Sunday, April 27, 2014

Buck Brannaman clinic - Red Bluff - Day 3

I ache. I ache in places that I shouldn't ache. Yesterday I ached because of the seam of my jeans, if you know what I mean (I wore new jeans for the first time). Today I ache because of the borrowed chinks. While walking around (in the saddle) the past couple of days I didn't notice it, but once we started the long trot today, I felt it. My friend's chinks are custom made for her. She is very petite. The edge of the right leg is too far up near my crotch and doesn't end at where my crotch and thigh connect (or even an inch or so down the thigh). Because of this, for some reason, it was pinching right at my very upper inner thigh. And it caused a bruise. I'd take a picture but I fear it is just too much in the wrong spot for it to be socially acceptable.

The one picture I did get is of my busted lip. It isn't a huge cut but sore enough and annoying enough that I can't put chapstick there! And I'm addicted to chapstick. The irony is that I bit into my lip because Mac swung his head around when I was leaning in to kiss his nose. I'm pretty sure that's something that shouldn't happen at a Buck Brannaman clinic where ground work and the concept of personal space and moving your horse's feet is a daily discussion.

(Nice wrinkles and the camera angle makes my nose look big and my face look all out of proportion!)

Before I go on I want to clarify something I wrote yesterday about the main hint on the 180/180 exercise. The biggest thing I got from it was the stopping of the hind feet. Yes, check. But what Buck clarified in today's second class is that the stop is more of a pause. When I watched him do it on Reuben, I noticed that he stopped the front feet, took about two more steps with the back feet, and then asked for the crossover in front. He said you still have to have impulsion to make the exercise work. When I tried it in class today, trying to feel for those last couple of hind foot steps, I did get better front cross-overs - but I still have a lot of work to do because I think my hand position is not quite right.

Ok, now on to today's stuff. In the morning class he got out his rope and showed how you'd get a horse trained to stand well for the farrier. He roped his stud colt Guapo's right hind leg (really cute red roan) because Buck said he was a little sticky on that leg in the beginning. He pulled it away from the horse and Guapo didn't like it one bit so he tried and tried and tried to pull his leg away. Buck held it still (he didn't fight with him, just held it) and when Guapo accepted it, Buck lowered his foot to the ground. But it didn't end there. He wanted Guapo to put the leg down in a resting position so he'd still need to balance on three legs. When Guapo tried to put the foot down flat, Buck would pick it up with the rope and try again. I wish I had my phone with me so I could have gotten pictures, but I didn't bring it to any of the other classes. I'll try to remember to bring it tomorrow.

So at the lunch break, what did I do but get out my rope and go to Mac's paddock and do some more rope work. Today I did similar to yesterday but I roped each front leg and led him by it and then roped each back leg and backed him by it. Not a lot, and not necessarily with great finesse, but just enough to get myself started on how to do it and get a feel for the exercise in a confined-but-not-too-small space. Mac was great.

I decided in addition to my hackamore again today I would put on my spurs. Buck talks about people not spurring their horses with every step or every request, and I feel confident enough in using them that I don't think I do that (although I probably go to them more than I should but a bit more about that later). In the warmup before class started, Mac was great. We worked on a soft feel, turns with legs, transitions, and I cantered him for the first time in the hackamore. I knew from the previous class that we'd be doing lots of trotting and so I wanted to get an idea of how he'd feel.

It does seem to me that he lifts at the withers nicely in the hackamore - I wonder if this is a standard by-product of it? After yesterday's class where we worked on a soft feel just a bit and I worked on my release, I feel like Mac "got it" and we made quick progress.

I asked Buck a lot of questions today. The first question I asked him about was getting the soft feel and if your horse goes behind the bit or overflexes longitudinally, does that mean you missed your point of release where you could tell the horse "yes" that he's correct? Buck said yes. He also said it can be an indication of not getting to the feet - the false frame that is created when the horse's energy gets blocked. Either way, he said the solution is to get to the feet and that what helps is working on the backing on the ground holding the slobber straps - that way if the horse overbends, he can be sure he gets to the feet and then releases accordingly. He said that (when he took other people's problem horses) he'd much rather have a bucking horse to shape up than a horse who goes behind the vertical like that.

