I know, I know. I haven’t posted the pictures from Day Three yet- but the Easter Weekend got me all discombobulated. Add to that a trip to the Texas Hill Country, no internet while I was there and I have more to do than I can shake a stick at and, well, this is what you get. A Cowgirl that is way, way, way, behind! And I figured that since I’m so behind, I should probably try to get Day Four chronicled before I forget what went on. Not that I would. It was one of the best days of my life.
We started day four with the usual Q and A session. Lots of people had questions about the backing circles then turning out of them drill that we learned from day three. Buck had told us that we don’t kick our horses to back them up, which had caused all kind of stir from the day before. So that prompted him to show us how he progresses to a faster and faster backup.
To start his horses backing up, he simply picks up the reins, gets a soft feel, tips his shoulders back stays sitting in the go position and asks the horse to come off the soft feel. With the shoulders tipped back, it does shift your weight to a different location thus allowing your horse to learn to decipher the difference in go forward, and go back. Don’t forget that in Day Three he talked about releasing with every step. When the horse is good at the first method, he will then ride ahead of the motion, being sure to release with every step, but the release is late, which in turns makes your horse hurry. After they’re good at that he will vibrate the top of his legs which gets a lot more life out of his horses. By this time he can speed up or slow down the backup, but he says the horses learn that if they hurry, they get to quit and go back to being relaxed, so it is more difficult to slow your backup down after you’ve gotten them sped up. He didn’t say you couldn’t do it, because of course he can. And so can I, though I’m not nearly as fluid at it as he is.
Through the course of the Q and A I asked a question that had everybody thanking me- “what do we do, if in the course of backing our circle our horse gets off course? Do we simply apply our leg and have them move off and back into the correct position? Or do we stop what we’re doing and correct it?”
His answer like many of them, was two fold. He said on a young horse he would correct that by forgetting about the backup, especially of we’re off by 45 degrees or more. He would bend the head farther around, and push the hip in the opposite direction (like a one-rein stop) remind them to move their hip in the direction we’re going, and then go back to the backup. He said on an older horse that needs a reminder, he may use a leg to help bump him or correct him back into position.
Then we talked about how he asks his horses to go forward. If you made me pick one thing that made it the clinic all worthwhile, what he said next would be it. But don’t make me pick one thing, mkay? He said that he sits in the go position (position 2) and opens his legs. If the horse doesn’t respond from that (and of course a colt won’t have any idea what that means) he is then in a position to immediately squeeze, or kick them to create some life in them. He said the common mistake that people make is that they squeeze or kick first, and then have to re-cock to build a bigger fire under their horses. After three days of practicing this, Gump gets it about 90% of the time. I still need to work on me, but it’s so refreshing to have my horse go forward at the walk or the trot or the lope with little effort on my part. He said he rides his colts in the same way he’d ride his finished bridle horses, but the colt of course, won’t know what he’s being offered. However, because a horse is the master of remembering what happened before X (assuming we’re consistent and have good timing) eventually they’ll figure out that right after we open up, they’re urged to go forward with more energy, so before long they’re just going when we open the doors. Something else worth noting- if you don’t have to kick your horse to go forward, then your legs won’t become impotent (meaning that the horse just gets where he disregards any other cues from you about going left or right).
After that, he showed us all the ways he moves his horse’s hips, because as I’ve mentioned before, getting a soft horse begins with the disengaging of the hindquarters. I won’t go into the details, because he talks about all that on the DVDs we own.
Then he split us up into two groups by doing the good old count of 1-2, 1-2. The twos were in one group and the ones in another. He was going to have us work each other like a horse would be asked to work a cow. And I got to be his helper. Oh yes, me. He picked me to help him demonstrate! The point of this drill was to mirror each other. The group of ones and twos stood together in as the rodear (which is the herd being held in the pasture- and yes, we butchered that and came up with the word rodeo). That was good for a lot of those horses because so many of them are/were socially inept. I was in group one, but he asked me to come demonstrate. And lucky me- I had found someone to take pictures this morning, so you get to see it in photographs!
Me listening intently to him explain what we’re doing:
Buck explaining the purpose of the drill. We’d like the energy from the horses to help us pull them through the turn. And the homework we had from day three, the backing and turning drill was supposed to help us get this!
Me getting into position as the cow horse. And of course, Gump has probably worked more cows than me!
Listening intently. Again! I got pretty good at listening this weekend!
Buck explaining further:
Me picking up a soft feel and getting ready to go left (note the slack in the reins from my horse feeling back for me):
Me working my cow, getting ready to change directions:
Trying to mirror my “cow”:
Trying not to get beat by my “cow”:
He did beat me, but he was a good cow, and just stayed loping around the outside circle until I caught up. This was the first day of the clinic that we’d actually loped around in class. My horse never missed a lead.
My soft horse:
Me working a different cow. This one’s name was Kelly.
I hope everyone enjoyed the recap of the clinic!