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Under the watchful eye of trick riding instructor Veronica Painter, left, Lily Hinners tried Roman riding on trick riding horses Remi and Fez. Since March, Painter has been presenting trick riding clinics at Dover Stables near Waterford.

The trick to mastering trick riding is top-notch instruction and a steady mount. Those elements are offered at trick riding clinics held at Dover Stables near Waterford. The stable held its most recent trick riding clinic Nov. 16-17 with professional trick rider Veronica Painter.

“This is our fourth trick riding clinic we’ve hosted at Dover Stables since last March,” said dressage trainer Bethany Tuskey of Dover Stables. “We hosted four clinics with Veronica this year and plan to do so again next year. It has been a wonderful experience learning trick riding and everyone always has a great time at her clinics.”

Since March, Painter has been bringing her trick-riding trained horses for clinic participants to learn on. Along with learning to do such tricks as Roman riding, clinic participants can try vaulting.

“Trick riding is something I’ve always wanted to try so when I found Veronica on Facebook a year ago I knew we had to bring her to Wisconsin,” Tuskey said.

Tuskey rides and trains in the dressage discipline, but she’s found trick riding complements her dressage riding; she encourages all her students to try it.

“(Trick riding) requires a great deal of balance, flexibility and control of your body, all things that are also important in dressage,” Tuskey said. “Since March, I’ve been learning how to stand on top of a trotting horse and it is very similar in principle to learn how to sit correctly on a horse without bouncing or losing your balance. It also increases the riders’ confidence in the saddle because if you can do tricks then normal riding is suddenly much less scary.”

Painter travels around the country performing in circuses and Renaissance fairs as well as teaching clinics and camps from her stable in Illinois. She started trick riding in 2011 when she was interning at an equestrian dinner theatre.

“I never came across the opportunity to trick ride before, so when it finally came time it sparked my interest because it was so different,” Painter said.

Painter says doing tricks on horseback is very different from other forms of riding because the person really isn’t riding.

“You’re not controlling the horse, holding reins, you’re not even sitting in the saddle for the most part,” Painter said. “The horse becomes a moving platform for athletic activities.”

For safety reasons, Painter advises trick horses need to be very steady and able to handle distractions without becoming bothered. It takes a lot of repetition at a slow pace to get the horse accustomed to do various tricks.

“When it is time for a trained trick rider to find a horse, one should look for a non-flighty confident horse for safety measures,” Painter said. “Then that horse should go into training with an experienced trick riding professional.”

While most clinic participants are beginners, Painter will work with riders of all levels and all ages, from seven to 70 years. Previous experience with riding and horses isn’t even necessary to try trick riding.

“I’ve really enjoyed seeing my students try new skills and watching their confidence soar as they are able to accomplish things they never thought they would be able to do,” Tuskey said.

Clinic participant, Shannon Schlitz of Union Grove, has been riding horses for more than 30 years. She’s found trick riding has increased her enthusiasm for riding in general.

“Although I love horses and I love my chosen disciplines, it has become hard to be excited about it,” Schlitz said. “At times, it can seem like more of a chore than a privilege. I do eventing and jumpers and had tried everything I thought I wanted to try when it came to riding. Then one day, I saw an ad for a trick riding clinic and I decided to give it a shot. Within the four hours, I did things I never realized were possible. I pushed myself to the limits of fear and excitement and it was intoxicating. It has brought me new friendships, new goals, new passions and it has brought me closer to the animals I have loved for so much of my life.”

Another veteran horsewoman, Sharon Smolensky of Kansasville, agreed and said, “It’s always fun and challenging to try something new, even at 69 years old.”

Clinic participants always start their trick training at a stand-still and then move up to a walk or trot before moving to canter and gallop.

“For me, difficulty comes with speed or certain tricks,” Painter said. “For Roman riding, jumping the horses or standing backwards brings more difficulty. For vaulting, various vaults or jumps on the horse at higher speeds adds difficulty and for trick riding, certain high speed vault variations or tricks like going under the belly of the running horse needs absolute precision at top speeds.”

Vaulting is when the rider stands with both feet on one horse and Roman riding is when the performer stands on the back of two horses with one foot on each horse. Clinic participants can also learn Cossack riding with a trick saddle that has special handle and straps for various tricks.

“Learning vaulting has been a great experience,” said Lily Hinners of Kansasville. “It’s a challenge but so much fun. I can’t wait to do it again.”

Beginners are usually able to kneel and stand on a horse at a halt and walk and do tricks like standing on one side of the saddle and laying across the saddle at a halt and walk. Harder tricks can include standing on the horse at a trot and canter and vaulting onto the horse while it’s moving.

Some of the students have become serious about learning the skills and spend the week before the clinic to work with Painter privately.

“These students have been working with her since March when we started and are now learning some harder tricks,” Tuskey said.

For more information about future trick riding clinics, contact Tuskey at tuskeydressage@gmail.com.