I think that might have been the only group question I asked. This clinic I was brave enough to ask him a few 1/1 questions. The first was again related to a soft feel. In one of the earlier classes he mentioned dressage horses who are lunged in side reins and how that is such a missed opportunity to teach a horse to get a soft feel and it only teaches the horses to be heavy. Since I've had that experience with Mac, and since earlier in our training days there was a lot of focus on "contact" and taking it and getting the horse to move into it whereby the horse finds his own release, I wanted to ask Buck about that. Mostly because I think it made Mac a bit pissy about going forward. Buck's progression of forward and getting a soft feel is to start on a loose rein and to just go forward on a loose rein (transitioning up from one gait to another). When you are in a gait, you can then ask for a soft feel - but release right when you get it, even if it is very slight. Then you ask for a few soft feels with releases in between. From there you can do downward transitions with a soft feel, but not yet upward transitions. In class today we worked on that a lot. We started with the walk. Fast walk to a soft feel to a slow walk to a soft feel to a halt to a soft feel to backing with a soft feel. We did that a lot. Another person asked a similar question about his horse getting a bit sullen and crooked when asked to go forward. Buck basically said to get him straight and just ignore the attitude.

Related to that question I asked him about contact in the hackamore. He said even more important than in the snaffle is the release and making sure it is timely and complete.

A pointer Buck gave me about the hackamore is to ride with my hands wider. Because I'm not used to the coil in the reins, I tend to ride with one big loop between both my hands instead of a loop in one hand or the other. Buck said to make sure I do only have one loop and to widen my hands to really make sure Mac understands the difference between each rein. I mentioned that he said that yesterday but I wasn't putting it into practice.

The last thing I asked Buck about was my ankles. I don't know what is going on - if it is my boots or my stirrups or my fenders or the general fit of my saddle for me or the fit of the saddle for Mac (which I think has the most to do with it because it rolls I tend to try to heavily weigh my ankles to try to keep it even) - but my ankles are KILLING me! He told me I need to work on riding with my toes out more (great - after so many years of dressage training with a "toes in/forward" type of position) - that way I'll be using my leg more effectively and won't be rolling over the outside of my ankle, which is where all my pain is. Wouldn't you know, when I tried to do that then I was much more able to use my leg effectively and resort to my spur less. I love little tidbits that might not seem like a huge deal but which help a lot!

I'm really pleased with how Mac is going in the hackamore. Buck's pointers will really help and he did say during one of our trot sets that Mac was going well. Oh, one other thing I asked him while I was trotting around was about Mac's neck position. He actually felt good - forward and stretchy over his back, but his head was down in a long-and-low position. Buck said related to the soft feel that Mac's head needed to come up. I've got some things to focus on, like the timing of my release with the soft feel, position of my feet/calves, wider hands, timing for the 180/180, and on and on and on!

Tomorrow we may work on clapping at the end of the day. Well, we won't be clapping, but the spectators will be. The second class today worked on that - they started lined up along the wall farthest from the bleachers and then Buck had people start clapping softly, gradually increasing the volume. Then everyone moved 10 steps forward and they went through it again. And again. And then I had to go get ready for my class so I'm not sure how it ended.

More tomorrow - can't wait!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Buck Brannaman clinic - Red Bluff - Day 2

Well, I did it! I rode in my hackamore today! I figured before I came that as long as I was coming here I might as well bring my hackamore because it would be a great opportunity to get some pointers, and/or be told that I'm not ready yet. Yesterday I used my snaffle and Mac is being really good with all the commotion, including the mares that he loves, so after hearing Buck comment about the hackamore yesterday and today I decided to go for it.

