I forgot to mention on day one, that Buck was a little hard on us. I had decided ahead of time that I wouldn’t take anything personally because after all, I’m there to get better. He said that the purpose of the clinic was to help us learn to help our horses. That our horses could be just fine without us, as they’ve been doing just fine without people for thousands of years. That is profound if you ask me. My job isn’t to boss my horse, it’s to help him understand what I want. And in turn, he’ll give me more than I could have ever hoped for. Before we get into Day Two, I figured it was worth noting a couple of other things.
1. I rode my horse on Friday afternoon when the clinic was over. I worked on the things that we had done that morning, in the covered outdoor arena at the facility. There were only 3 other horses in that space and it made my horse feel a little freer. His serpentines that morning had been pretty good, but they were better that afternoon. Same with the one-rein stops. We did some walking, where we picked up a soft feel, and then carried that up to the next gait- a trot, and then down to a stop. To get a good, correct stop out of your horse they should weigh nothing. You melt into them (by saying, I’m done riding), they, in turn, melt into the ground. By getting a soft feel on your horse, and doing it right, the feel comes through the mouth, moves through the horse to his feet- so he can carry it. And what that does is change the horse’s body weight and positioning. Here’s something not many horse-owners or laymen know- a horse carries 65% of their body weight on their front feet. In order to have a horse that is truly collected and carrying the soft-feel RIGHT, that horse must learn to balance that weight, even shift it over his back legs in order to do many of the maneuvers asked of him- be it in barrel racing, turning around correctly as in cutting/reining/cow work. True collection is a shortening of the horse- the horse gets soft through his face, jaw, chin, neck, head, shoulders, rib-cage, rounds his back, and in turn his back end- drives up farther underneath his body than it did previously.
2. As to the one-rein stops- what people and especially those in the horse world need to understand about that maneuver, is that it’s a tool and a means to teach a two-rein stop. And if you do it right, your horse should learn to reach back to you, as you slide your hand down the rein, asking for him to disengage his hips in the opposite direction you’re asking him to reach with his face. And while it’s best done at the walk and trot, those people with good feel, who understand foot cadence can do it at a faster gait if they’re aware enough of their horse’s lead and speed, and don’t expect him to just immediately come around.
Now on to day two. It started with a bang. As in a student got bucked off her horse. But before we go there, I should mention that Buck was walking down the side of the arena, just as I bumped my horse into the jog-trot with a soft feel, and he said to me, “lookin’ good, Jen”. It made my day!
After I had sufficiently picked up my soft feel at the trot I moved my horse into the lope and as I came across the middle of the arena to change leads (we’ll talk about those later) my metal stirrup made some noise and I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a woman’s horse attempt to scoot out from under her. The next thing I know, there’s a foot of daylight between her tail and the saddle, and he’s done run off and left her. Itwasllmyfault. Well, not really, because clearly she had a communication problem with her horse. Buck decided he’d work her horse from the ground that day, and flag him, as we do to all our colts. It’s something every horseman should do to help their horses learn that they can handle noise and commotion. That we’re not out to hurt them. That by moving their feet to get away, we can still direct that energy from the ground (or their back), and in turn they can learn to stand. Confused yet, anyone?
The long and short of flagging a colt is simple- we want to get him used to the noise, the flapping, the waving, and being touched by something and have him be still while we do it. It’s an advance and retreat drill- where we will wave the flag, at first not directly beside him, but maybe beside us, and he’ll raise his head, and maybe decide he needs to move. Fine, he can move, but we’ll direct that energy, keep waving the flag until he tries something else. The very moment he stops moving, the flag stops moving. You do this until you can touch him wherever you want, put it over his back, wave it over his back etc. It could take 30 minutes, or it might take 4 days before they get good at it. It depends on how handy the person doing the flagging is, and how quiet the horse/colt is to begin with.
Buck gets this horse to a place where they’re both pretty happy, and hands the horse back to the owner. She thanks him, and we get our morning assignment. Twenty-five one-rein stops both directions. For a total of 50, one-rein stops. At either the walk or the trot. Next thing I know, she’s arguing with him about her horse. I don’t understand that. You’re going to argue with someone whom you paid nearly a thousand dollars to ride with, and learn from? Seriously? I found out later that day in a conversation with him, that she left with an hour left in class that day. She never returned. Some people can’t be helped.
After we finished the one-rein stops, he had us work on serpentines that were not short. He wanted us to work on getting our horses to a place where they could move left and right off our feet. I half-hitched my reins on the saddle horn and set about doing it. I knew if I had the reins in my hands, I’d use them instead of my feet. I think they turned out pretty good, and I got kudos on my efforts from The Master. Then he taught the class how to move their horses hips one direction, and push the shoulders through in the other direction. So if I picked up the right rein, my horse’s hips would slide left, and when he got his weight sufficiently collected (or rocked back), I would lead my right rein out, and ask him to step his right front foot to the right, then push with my left leg, to ask his left leg to step across and in front of the right front foot. I really struggled with this drill to the right. My timing was off, and I have a very bad habit of not keeping my weight shifted back when I turn my horse like this- he expressed to us that our weight should stay on our outside back pocket when doing this drill so that we could help our horse’s back end stay planted. For some reason, to the right, I want to wad up over his forequarters, and that makes it really hard for him to do the drill correctly. We only got it right a couple of ways this direction but we were spot on from the left. My horse, needless to say was even more velvety soft than he had been the day before. Score!
That night we had a group supper at one of the student’s homes. She has a beautiful place and a great time was had by all. We got more one-on-one time with Buck and I really enjoyed the evening. I know this post got long, and thanks for hanging in there with me. The pictures from the afternoon class are forthcoming.