Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New videos - with new bridle!

Yesterday's ride was an exercise that served two purposes: 1) to prove that doing ground work before riding IS important, and 2) that I shouldn't be lazy about not doing ground work. I set up the video camera at the end of the arena, so the video quality isn't good - there's no following zooming-in and zooming-out, and at parts of the video I go out of view. Still, it is good to have on hand to show me what I need to work on. Which is not being lazy and skipping my ground work exercises.

I tried to do some of the ground work exercises under saddle and was moderately successful. For some reason the opening-rein-leading-the-inside-foot-in-a-turn is more difficult to the right. Had I not been so determined to NOT do ground work and prepared Mac ahead of time, it may have gone better. Well, something to remember for next time.

I also tried to do some backing exercises under saddle. Again, had I done my ground work beforehand, it might have gone more smoothly. Here's a video of us backing and then turning to the inside to change direction and picking up the trot; repeat.

I found Mac to be more braced than when I do my . . . guess what!? . . . ground work ahead of time. I tried to work through some of this with starting some leg yield work. I had actually done a modified leg yield zig-zag a couple days ago and it went really well. Due to the size of my arena, though, I had only room for a zig and half of a zag. Yesterday I cut the leg yielding short because I didn't want to go out of frame. Anyway, this video shows our attempt at that.

In our trot and canter work, I tried to work on keeping my hands steady and quiet, and I think I did a good job of that. After watching how Buck warms up on such a loose rein, I wanted to try that as well, but I turned out to be somewhere in between loose rein and contact, with my reins too long and Mac in sort of an in-between posture.

Here we are cantering left.

And here we are cantering right.

I was really hard on myself last night after watching the whole video. So of course I spliced it up into smaller videos that I didn't hate so much and when I look back on them today they don't look as bad as I thought. I was just disappointed in myself because I've been feeling like we are so *right there* together and in synch. And it comes from doing ground work. And I didn't do it yesterday, so I was working with a braced feeling and not the lightness that I have been feeling.

Well, lesson learned!!

Today I DID do ground work before riding and had a very lovely ride, thankyouverymuch. I just don't have any video to prove it! ;-)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

And the work continues

So armed with a headful of new ideas from the Buck clinic I came home to practice what I learned. For the first few days after the clinic I continued to work Mac in the rope halter before I got on. Soon enough, though, I decided to just bridle him right away and take him out to the arena. I still do a bit of ground work before mounting, but in the bridle instead of the halter.

Some of the exercises I do are the "drift" exercise, moving forward and back from a soft feel (with me standing in front of him), backing in circles, and moving "off the leg" from a bump with the stirrup. Then I get on and work on the short serpentines, small circles with the front crossing over, small circles with the hind crossing over, then putting those together for the 180/180 exercise. I also work on longitudinal flexion after doing those lateral flexion exercises. At the halt I ask him to give to contact and then release. From there, I move into backing, and then backing and finishing with moving the front legs around 180 to change direction. Of course in a perfect world this would all go smoothly and easily, but each day is new and some days are better than others.

Today was the first day I rode Mac since last Wednesday, as I work a full day on Thursdays and then Friday went out of town with Paddy to drop him off on trial for a lease. Then I had to work a full day yesterday. The wind is up today and Tomato (my husband's horse) has now realized he is alone in the pasture and so was calling out a bit while I was out with Mac. Mac was very good and did not call back and did not seem nervous in the least to be out alone - not that he ever is, but circumstances have changed with us now having two horses instead of three.

Mac was a little looky with the wind blowing, but he was very very good! At the times he wanted to drop his inside shoulder and move away from the rail, I slid up on the inside rein and practiced a 1-rein stop. After all the warm-up exercises mentioned above, we had a trot around and again when he was feeling a bit distracted I worked on circles. I talk to my horses when I ride, so I told Mac, "I have all day to ride you. I have nowhere to be but here, so we can work on figure-8 circles until the cows come home - which is not a good deal for you, my friend, since we have no cows!" Adopting this mind set let me settle into the work and he settled into the work also. I worked on refining my geometry and making good circles and finding opportunities to soften so he could be rewarded for carrying himself in a soft way. It was a great approach and we didn't have to spend too long on the circles.

We went to more trot work with the feeling of collecting for a few steps, and then moving out down the long side; collect a few steps on the short side, move out on the long side. That went really well! So from there we worked on transitions and then moved up into the canter and did some transitions there. It was a great ride.