I have a friend who is riding in the other Horsemanship 1 class and she asked him about trying the hackamore on her horse and he said it would be fine. He said you don't really know how it is going to go until you try it and if you're not ready or you find some holes then you go back to the snaffle and then try the hackamore again after you get some things shaped up. And maybe you go back and forth between the snaffle and the hackamore for a little while, but that's the way the progression goes.

He did list a lot of things that he wants the horse to be good in in the snaffle before moving on to the hackamore, and we've got a lot of those things down, so I thought I'd give it a go so Buck could at least tell me that I'm not ready, or if things look okay then he can give me some pointers.

Some of the things on the list are:

- walk/trot/canter on a "soft feel" as well as on a loose rein
- solid at simple changes
- lateral work (leg yields, shoulder in, haunches in, side pass)
- small circles at the canter (in balance, of course)
- cow work
- backing in circles

And so much more that I don't even remember right now.

In the other H1 class he's got Reuben in a hackamore (very early in it) and so he did talk a bit about using the reins and the progression of how you'd use them on a horse who is new to the hackamore with the goal of how you'll eventually use them. I asked him about using the reins and he said to start with wide hands and eventually you'll work toward keeping them in a smaller "box" or "rectangle" and the horse will bend around the rein vs. the rein being used as an opening rein, so to speak (like a snaffle on a green horse where you start with wide hands for basic steering and then eventually you bring your hands closer together and your aids get less and less visible). Sorry for the crappy picture but I only had my phone and I was far away.

So Mac was really good! We worked on flexions, getting the soft feel at the walk, shortening the walk steps and lengthening, the 180/180 exercise, serpentines, backing. He did give a tip on the second 180 in the exercise because a lot of people weren't getting it (front end moving over is the second half - after the back end moves over). Actually, a couple tips. One is that you start by bending the horse and moving the hind legs away from the inside leg (outside leg is off) - the tip here is that the front feet need to be still and your elbow of the inside hand needs to be at your hip. Then to move the front feet around the hind feet, you let the inside rein slide through your hands so that your hand is at your hip (where your elbow was) and you open your shoulder to the new direction, while bringing the outside rein to the neck and the outside leg is on the horse and the inside leg is off. I think I got that right. The hand position and the stopping of the front legs really made a difference for me.

I'm happy that I was brave enough to give it a try! And Buck didn't tell me I was not ready or that I should put the snaffle back on!

In other fun news, I also ordered custom chinks (the vendor was there this morning after all and had some made that mostly fit me except they were a little short and I didn't 100% love the color so I decided to order just what I wanted - bad news is they'll take 7 months!). And I bought a rope! Can you believe it?! I said I'd never get a rope and here I am with one. Buck was talking and demonstrating all of the groundwork things you can do with a rope and so I got one. And I did play with it a bit with Mac in his paddock where no one could see me. Mac was good - I got the rope around his belly (with the free end, not the looped end) and had him walk around me with it. I got it around his butt (looped end). I got it around a front pastern (looped end) and moved the leg and put it down. I got it around a hind pastern (unlooped) and had him give to pressure. Then I took him back to his stall and as we were walking I threw it out in front of him and dragged it behind me and all that jazz. I couldn't think of much else to do and I didn't want to drill him anyway so I called it a day with the rope. I'll have to practice throwing it at home first on my own on the ground, but then from the saddle! But you heard it here - I won't be doing any actual roping!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Buck Brannaman clinic - Red Bluff - Day 1

Boy howdy am I tired! Being in the last class of the day is hard because afterward I'm so amped up that I'm not quite ready for bed, yet I need to get some shuteye, especially since I didn't sleep well last night away from my darling husband.

Let's see . . . there is so much I could write, but I will focus on just my class. First off, I got a paddock for Mac this morning, so he can be turned out during the day.

