Hayden Many of the horseback riders in Hayden paused Sunday for a few moments before they were able to say why they traveled hundreds of miles to learn from Buck Brannaman.
“It's hard to put into words,” said Katie Nelson, who traveled to the clinic from Evergreen to restart a colt. “It's hard to do this event justice with just words.”
Nelson later went on to say at the clinic, "you begin to scratch the surface of how much a person can connect with a horse."
Barb Shipley, a horsewoman who sponsors the clinics, easily puts the experience into perspective for those who may not be familiar with Brannaman's resume or the intricacies of horsemanship.
“It would be comparable to going to a ski clinic with Buddy Werner, or today with Bode Miller or Lindsey Vonn,” Shipley said.
The clinics at the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden during the weekend marked Brannaman's 20th in the Yampa Valley, Shipley said.
Brannaman, who has traveled the world now for more than 30 years teaching natural horsemanship, was the inspiration for the novel “The Horse Whisperer.”
And his clinic in West Routt County has become an economic boon for the town of Hayden.
Hiway Bar manager Jonah Drescher said his restaurant was noticeably busier because of the event.
Tammie Delaney said the notorious horseman's presence and his international following was “huge” for business at her new coffee shop, Wild Goose Coffee at the Hayden Granary.
And the Midway Boardin' House downtown above Wolf Mountain Pizza hosted a couple from Australia who came just to watch the clinic and listen to Brannaman over a loudspeaker.
“You probably get as much out of spectating because you're not worrying about your horse,” Glenn Winsor said.
He and Kerry Winsor have five horses back home in the suburbs of Broome, and they said they are eager to apply what they learned here in Colorado.
The clinic's success and its international appeal has business leaders in Hayden pondering how they can generate more events like it in town.
They also are continuing to discuss how to improve the fairgrounds.
Wendy Lind, chairwoman of Hayden's Economic Development Commission, said a hotel proposal in the works could help do just that.
The Hayden Town Council voted last week to approve tax incentives for the project.
“Until we have that hotel, we would be hard-pressed to grow it,” Lind said about the fairgrounds and the events offered there.
Horse clinics in Hayden indeed have proven popular, and Brannaman's was sold out quickly after registration opened.
For those who aren't able to have a horse in the clinic, it can be “audited” from the arena for $30.
The clinics conclude Monday at the fairgrounds.
As she snapped photos of Sunday's clinic, Lind said in addition to a new hotel, events at the fairgrounds could grow if more stalls were added.
They point to Brannaman's clinic as a leading example of the facility's potential.
“On the (Economic Development Commission), one of our goals this year is to focus on the fairgrounds and use it for the facility that it is, which is a great facility with huge potential,” Delaney said.
Last summer, the 50-year-old bathrooms at the fairgrounds were replaced and upgraded with the help of a $200,000 Great Outdoors Colorado grant and a $100,000 match from the fairgrounds.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com