My head is still spinning from the 4 days I spent riding with The Master, Buck Brannaman.
Was it the same as riding with him in Texas, even though I took the same class? Hardly.
Was it just as challenging as the Texas Clinic? I’d argue that it was more challenging, because I was on a colt with about 40 rides.
Did he remember me? Yes! And we got to chat about my colt before the clinic started on Friday. He really helped me get The Dino (who most of you will notice looks A LOT like The Gumper- and he should since they’re half brothers!) moving out more freely by what he had me doing throughout the clinic.
Have I grown as horseman? You bet! Do I have more tools before than I did when I arrived? Absolutely! Did I notice different things about his horses this time, than I had last time? Affirmative! What I learned this time, really made a great deal of sense (not that what I’ve learned from him before didn’t make sense), but this, this was different. I guess I should get to it!
The first thing he explained to us on Friday, was how a horse physiologically gets collected, soft, and elevated. And how what happens physiologically, when it’s done correctly v. done incorrectly. As I mentioned after the first clinic- softness in our horse is our horse reaching back for us- and putting slack in the reins- but we got an even more in-depth, better and more correct understanding of it this time, as Buck has learned a new way to teach it.
In correct softness, and collection, such as in classical dressage style (loose rein- think war horses)/bridle horse riding (and I’m aware, that I’ve not yet explained a Bridle Horse), a horse must be elevated in order to correctly shift their weight back to their hindquarters. By elevation, you need the poll of the horse to be higher than his withers, but you still need him to be soft in the face- so he’ll need to be on the vertical as well.
If you were to take any horse, stand him on level ground and measure him, he’ll be his normal height. But sit on him, ask him to elevate and he’ll be an inch and half taller. Same thing is true when you ask your horse to collect up- they do get shorter, as I’ve explained before. He went on to further explain that when you ride your horse with his head vertical and his poll below his withers that you actually close the shoulder blades and do not allow the ribs and back to raise up. But if you raise the poll above the withers, the shoulder blades do open up, thus allowing the ribs and back to come up and properly elevate the horse (photo examples of correctness below).
Buck on his horse, showing us what it should look like (Monday Photos):
One of my attempts while moving out- looks pretty good though I might could elevate him a bit more (Monday Photo):
At the standstill (Sunday Photo):
One of the things I noticed this time about his horses, specifically when he was loping or doing canter pirouettes, is that his horse is exceptionally elevated. His shoulders are up, and his back legs are under him, and he strides out father through the shoulders and front end than a horse that any Joe Blow might ride.
Some of you are probably thinking to yourselves right now- do you want your horse to travel like this all the time? The answer to that question is, No. You do not. You want your horse to move as naturally as possible, until which time you reach for him and then you want him to reach up and back to you- because if you reach for him, chances are you’re going to ask him to do something, such as stop, collect up so he can turn around, or back up etc.
To teach us the proper elevation and flexion he had us begin with a drill at the standstill- and this drill should carry over to everything else we do on our horse- be it a short serpentine, a turn around, or a one-rein stop (all of which we covered in the previous clinic I attended).
In this drill we wanted our horse’s head above his withers. And then we were to picture a string with a rock tied to the end, attached to his foretop (or forelock). The goal was to have the string stay in the middle of his face, when he was asked to bring his head around to the side, and to have him straight up and down enough that the string would hang straight down from his nose. So you wanted him turned and on the vertical- something like this:
In the above photo, it’s clear, that his ears are fairly level- or they would be if they were both up, that his poll is elevated and that he’s on the vertical. That drill is something we (Dino and I) did become competent at doing and I’m just dying for the sun to dry us out so I can get on Gump and Nora and help them get better. We sat and did that on our horses for about 20 minutes the first day, and it was the first thing I did on my colt every day thereafter that I got on him. I would do 20-30 of them both directions each day before we’d start class.
Here’s an example of doing it incorrectly:
You can see that his face isn’t on the vertical, and if we were to have a string with a rock tied to the end of it, attached to his foretop, it’d be hanging down the right side of his face, instead of hanging down the middle of his face. I’m hoping that the incorrect picture will help you further understand my explanation.
One of the benefits to doing it at the standstill first is that it helps your horse to get balanced. You’d see a lot of people in the clinic whose horses couldn’t stand still at first while they did it. But the balance of your horse starts there so if you can get that working for you at the standstill, and you’re consistent, you’ll get more from your horse at other gaits than you would have had you not started here.
Once that was working for us, he had us gathering our horses at the standstill- but first we’d gather them up- not pulling up, but waiting for their poll to rise above their withers;then we’d move our hands back, to gather them at the poll, and put them on the vertical (remember to release when they got soft). The goal is/was to have them eventually where, instead of working our hands on a 90 degree angle- such as up and then back, making an “L”, we could work on a 45 degree angle, so we would be able to go up and back at once, and have the horse elevate his poll and gather up through his face. For those of you riding, that might want to try this, don’t forget to release when your horse gets the elevation. Once he gets that you want him elevated, you can then move your hands back and ask for them to roll in at the poll- and again release when he gives to you. Buck told us that if he had to pick one for us to get while we were at the clinic, that it would be the elevation of the poll, not the breaking at the poll. He said he has found that getting the elevation helps people get the release better when the horse starts to break at the poll.
And I think this is a good time for y’all to soak in what you’ve just read!
Part two, coming soon!
Previous Clinic Recaps: