Saturday, October 13, 2012

Buck Brannaman Clinic in Bristol, WI

Brian and I had the pleasure of going to a 4 day Buck clinic in Bristol, WI, which is a few miles north of Chicago.  Mornings were crisp and cool, and the afternoons heated up.  I forgot my hat so I had to wear Brian's.  Yep, he was very prepared and had a couple of hats.  :-)  I am notorious for forgetting at least one thing....and my pink camo hat was the thing.

Even tho I had a hat to wear, the sun was coming in at an angle, and I got my first sunburn of the season on Day 1.  No joke.  Mostly on my right side.  I have been careful since having a couple of precancerous spots removed so I was a little aggravated at myself for not putting sunblock on sooner than I did.  I improvised and wore my file folder for a while.....

Then I wore the bag that holds the folding chair....hey, it worked...

It worked so well that a day or two later this is what we saw in front of us.  Yep, she was wearing the bag to her folding chair.   :-)

The clinic itself....first of all, it was beyond awesome.  But I have to be honest...I left that clinic on mental overload.  But in a great way.  I just can't say enough good about this clinic, and the sound system was perfect.  We could hear echo, crackling, etc.  There was a time when the batteries started pootering out, but they fixed it once they knew something was going on.

We all know this, but everything Buck does is about the horse, period.  Every horse at this clinic is different, every horse is at a different level of training, and some horses get away with things (some things I am guilty of) that others didn't even try , some invaded space while others stood back at a respectful distance, some pulled and some didn't, some were more interested in what was going on around them because they didn't want to miss anything while others were hanging out waiting for instruction.  There were big horses, little horses, colorful horses and solid horses.  There were riders who were obviously experienced while others had less experience but had been riding a long time.  Altho I saw a lot of connections between horses and riders, there were some that stood out.  It just brings a smile to my heart to see those teams that work hard to learn more, and to see a horse that would do anything in the world for his/her rider.

There were two sessions each day.   The early session was for 'beginners' while the afternoon session was for more 'experienced' riders.  There were a few people who rode in both classes each day.  A couple of people had a horse for each session while a couple of others rode the same horse for both sessions.

Buck started out talking about getting respect while also helping students understand 'feel' (all ground work).  I learned something of the many things...  When flexing your horse, Buck makes sure their head stays level because this keeps the horse balanced and the head only comes around part way (If I put a glass of water between the ears - it should still be sitting level while my horse flexes).  If you flex your horses nose around so they touch your toe or their belly, most of the time the head is tilted sideways (like I have been doing) and the horse is not balanced at this angle.  Oh my gosh, there are so many little things like that that made sense.  Especially when he took it a step further to explain why the horse was not balanced, and showed us what happens when the horse moves at one angle versus another.  I had to remind myself that the other ways are not wrong, this just might be better for me and my horses

"For you to lead the dance, you need to start hearing the music"

One day he showed everyone how to mount from the fence.  Here is Gidget, his horse, giving us all the "Hey, watch this!" look.  That is another thing....Buck brought 3 horses with him, and all 3 were at different levels of training, so we could actually see him teach his green horse something new, or continue teaching them.  We saw mistakes from the horse, we saw Buck work on 'feel' and we got to watch the horse get it.  I know it isn't magic...but sometimes it felt like it.

Buck doesn't tap the other side of the horses rump with the stick to get them to the fence.  He wants them to respond to you from the feel of the lead rope or rein.  This is the best way I can describe it in words...he lifted up on the left rein and gave some little up and down movements.  I would not call them a jiggle, but close.  Eventually the horse learns that this means to bring the rump over to the fence.
The horse may go back and forth several times but when he/she stops....

...take time to let it soak in, and let them know they did good.

There were several moments when Buck was talking to everyone that he took time to 'talk' to his horse.  While talking he was training, and he was also loving on them.  :-)

Buck thought this fence was too short, but he made it work.  After some instruction to Gidget and doing some moving towards and on the saddle as if to mount....

....Buck slid right on.  Don't forget to have your horse stand quietly before you take off.

After every class he gave a list of 'homework'.  Yep, After the long day the students were not done.
One of the exercises was I have always done serpentines more like a series of 'S' shapes hooked together.  Buck had everyone doing serpentines shaped more like this old fashioned Christmas candy.  Looks easy enough?  Others thought so too.  Ha ha.  I tried it when I got home and I found I had to concentrate more.  Tripp did good one direction, but not the other.  Is it just me or does that left piece of candy look like perfect bacon?  Anyways, it was fun doing something new and for me, it helped to have a visual at the clinic to get me started.

Okay, not related, but it kind of is.  This blog has a video of how candy canes are made, and how this stuff is made - I have not watched it yet but I will!

Buck and his finished bridle horse.  Before class started, Buck would come out and ride whatever horse was going to be helping him with the class.  Students and horses would spread out to give Buck room, and Buck and his horse would do their dance.  Buck believes that part of learning is watching....not just being told what to do. 

Job well done...time to relax...

Buck let everyone know that if they are paying attention, they will notice he is always doing something with his horses, even if they are in the middle of the arena with Buck giving instruction.  Here he is playing with the rope.  Yes, this horse has been doing rope work for a long time, but they continue to strive for excellence.