I'm really enjoying this connection with Mac, and I think he's finding me to be trustworthy, reliable, consistent, and a good leader - at least I hope so, anyway!

I'm working on seeing if I need to adjust his saddle at all so while I was taking pictures for the saddler, I got one of him standing tied. Unfortunately the shadow from the pole is right on his face so you can't see how cute he looks, but you can see my new saddle pad!

Friday we meet up with his girlfriend Winnie for a trail ride - THAT should be FUN!!!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Buck Brannaman clinic report - day 4

Sigh. It was the last day of the clinic. As I mentioned, I bought a western bridle and had one of the guys at Frecker's (the saddle shop that was selling lovely saddles and bridles and bits and spurs and mecate (is the plural mecates?) and bosals and all sorts of other wonderful things) assemble the mecate and headstall with my bit. I had to watch carefully because when I got home I bought a new bit (they were sold out at Frecker's at the clinic) and would have to disassemble and reassemble it on my own!

Here I am at home, trying to figure out the mecate before taking it apart and putting my new eggbutt plain snaffle on.

Anyway, on the night of day 3 I had already done my riding homework and Mac had been so good that I just put the new bridle on him and practiced flexions. My first reaction was that I could "feel" more - or maybe Mac could feel more, because it seemed I could have a lighter contact with the mecate to get the same response as in my english bridle but with a heaver feel. I wonder if it is the weight of the mecate rope and the slobber straps that offer the horse a "pre-cue," so to speak, to tell him that something is coming? In any event, it was an interesting difference.

So the last day came and Buck wanted us to be ready to ride in the clinic right away; meaning, do your ground work before class starts and be ready to get on. When I brought Mac in to the arena ahead of time, as I had done every morning prior, he was quiet and settled. There didn't seem to be any tension, and I felt like I didn't have to do as much ground work as the previous mornings in order to get him to the same soft and ready-to-work spot. So, gulp, I got on. There were a couple other people mounted but everybody else was doing ground work. Mac felt so good underneath me! I practiced the one-rein stop from the walk, we trotted forward, we trotted in circles around other people, and if I felt him falling in to the circle, I would use a modified one-rein stop to get him to disengage the hind end, then continue forward. I think this is what Buck was referring to as the drift, so I'll talk about it for a moment.

Buck spoke of the drift in the classes, but he didn't have anyone practice it. I think I was actually already practicing it, so I think I understand what it is. When having the horse circle, change your body position and rope position to move back toward his haunches so he disengages for a couple strides. Then ask him to move out on the circle again. So you don't come to a stop, you have the horse just cross over behind for a couple steps, then go forward again. This is an excellent set up for the very thing that I tend to have trouble with when I first start a ride - Mac will get heavy on his inside shoulder. What he needs to do is line up his haunches and he also needs to understand the connection with my rein to his hind leg. This exercise helps with that and was one thing I was practicing before class started.

The last morning of questions someone asked about a horse who is terrified of cows. Buck had an interesting comment about horses and cows. I'm paraphrasing, of course, so I hope I'm correctly summing up what he said. He said the first time he heard of a horse afraid of a cow, he thought it was a joke because in his experience with working ranch horses, horses inherently know they are superior to cows. Horses are faster than cows and they know they can move them around. Otherwise, he said, we'd ride cows and rope horses . . . that got a good laugh. To work with this problem, change your approach (your, as in the person) to the cow. Instead of being scared of the cow and thinking you hope your horse doesn't spook at it, think "I'm gonna git you, cow!" and move with the intent to move the cow. Once the horse realizes that he makes the cow move (just like the dominant horse makes the lower horses move), then the story changes and the horse becomes confident.

So back to the riding part. We all mounted up and Buck had us working on the same things the other classes had been working on from day 1: short serpentines and the 180/180 exercise. He watched us as we played around with that for a while and I'm happy to say that Mac was totally focused on me this last day, and I was totally focused on him. I wasn't worried about where other horse/rider combinations were, I wasn't worried about who was doing what, I completely forgot that there might be anyone watching us (even Buck!), and I was really in the moment and in the exercise. Now, that doesn't mean I did the exercise perfectly, of course, but I did have moments of getting it and so I would keep hunting those moments.