I woke up at 5-something this morning and by 5:45 decided I might as well get my butt out of bed and get cleaned up and eat breakfast. I turned on the TV to see the weather and it looked bad. Checked and it still looked bad - rain was predicted for the whole day. Could you believe it didn't rain? It was pretty chilly and somewhat overcast, but as long as there was no rain I was happy!

The first class was Foundation Horsemanship, which was the class I did last year. This year's group was farther along than my group was last year and they got to certain exercises more quickly than we did. I think one reason was that there were fewer horses who needed a lot of attention (although there was one who needed a good lesson on basic leading and not walking over her handler and Buck gave us a good demonstration), and the other reason is that there weren't kids in the class like last year.

The second class was Horsemanship 1 and it was fun to watch the progress of people as there were some in that class who were in my FH class last year and they have come really far with persistent effort and continuing with quality instruction. I really admire people who stick with it and don't quit their horses and make the changes *they* need to make in order to improve the situation. One pair in particular had a really amazing transformation! (if you're reading this, you know who you are!)

Oh, btw, here's the arena.

A couple times throughout the day I got Mac out for some groundwork in the arena so he'd feel comfortable when our class came around. And it was a good plan because when it came time for our ride, he was ready and keen but not spooky or crazy or anything. During Q&A time at the beginning, I asked Buck what I should do about Mac's mean faces toward other horses. Buck said that in addition to keeping him in the box, which is what I control, not what Mac controls, that I should take him someplace else. I should always be riding and be aware of what is going on (which I am - probably sometimes too much because I get worried about what other people are doing) and have a couple different plans of action if A, B, or C happens. He suggested finding an open spot (he said that there's always an open area) and ride to it and continue with my work. He said that I need to always take Mac to a good place and that he'll trust me to look out for him. Horses are snarky either because they are insecure or dominant, but either way it isn't good to let them act out on their nasty faces.

There were a couple horses who were herdbound so Buck put two of his guys on them and they separated them and did ground work and then rode. By the end they had settled down and there was much less whinnying than at the start.

The exercises we did today were shallow serpentines, steering with the legs (scissoring - outside leg forward, inside leg back, switch when you change direction); the 180/180 exercise; getting a soft feel; stopping and backing and then going forward and back with the goal of not having any brace; turns to the inside lifting and placing the inside front leg. Mac did so well! I took Buck's advice and rode him to an open spot whenever I found one and soon enough it seemed like I had a whole little section to myself!

I think all the groups this time are well along in their training and it is a good group of people. Buck seemed to be in good spirits (not that I'd expect him not to be, but I can only imagine how exhausting it is to travel the world doing clinics all the time) and was giving more individual attention than I noticed last time.

I didn't get back to the hotel until 8:30 or so after tucking in Mac and just had some oatmeal for dinner. That's all I can muster the energy for.

I'm sad to report that there were no chinks for sale so I'm going to have to order some when I get home!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Buck Brannaman clinic - Red Bluff - Day 0.5

Today is arrival day, day 0.5. The weather is grey and cloudy and it is chilly and raining with thunder and lightning. Not what I like! Thankfully I got here before the bad weather rolled in and got Mac all settled and let him have a little run-around in the outdoor arena and did some groundwork in the big indoor arena.

There's lots going on - lots of people milling about, lots of horses whinnying greetings to each other, the guys delivering hay and shavings, Tina checking people in, people parking trailers, people riding, people doing groundwork, whew! I ran into some friends I met last year already, a friend from the cow clinic two weeks ago, and am looking forward to catching up with them and watching and learning.

My plan for tomorrow is to go early and feed Mac, get him in the indoor when the people for the first class are warming up (just so I can get him in there with commotion before any classes actually start and the first class will start with ground work), maybe have a short little ride, then do some shopping and watch the clinic ALL DAY LONG!!! What could be better!?

Mad props to my husband who is holding down the fort at home. Without him it wouldn't be possible for me to come here and do this.

There's a photographer here who will be doing the classes, but I'm on my own for getting candids . . . and I think there will be a lot of selfies, too. Here's one (I haven't quite mastered the technique!).