"Learn to ride accurate.  Know where those feet are."

Let's just say that I have always trusted my horse to know where his feet are, so growing up riding the countryside like a ragamuffin, I never thought about it.  My job was to hold on.  I don't completely ruin my ride by focusing on the feet the whole time, but I am taking more time to feel what is going on below me, and trying to learn to set them up for a maneuver that will be more successful based on where their feet are.  Again, Buck SHOWED us an example of not knowing where the feet are.  How many times have we seen a horse stumble when taking a turn?  They catch themselves, but if we paid more attention where their feet are, then cued that turn based on where the feet are, they would stay balanced and that dance move would be smooth.    

Buck riding Gidget before this session starts.  Gidget is green so we got to see a lot of training with her to make her better.

See the sorrel horse rump to the left of this picture?  That horse is Tango, and he and Mike his rider were favorites for many of us.  Tango rode in both sessions all 4 days and even tho he improved so much and became so much more responsive and light, he did not run out of energy!  He is HUGE and thick, but I am still thinking endurance riding might be something Tango loves.  :-)

This is Karen who helped organize this clinic.  They did such a great job...and I know it was not easy getting everything together.  She is with Mike and Tango.  Here Tango has learned to relax...but see how he is checking out what is going on 'over there'?  He was like that the whole time and we all loved him.  When that horse would canter, and he loved to go, the pounding of his hooves hitting the ground felt awesome.  He was a horse with a very outgoing fun personality and after the 4 days of both sessions, I think he could have done another 4 days of both sessions.  This big guy just never ran out of steam, and Mike was right there with him.  They found him on Craigslist.  :-)

"I never school when riding, but I always ride with quality."

You have to make this picture big to see it...while talking to the class Buck was petting on the forelock of Gidget.  A tender moment that just was...

This is Buck's other horse, Reuben.  I love him.  With Bucks 3 horses, you can see how all three are great, but they all carry themselves differently.  I had more pictures of Reuben, but they did not turn out.  Darn it...

From Ray Hunt "You need to do less sooner."

This little gal brought Buck a bottle of water....then she takes off and comes back with a mug of coffee.  He gave the water back.  Ha ha...

Buck shared a lot of stories and experiences with everyone.  Everything from stories of him as he was learning, to past clinics and the different kinds of people and horses that were there.

My Aunt and Uncle live in Minnesota and I get an e-mail from her one day...she saw this neat guy on a talk show and he talked about training horses.  She really liked him a lot.  She writes "His name is Buck Brannaman, have you heard of him?  He is having a four day school and we are signed up to go watch."  So I got to respond that yep, we have heard of him, and yep, we are already signed up too.  It was a treat to see them......and I caught them walking hand in hand one afternoon.  Awwwww......  :-)

At the end of each class Buck will be in the middle and all the students will gather around.  He works around the whole group taking questions.  Almost everyone had something they needed help with and Buck took the time to address every single question, showed them what he meant, gave examples, etc.  Even if it was a repeat question worded differently.

The end of day 4....time for Buck to head to another location.

This is Sunflower Farms at the end of day 4.  We lucked rain until after the clinics were over.  This was a very neat place.  If I had to board, I would not hesitate to board here.  Phil who runs the place is such a sweetheart (he and his horse Shadow were in the clinic) and even tho there are a gazillion stalls, they still have the place set up to treat the horses like horses.

Buck took time to show us different tack that he uses all the way up to introducing the spade bit.  Buck says if you have no expectations, you can get out of a snaffle bit quickly and move on.  But he has expectations, and he won't cut corners.  By the time it is said and done, the horse has to EARN the right to wear a spade, and that takes years.

We have all heard "If you keep doing the same thing, you will keep getting the same thing."  I will be the first to admit that Tripp and I are not perfect, and I get ancy and want to go ride instead of work on something we need to work on.  There is nothing refined about what we do, but we have fun.  At the same time, I always strive to get better, even if I don't act on it and commit myself to a training schedule.  A clinic like this is very overwhelming for someone like me.  It is easy to sit back and look at the whole big picture of what you just experienced, and freak out because "I can't do that...I don't have time to do all that...on my gosh, how do I even get started?"...all because I am focusing on the end result of what I experienced, not all the fun stuff in between.  Well, guess what?  Yes I can!  Just take bits and pieces to work on at first....all those homework assignments he gave the students.  Like Tripp and I working on the ribbon shaped serpentines.  It is only one piece of the 10,000 piece puzzle we just saw, but it is one thing that will help make us better.  :-)  Little by little add a new piece.

Heck, I have no desire to train Tripp to ride in a spade bit, I have no expectations of making him a bridle horse.  But I do have dreams of us getting better and better, and if I should ever change my mind about trying out the bridle horse thing, I will know that we have prepared for the next step.

I try not to 'talk' too much on the blog because people prefer to look at pictures and read a one or two liner about it.  I wrote a lot...and I could write a whole lot more.  I can't wait until we can see Buck again so I can catch some of those things I missed this time around.

Until later....Karen and Tripp who wants to know who this Tango guy is that Mom keeps talking about.  ;-)  

1 comment:

derma said...

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