After working on those on our own for a while, Buck had us see if we could take a soft feel on the reins and practice a bit of longitudinal flexion at the walk. Then we'd take a soft feel and stop; then walk forward; then do a serpentine or 180/180 - basically we mixed it up a bit with all the things we had been practicing. He had us change direction with purpose, paying attention to our timing . . . this is a funny thing. Not ha-ha funny, but interesting. I find I'm guilty of this so often, and I saw other people in the other classes were, too. When doing an exercise, one can be so intent on trying to do it right - there's a lot of try there and a lot of attention to detail. Yet when the exercise is over and we stop for a break or chit chat, we stop feeling of the horse, we stop riding. The first time I noticed he drew attention to this was with one of the riding classes earlier in the clinic. When he asked people to reverse direction, they just fell apart and stopped focusing on their feel and timing. I don't know why that is, but I get it and I'm guilty of it as well. Basically, we should be riding with purpose and quality all the time!

Buck mentioned a time when he was riding one of his horses . . . actually, I don't remember the set-up, but I don't think it was in a clinic. Anyway, he came in from his ride and someone asked him how it went and he said he had a good ride. The other person said "but you didn't do anything, you just stood there!" Buck commented that to an outsider maybe that's all it looked like; but to him, he was developing feel and timing the whole time. He was working with the horse on such a subtle level of shifting weight in response to cues that to someone who wasn't paying attention, it looked like nothing was going on. That level of subtlety is certainly something to strive for!

In our closing circle Buck said he was proud of all of us - we tried hard, we did good work, the horses progressed throughout the clinic. On the first day he said he "hates Fridays and loves Mondays" because Fridays are a bit chaotic, but Mondays are the days when it all comes together and you can see the results of everyone's efforts. It was a bit melancholy, too - the energy had changed because we'd all be leaving after this.

I wish I could do the clinic justice in my writings here. He shared so many stories, but if I wrote them all down at once it would make your eyes bleed from reading them! I learned so much by watching so many different teams work together. I learned so much by listening to his lesson-disguised-as-an-anecdote. You may think he just has funny stories to tell, but each one is a lesson in humility, grace, leadership, and life.

My goal is to continue attending clinics, to continue watching my 7 Clinics DVDs over and over and over again, to seek out quality people to learn from, to trust my own instincts when it comes to my horse, to never stop learning. It was truly a life-changing experience. And you know what? The last day Mac didn't call out to anyone while we were in class - that was my question for Buck at the beginning, and at the end, I had Mac's full attention. Well, almost . . . at the very end of class, in our closing circle, Winnie his neighbor and new love did quietly nicker at him - and he nickered back.

There was a photographer there who was taking pictures but I think it will take a while for her to get them up, so I'll share just one more that my friend took. This is me and Mac. I'm hot and sweaty after day 2 and I'm waiting to have my picture taken with Buck. Mac is calling out to one of his many friends, so his nostrils are flared. But I love the alert expression in his eye, the strength of his head, the trust he places in me to lead him through this adventure.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Buck Brannaman clinic - day 3

Mac was calmer the morning of day 3 - not that he was ever NOT calm, but it took less preparation to get him settled after walking into the arena. Again, we started with ground work and this time it was practicing the in-hand flexions that were our homework. We did some lateral flexions, longitudinal flexions, and backing in hand from the ground. For the backing exercise, he wanted the horse to be able to back in a straight line (it was ok to use the wall) by a soft feel on the slobber strap and then come right forward from a soft feel as well. The goal here was to get rid of any bracing that the horse holds in a transition from forward to back / back to forward. Eventually he said we would want to try to just rock the horse and shift his weight without him taking a step - shifting from side to side or front to back to front to back, etc.

The next backing exercise was backing in a circle. Basically the horse is slightly flexed in one direction, and the feet move in the opposite direction to create the circle. As I found out in my homework from the night before, it is much easier to break this down into quarter-circles before attempting an entire circle at one go. Eventually under saddle you would be able to do this exercise and then using an opening rein move the forehand over like in the 180 exercise . . . you're just going backward first.

Then Buck told us to mount up and we'd start our work under saddle. He mentioned riding with the flag and how you might do that and ride one-handed so you can use the flag as a back-up aid, or also to get the horse used to having the flag coming from above while under saddle. Here's Mac with the flag:

And another where you can see he's going to step over with his hind end (I think that's his girlfriend's butt in the foreground):

And Mac trying to get Reuben's attention because they were friends:

Buck had us work on one-rein stops, then standing and then moving the hind end over. We also were to work on shallow serpentines - OMG, it is so much harder than it looks and sounds like!