And one more - am I a total dork?

I'm back to update after unpacking in the hotel room and then going out to check on Mac before going to bed. I had to take some pictures of my shirts. I brought a lot of shirts. I'm here from Thursday - Tuesday morning. I brought six long-sleeved button-up shirts, three long-sleeved cotton shirts, three short-sleeved cotton shirts, and two tank tops. I also have three pairs of jeans and a pair of sweatpants and a new jacket that I got at the thrift store (shown in the picture above). So here are my shirts in the closet.

And this is my favorite shirt - another thrift store find! I've been saving it for months just for this occasion and I haven't even worn it yet!

I gave Mac a little massage tonight when I went out to tuck him in. I think he might be a little sore from the cow clinic, as he's been resting his RH more than his LH, but I can't find any heat or swelling, he trots sound, and he doesn't drag his foot or take any short steps. I might just be crazy, but I thought a little massage around the stifle and butt and shoulders couldn't hurt. He seemed to like it a lot, as we were standing in the dark outside the gate of the outdoor arena when one horse and then another got turned out and ran around bucking and farting and playing and Mac didn't flinch or startle or make a move. Actually, I've actually just put him on a magnesium supplement because he's got a thick, firm crest and from experience with a previous horse I know that Mg can be helpful with muscle soreness and tension. One of the good things about this venue is that there are turnouts for the horses so I can put Mac out during the day tomorrow so he won't be stuck in a stall the entire time.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pictures from the clinic!

I got the first batch of pictures from the first day of the clinic - thank you so much to the spectator who took them, I am grateful!

Here's a picture of Dave working a cow after he (from the saddle) took off his horse's bridle.

And here's me being wowed by watching him (wow, my hair is long!).

Here's the group holding rodear (did I say that right?).

Here are the cows in their pen before they opened it up. That cinnamon-colored cow was a bit squirrely and I got that one on my second try of the first day.

Here's Mac being impressed by something - either a cow or his girlfriend (he falls in love very quickly and right away had his lady picked out).

Here's an artsy shot of my leg - I wore these chaps on the first day and since we sat around and watched a lot, my knees were killing me at the end of the day. I ended up lengthening my stirrups for day two and borrowing my friend's chinks - time to buy some new chinks of my own!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cow clinic report - what FUN!!!

I spent a weekend at a cow clinic with Dave and Gwynn (Turnbull) Weaver. OMG - what fun! They are great clinicians and their clinic style is really good - since both of them are teaching, one will work with the group and the other will take aside anyone who wants/needs individual attention.

Yesterday we started with some basic lateral exercises and in my 1/1 with Dave I had some a-ha moments about bending and turning and moving the ribcage over without being too heavy in the hand and changing legs to change bend and direction. Of course that is how one is supposed to ride, right? But as with most people I go for hand before leg, or more hand than leg, and it was a really interesting and fun exercise that I'll have to add to my toolbox.

We did a little flag work before working an actual cow, and Mac didn't really think that it was a good idea to get too close to the flag. When we got to the actual cows, though, he was great! Gwynn and Dave have a "formula" for working with the cows (there was a herd of about 10 cows - yearlings maybe? - and we had to separate one from the group). Go into the herd and separate a cow (actually, I can't really describe how to do this, as we just did it without much trouble but other people got the whole herd scattered - I think it is because we picked one off of the end and others went straight into the middle), then "pitch it out" and get it away from the herd. Here's where I can start to mention the formula.

Ok, so once you've got your cow, you move with your horse being at a 45-degree angle to the cow and your horse shaped like a banana, "cupping" the cow in that hollow space. If/when the cow stops, you stop. Then when the cow starts to move again, you back up and draw the cow and load your horse's haunches, then you do a TOH to change direction (I got stuck here a couple times - you back and turn in one move but I was backing and then hesitating and then turning), and then you change the banana bend so that you are again cupping the cow. Lather, rinse, repeat. Of course it is such a dynamic exercise that it isn't that formulaic IRL, but they did stress getting down the backing and turning over working the cow. If you lose the cow, it is okay because sticking to the plan in order to learn/master it is the priority.

