During an eight-day clinic at trainer Peter Campbell’s Wyoming ranch, student riders balance formal lessons with real-world riding, forge lifelong friendships and savor a learning environment like no other.

I sat astride my Paint mare, Bittersweet, oblivious to the 100-degree heat as I gazed, awestruck, at a simple pair of wagon tracks that split the open Wyoming landscape. The tracks had been carved into the earth, more than a century before, by the Cheyenne-Deadwood stagecoach, which ran from September 1876 to January 1891. As I took in the scene with my fellow riders, it wasn’t difficult to picture an 18-passenger coach making its way across the plains of southeastern Wyoming.

There were around a dozen of us, riders from all across North America, gathered at the Eagle’s Nest Stagecoach Gap with clinician Peter Campbell. Flanked by massive sandstone outcroppings, “Stage Gap” is the standout landmark on the trainer’s Hat Creek Ranch, an outfit 15 miles east of Wheatland, Wyoming.

My fellow riders and I had come to Hat Creek for one of two eight-day clinics Peter and his wife, Trina, host each August. The clinics give the couple a break from their hectic on-the-road schedule, which takes them all over the United States and Canada, and offers small groups of horsemanship students the opportunity to learn from one of today’s top horsemen in the quiet, relaxed environment of a remote Wyoming ranch. Students get the chance to balance formal lessons with real-world riding – gathering cattle or checking fence, for instance – in a supportive atmosphere that turns unacquainted riders into lifelong friends.

For the rest of this story, pick up the May 2006 issue of Western Horseman.

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