It was very impressive from a chaos standpoint. Whereas he had the afternoon groups working all in the same direction, since we started off practicing mostly non-forward-moving exercises, everyone ended up going every which way! I got so bogged down in moving feet that I wasn't executing the exercise very well. Every time I looked up to move, it seemed like someone was right there and so I'd circle some more. Gah! I will say, though, I got the feeling of how it must feel to train a horse to do a spin! It was fun to figure out that opening rein and linking it with a front foot and feeling like the degree to which you open your rein, or the timing thereof will tell your horse how long to hold that foot in the air and/or how far to move it over. What fun!

And speaking of spins, Buck went into a discussion about the difference between what he teaches and reining spins. IIRC, reining spins have the horse spin on the inside leg and he wants the horse to have the outside leg planted. He said it was more practical for working cows the way he does it, otherwise the horse wouldn't be ready to move out at a canter on a moment's notice.

As we were working our way around the arena in our serpentines, we got to the point where there was a flickering sunbeam on the ground that caught Mac's attention. Buck had the same situation with Reuben on the first day and used it as an opportunity to keep Reuben in "the rectangle" and centered and focused on Buck. So I did the same with Mac and he was very responsive. He did have to give it a good look, though.

Finally we were relaxed enough to have a little trot. Sheesh - I so look like a hunter in a western saddle!

So that was day 3 - a lot of just figuring out timing of aids and how what we did on the ground transferred to what we were doing under saddle.

And because I drank the Koolaid and it tasted good, I bought Mac a western bridle. I took the picture in his stall so it was hard to get a decent shot, but here it is.

Now I'm bummed out, though, because my saddle is black and my bridle is brown. I bought a saddle blanket that kind of ties them together but I want them to match!!!!!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Buck Brannaman clinic - day 2 report

I'm having a hard time remembering the specifics of day 2 at this point - it was all a blur in hindsight! I think it was more of the same to start, so we were to work on moving around the arena on the ground, not just doing the half-circle exercise in one place. This is really hard and I actually ended up doing something a little different because I felt like that was what Mac needed at the time. Instead of going around the whole arena, I worked on the fence-line near the stands, since that seemed to scare him the most. What I worked on was simply the half-circle exercise but with me standing in place (like in day 1 . . . we were supposed to be walking in a straight line, though). I'd pick a spot along the wall and work there for a bit, then move to a different spot on the wall and work there, and so on. What I did (and I'll refer back to this later so make a mental note) was to create a "chute" of sorts whereby Mac had to pass between me and the wall. At first the chute was wide, but I slowly narrowed it so he'd have to go closer to the wall to stay out of my bubble. There were points where I would open the door (ask him to "follow the feel" of my lead rope) and he'd hesitate. All I would do is quietly raise my flag - I didn't shake it, I didn't make my energy loud, I just raised it from pointing at the ground to pointing at him behind the balance point - and wait. I didn't increase my energy because I could see his little brain trying to decide if he could trust me and if it was safe to go through. And he did trust me, and he did go through (and as soon as he made a step forward, I lowered my flag). After a couple times of decreasing hesitation, he went through with no trouble so I'd move to a different spot.

Here we are goofing off at the beginning of class before the work started.

Back to what I said to remember for the future. Buck worked on the very thing I mentioned earlier about Mac with regard to thinking and trying to figure something out. There was another horse who didn't understand how to follow the feel and the invitation to move forward. He took the horse from the owner and did a demonstration on how to get it to work, as I mentioned in my first update. If he could see the horse thinking and considering and trying to make a decision, he wouldn't up the energy, he'd wait on the horse to figure it out.

Buck was all about patience and waiting on the horse, which was so refreshing! If the horse said no, then Buck would show him the right answer and try again until the horse showed some try. When the horse was trying, Buck would wait on him to get the right answer and Buck would let him just stand there for a moment and think about it, then go back to the exercise, perhaps on the other side.

So keeping that in the back of your mind, I came up with a theory on how Buck works with the students in his class. I've heard people say that Buck seems to ignore people or not give everyone attention. First off, I will say that if you have a question, he will take his time to answer it for you. The beginning of each class is a lot of standing around and talking because he is answering questions and explaining things. I asked a question before class "started" every day, but once under saddle or doing exercises I got no instruction from him (except for one comment where he said "good timing" :-D ). I think the reason for this is the same as what I mentioned above with the horse. I think (and I could be totally wrong) that if he sees you trying to figure it out and he sees that your tries result in a correct response (eventually - it is hard to get on the first try!), then you are going to have a better understanding of how to get it right than if he told you all the time what you were doing wrong. Does that make sense? If he saw me doing something and I was close to getting it right, and then the next time I got it right, then the next time I didn't, but I did get it right two times after that, he would see that I'm progressing in my learning and the best way for me to learn is to get feedback from the horse. The horse's correct response is the best lesson and that's what will make it sink in more than anything. I hope that makes sense.