Yesterday we were second-to-last to go, which - despite his fussiness because he had to pee - was really good. We got to watch everyone else go first and because of where we were positioned in the rodear, we actually got to "help" the others with the cows by keeping them from running out and facing up with them and moving them forward a bit, or drawing them back if the main rider needed a little more space. It is amazing how the correct positioning of the horse keeps the cow drawn to you or allows you to keep it separated vs if you bend the other way it allows the cow to run right by you. Really cool stuff.

When it was our turn, Mac was SO GOOD!!!! He marched up to the cows like a champ, we actually separated one with little effort and were able to hold it and head it off in one direction. One direction was harder, which was not surprising given his preferred direction/typical unevenness, so we have something else to work on. Of all the things I've done in my horsey career, this is one of the most fun! Mac was really confident with the cows, not scared at all, and I think that considering it was both of our first times, we read the cows pretty well even if we couldn't perfectly execute the maneuvers.

Today I picked up on something that Dave was doing when he was demonstrating turns, so when we went off for the warm-up exercise Gwynn gave us, I asked Dave about the turns. What I observed in him was that he got a horse to turn by using the outside leg back at the haunches, not up by the elbow. When I asked him about it he said that it is because the haunches is the engine and the engine initiates movement and everything else follows. It was kind of a head-scratcher for me based on other things I've been learning, but I thought I'd give it a try and lo-and-behold! Mac had much cleaner TOH-type turns! I practiced that a few times and when I got some good turns, finished on a good note and then it was time to get to the cow work for the day.

I again positioned myself in the same spot, but it meant that again I was one of the last to go...and we didn't break for we waited probably 3-4 hours for our turn at the cows! My knees are killing me from spending 5-7 hours in the saddle each day and between yesterday and today I lowered my stirrups, switched from my full chaps to my friend's chinks so it was a little better.

Mac was even better at the cows today than yesterday, and yesterday I was really happy with how he did. We got a cow right away, moved it appropriately away from the herd (if you move them too far away, or allow them to pull you too far away, they've suckered you into moving far enough out that you lose control), got our "draws" much improved on our turns from yesterday thanks to what I learned from Dave in the morning, and Mac really seemed to be happy to have a job to do and to work the cows. We got to finish one and let it go, have a short rest and good-boy pats, then got another one (different, squirrley, tricky little red cow!) and worked it. We got it to a point where it stopped and we could "defend the herd" and I asked if I was done and Gwynn said to do just a little more so we did and it was great fun! Mac was so amazingly good! Gwynn seemed very pleased with our work and commented that mustangs aren't particularly athletic, but if you ride them right you can do good work (paraphrasing).

It was interesting to watch the other participants, too. There were some people who had horses that were either bred for cutting or who had a history of cutting and while the "formula" was the same, you had to approach the work a little bit differently because of what the horse knows. And there were some people who had high energy who wanted to chase the cows and people who had quiet energy who got the work done slowly and methodically. I'm a visual learner, so it was great to watch all different approaches.

Now for shopping - I have new stirrups coming (should be here in a couple weeks), I'm going to buy some chinks (maybe purchase at the Buck Brannaman clinic) because full chaps in the saddle for so long makes my knees hurt, new cowboy hat (of course I do ride with my helmet on) just for the heck of it, new boots (wore them today - they are so pretty!), oh what fun!!! But you won't see me with a rope on my saddle. I just can't do that, as I don't rope and I don't want to be a poser.

If anyone has a chance to do a clinic with Dave and Gwynn, I'd recommend it highly. Their clinic schedule is on their website: They are excellent horsepeople, great teachers, they are kind and patient and everyone gets lots of attention.

Someone was taking pictures yesterday - I hope I can track some of them down!