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!

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