Here's a picture break to look at Mac because he's cute in a big-head sort of way.

At the end of day 2 we put our bridles on and worked on flexion for just a little bit, and that was to be our homework for the evening. Working on lateral flexion from the ground was (of course) the precursor to getting it under saddle. Buck looks for 3 things from lateral flexion: bend (turning the head to 90 degrees), poll higher than the withers, and ears level. He is adamant that if the ears aren't level then the horse will be out of balance. Of course, in the beginning you're not going to get all three at once, so start by just accepting one thing as correct. Then as that is consistent, wait on the horse until he finds the next thing and build on that, etc. Again, this isn't something that we force our horses in to. We ask, wait for them to offer the correct response, and release immediately. If you take up the reins and the horse just starts to bend, reward that and build on it. When he's getting the correct bend, then wait for him to bring his poll up (if it is too low) and as soon as he does a minute lifting of the poll with the bend, then release. Build on that. Then once he's got the bend and the poll up, wait for him to level out his ears. Once he does, immediately release. And so on and so forth. Giving breaks for really good tries is important.

Buck said lateral flexion comes before longitudinal flexion, so after we practiced the lateral we moved on to longitudinal. Same thing. Poll higher than the withers. Ears even. This time the head should be centered. Reward for tries and progress from there.

Here we are practicing some longitudinal flexion.

So our homework after day 2 was to practice these flexions and also to combine "leg" into the mix with lateral flexion. So once you are in lateral flexion, use your stirrup to gently bump, bump, bump behind the balance point. Again, quietly and gently, and wait and see how light you can be with that aid to get the horse to move over behind. Release once he starts moving so he knows that's what you want is movement. Repeat. As with all the other exercises, be patient and wait on your horse to figure it out and release immediately once he gives you a try.

Buck is gracious enough to spend time at the end of the day signing autographs and doing pictures if people want them . . . which of course I did!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Buck Brannaman clinic - day 1 report

Last weekend I went to the Buck Brannaman clinic and am happy to report it was the best horsey experience of my life. I was nervous ahead of time because I didn't know what to expect, but it was the most amazing weekend - it is hard to come down from the high! I didn't take any notes because I wanted to watch and absorb everything I was seeing and hearing and if I stopped to take notes, I'd miss a lot of the action. So my reports are going to be from what I remember . . . but I remember a lot!

First off, the reason why I went in the first place. Exactly a year ago Mac bucked me off HARD at our second show. I had taken him to a show the weekend before and he was great, but this show was a different story. Looking back on it (and I had this realization right away), it was my fault, as I didn't prepare him properly. I was so used to my TB, who is easy-peasy at shows, who never needs lunging, who doesn't have to walk around to get used to anything, who isn't much bothered by other horses or people, that I forgot that Mac may not have been so easy. After he bucked me off, I got back on and rode and did two classes the next day, but scratched after that. I was in pain and I just couldn't take any more. I did what I could to work through the potential fear issue, but the physical pain was too much.

After that, I took a look at my program and what I was doing and realized I needed more help - and a different kind of help - to get me through these issues. I needed tools to help me get into Mac's head, to help me help him, to work with him so that I would be his safety net and that he wouldn't go running and dump me if the shit hit the fan and he got scared. Regular dressage training wasn't going to cut it - I needed someone who had experience working with mustangs and troubled horses.

I spent a couple months with someone who started me off in the right direction, and after feeling what a difference the "natural horsemanship" training made in Mac's rideability, I was eager for more. [Sidenote: I hate to call it "natural horsemanship" but that is a buzzword these days that most people understand to mean a more in-depth program of ground work, which is where we needed to start. Really, it is just horsemanship and getting more involved with your horse than just getting on and riding, but that's a whole debate I don't want to get into!] I had heard about Buck Brannaman's 7 Clinics DVDs and after much debating with myself about whether or not they would be worth it, I decided to buy them. That was maybe 3-4 months ago. And yes, they are worth it. Right away I started working on the exercises, and right away I started to notice a difference in my horse. On a whim I looked up his clinic schedule and when I saw he was coming my way, I sent in my application to ride in the clinic.

Ok, so that's the long background. I did the Foundation Horsemanship group, which was mostly groundwork and some riding. The first day as we stood around at the beginning, Buck asked if anyone had issues they wanted to address. I told him that Mac gets attached to other horses and loses focus on me...especially with mares. He's not herd-bound in the sense that I can't take him anywhere away from horses, because that actually isn't a problem. It's if we're in the company of other horses that he is so interested in them that he doesn't pay attention. Buck said that the exercises we'd work on in the clinic would help with that. He said that through keeping the horse in "the rectangle" and centered with you, that eventually the horse will seek that out himself and the distractions won't be an issue.

If you've watched the 7 Clinics DVDs, then you know what we did in the clinic. I'm glad I watched the DVDs and had been practicing the exercises, because I felt totally prepared. This first day we worked on making a circle with correct bend. We worked on getting the horse to "follow the feel" - doing this on the ground with the lead rope is just the first step, but will carry over to everything else - by opening the lead rope and inviting the horse to go in that direction. If the horse didn't reply, we'd give a little shake with the flag behind the balance point (girth area - flank or butt) to encourage him forward. If he didn't go, follow up with a more energetic response. We worked on bringing the rope back toward the hip and stepping in to the hip to disengage the hind end, getting the horse to cross over and come to a stop. We worked on backing. We worked on each thing separately, and then put it all together. He does a really good job of breaking things down. We also worked on the difference between a neutral lead rope that has no life in it and an active rope that is telling the horse to do something. We worked on getting the horses used to the flags and having them stand there while we moved them around the horse - and the horse knows to stand because the rope isn't telling him to do anything and our energy isn't being directed at him.

Here's a picture of me waving the flag around . . . notice Mac is relaxed and isn't reacting because my lead rope and my body energy aren't instructing him to do anything.

At the end we practiced a half circle exercise while we were standing still and moving the horse around us. So go a half circle, move the hindquarters over, stop the horse, direct the horse in a half circle in the opposite direction, repeat. Then our homework was to do that while walking in a straight line - so we would walk forward in a straight line and the horse would do half circles in front of us whilst we continued to walk. It's hard to get that timing right!

I watched the other groups, which were both riding - no ground work. There were a couple of really troubled TBs and one troubled Arab in the second group, so Buck had his assistants work with them on ground work while he got everyone else going under saddle. They worked on similar things that we worked on - circles with bend, one-rein stop, bending and moving over with the hind end - they just did it while mounted.

At the beginning of the day Mac was really nervous in the big indoor arena with buzzing lights and bleachers and people stomping on the bleachers and music over the loudspeakers and banners and all the commotion. He also immediately picked out the mares he liked and called and talked to other horses a lot.

I did ask Buck also about energy. I've worked with a couple trainers who HAVE A LOT OF ENERGY - like everything they do must be like yelling to a horse, or at least to Mac, because he got a little nervous just being around them. I've had people tell me that he just needs to get used to it and deal with it, so I asked Buck his opinion. He thought the opposite. He thinks that we need to be there for our horses to support them. So if that means that sometimes our energy is soft and quiet to offer them support or relief, then so be it. If our energy has to change to perhaps get their attention focused on us, then that's fine, too. It is a matter of dialing it up and down to meet the needs of the horse, not a matter of always being on high and making the horse get used to it.

So here's my day 1 takeaway. Buck loves the horses. He does what he does to help the horses. He doesn't care what discipline you ride - good horsemanship is good horsemanship. He's very gracious and humble and funny. He also said some people come to his clinics thinking they'll impress him and his response is "I learned from Ray Hunt. Do you think you could do anything better than him that would be impressive?" (or something like that) He is honest and straightforward. If he's "picking on you" it is because he sincerely wants to help you and sees that you're not in a position to do it yourself (there was one lady in the afternoon group that he sort of singled out) for some reason. You should pay attention and try to do what he is telling you - don't just do the same thing over and over and over again when he is giving you tools on how to solve a problem. Do what he says. He hates it when people ride with rope halters under a bridle - it is ugly. Stay out of his horse's bubble. If you ride, then come back and watch the other classes - he expects you to be there all day AND to do your homework.

Here's a picture of Buck and Reuben, the young horse he used in the first two classes of the day.