Yesterday we covered the first part of the 3-hour long class of day one. I don’t say 3 hours to make it sound like it drags on and on and on- on the contrary, by the time day four arrives you want to cry because your time with this man is over and you can’t believe it went by so quickly. And if you’re me, you are already planning at least another 2 trips to ride with him next year! I won’t get the opportunity to ride with him again this year because we have too much to do here this month and next- with fall shots and shipping calves. Then the weather gets bad, and well, winter usually sets in too soon up here in our neck of the woods!
We spent probably the first hour and fifteen minutes of the class in a lecture with Buck, and then standing still while we practiced getting our lateral (side to side) and vertical (to the ground) flexions. Then it was time to get moving.
First we were instructed just to have our horses walking/trotting and begin to 1. elevate their neck/poll and 2. roll in at the poll/jaw. We’d gotten fairly competent while we stood still doing this, so working on it while we moved out only makes sense- it’s the next logical progression.
Remember that I’d mentioned that Buck really helped me to get my colt moving out? Well we barely made one pass around the arena and he called me over to him and instructed me to ask him to trot/lope across the arena, anytime I saw an open spot. He said he wanted me as straight as possible, at which point I just chuckled and said, I’d do my best. And that’s all he ever asks anyone to do- if you try, Buck will help you and you’ll see improvement.
So I would just periodically- he said every couple of minutes or so, kick a fart out of my colt and we’d lope off, or trot across the arena. Needless to say, by the end of that day I was really, really sore!
One of the things that I mentioned I learned at the Texas Clinic this year was that you open your legs to have your horse ride off. And I guess I should clarify. My cowboy has been telling me that for a long time, but it hasn’t ever sunk in. It began to in Texas- but then I was riding my older saddle horse, Gump and moving out isn’t something we struggle with.
This time at the clinic, Buck preached about how the more advanced your riding, the more open you are from your hips. If you ride with just your lower leg, your riding is very juvenile. But if you learn to open up from your hips, shift into Position 2 (which is seat bones floating, right smack in the middle of your horse) at the same time, your horse will come to understand that that means go. And then the energy in your body will determine how fast you go. The steps to getting your horse keen on this are as follows:
1. Open your legs; roll into position 2- all at once.
2. If your horse doesn’t move off (and most colts won’t know what that means), then your legs are away from him so you can kick him into moving.
3. If the kick doesn’t work, you should have the tail end of your rein, mecate lead-rope, rope or reata ready to smack him on the hindquarters.
Buck warming up his Two-rein Horse at the beginning of class on Monday- here you can see his perfect body position:
All three of the above mentioned maneuvers should take you no more than 1.5 seconds to do in succession. I got pretty darn quick at these three. The trick is to ride your colts/horses like you want them to be if they were finished bridle horses. Since horses are the masters of remembering what happened before what happened, you must be quick, and eventually, if done correctly, you won’t have to spank, and then you won’t have to kick and your horse will move off a very subtle cue- which is the goal! As a rule- you want to spank your horse across his rump on the outside hip- so if you’re going to the right, you’d drag a rein across his left hip. How you grab your rein/lead-rope is also important. You want to grab it with your thumb towards your horse’s ear, and your pinky finger at his tail. That allows for a better angle, and you’ll be less likely to hit him in the flank, and more likely to hit him across the top of his rump. By spanking the outside of the hip, you are less likely to mess up the proper lead.
We spent the better part of day one, moving our horses out, picking up a soft feel (by getting proper elevation and then rolling them in at the poll) and we did begin to pick up a soft feel and carry it to the stop where we were then asked to do sets.
Sets are great tool! It’s 10 steps forward, 10 steps back, 9 steps forward, 9 steps back, and so on- until you reach 0. Not so easy to do if you have a horse that doesn’t move out- because if he doesn’t move out going forward you’re going to have a hell-of a time moving him backward! Backing a horse isn’t any different than riding him forward. When a horse backs up, he trots in reverse, so you can see how you’d need some movement out of him to be successful! You don’t kick your horse to back them up- again, you open your legs from the hips and ride them backward! This requires a lot of patience and feel- because you can very easily get your hands in a bind where you are tugging on their mouths. Essentially what you desire to have happen is that you pick up a soft feel, sit down to Position 3- where you’re tilted more towards your back pockets and you hold that soft feel to a stop and then for a step or two backwards to begin (remembering to release with each step they take backward). Then it’s simply a matter of riding your horse, by opening your legs, to get them to take more than a couple steps backward. Sets are great because it helps you keep your horse straight when riding a back-up and that’s important.
By the end of this day my colt had kicked up with me a few times while I asked him to move out but in the end was better. If your horse is kicking up it’s not always a bad thing- he’s at least trying- even if that is the wrong answer! Just keep riding, act like it didn’t happen, and go on. Rub him when he gets it right and eventually the kicking up stops. It did for me, by day three.
Day two…coming soon!
Previous Clinic Recaps: