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!!!!!


  1. Great stuff, Susan. I love getting a refresh on the Buck clinics by reading reports. It sounds like yours was great. Buck was instrumental in changing the way my wife and I work with our horses, too. And we've only audited so far; I'm jealous you got to ride with him.

    I'm looking forward to the report on Day 4 and seeing what these skills will mean for the rest of your rides with Mac.

  2. I hope you get to ride with him one day - it is sooooo worth it!!!

    Thanks for reading my blog!


  3. Hey Susan -
    I busted out laughing at the "koolaid" and "matching tack" comments!

    I really love the way you are breaking your learning all down and especially that you have it in print with pictures for later. You will be glad you did.

    Way to go!

  4. Ah, so Buck spins are more like dressage pirouettes except he wants that foot planted while in dressage you want it to rise and fall in time with footfalls but basically in the same hoofprint. !!! Thanks for writing!

  5. Yes, like dressage pirouettes. In fact, one of the riders in the later class was asking him about dressage and pirouettes and he basically said that if you can get these exercises down (setting up the hind end to load correctly and then the timing of lifting and moving of the front feet), then you're 90% of the way there with pirouettes.

    I love the way he breaks everything down into the smallest step. It makes the "finish line" look not so far away (as opposed to other trainers who make it seem like such a difficult concept to grasp that you'll never be able to do it alone). Which is not to say I don't appreciate a good trainer and eyes on the ground, because I do, and I've worked with some people who really have explained biomechanics in a great way.