find them on
To reach Twila Geroux, please contact her at 719
371-4344, stop by her office, located at 214 Main
Street, Westcliffe, or visit:
- by Tracy Ballard