I have to say, from the time I got my hands on my horse that morning until I got off him at noon that day, he was completely different.
And you know why? Some of you reading this already know the answer. Some of you may not. The answer is that I was different. I was there to support him, believe in the work that I’ve done with him, and wasn’t worried about how well we’d do that morning. I just “knew” it was all going to be alright, and it was.
Again, the morning started with practice of our flexions (which I tend to do a lot of while I just sit on my horse. You can’t get your “soft feel” too good, folks)! There were a lot of serpentines, and the “pick up and set a front leg down” drill. This time, however we were nailing about 50% of them to the right, and almost all of them to the left. It’s all in the timing. You need to ask for that foot right as it’s leaving the ground, so you can “direct” it. It’s pretty easy to figure out where the front feet are on your horse, the back feet however, are sort of blind feel, because you can’t look down and see the shoulder moving. I’ll be explaining foot falls, and foot-cadence more in-depth on our ranch blog. That said, timing of this drill isn’t easy to begin with, and I’m still working on it at home!
I did a lot of moving Dino out as needed- since we were 25+ riders in an arena that would have more comfortably held 15 people. And as I recall, there was a lot more working at the trot, because, well, that’s the only balanced gait your horse has. So we did a lot of picking up a soft feel, while getting proper elevation. There was a lot more backing up, and Buck told me that when my colt gets stuck (which he had been doing while backing up) to take more hold on him, and provide more energy, and as his feet break loose, give something back to him. I said, even if he’s behind vertical? And he said, yes, “he’s behind vertical because his feet are stuck.” Well doesn’t that just make all kinda sense? It’s not always about doing more with your hands- you can’t pull your horse backward- you can make it uncomfortable for him to do anything but back up. Open your legs, tip your shoulders back, pick up a soft feel, and wait for the feet to break loose. Your horse may back up with his nose in the air, but that’s improper form, and as such it’s better to never release your horse until his nose is down and there’s no resistance on the reins. You want his poll, and jaw soft and relaxed.
Here’s Dino picking up his right front:
It’s good to note here that I might have better success with this drill if I wasn’t looking at his foot. Often if we look down, we will “over-weight” that foot making it harder for the horse to move. And honestly, if you can feel the foot moving, there’s not really any need to be looking at it!
Here’s me picking up a soft feel:
And here is in what I’d say is smashingly good form:
Allow me to digress for a moment:
Did you know that each time you ride your horse you teach him something? Good, bad, indifferent- he’s learning something. The best gift we can give our horse is the release and relaxation that comes from us just allowing them to “be”. So when you stop your horse, if you let go the reins when he stops and his nose is in the air, you’ve just taught him that if he puts his nose in the air you will release the reins. How many of you reading this have then been told, “your horse needs a tie-down?” He doesn’t need a tie-down, he needs only consistency from you and he needs to learn to carry a soft feel. Interestingly enough, Buck said the exact thing I said above, though this was the first time I’ve heard him say it. I tell folks all the time that they’re always teaching their horses something be it good, bad, indifferent.
If you’d have told me what would happen next at this clinic, I’d have slapped you and said “Get Out!” But it did happen. My day, and probably my year, got better than it was already going. I loped my horse across the arena, and I guess Buck must have been watching because I got to the other side and heard these words- “Jenn, that is going to be a nice horse”. I nearly fell off. I just gulped and said, “Thank you”. The thing about hearing those words from him are this: He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear. He tells you how it is. He tells you what’s going to make you better for your horse. In fact, he actually told us that at some point he hopes he can get enough of us to a place, where he can teach us what he knows instead of the stuff we should know. I’m striving to get there! Buck doesn’t blow air up your skirt. He makes you work for everything so you learn it, appreciate it, and as such you get better for your horse.
There are no horse problems. Only people problems. People who don’t take responsibility for their inability to communicate with their horses. When you lose your ego and realize that your horse cannot do wrong, your horsemanship will grow in leaps and bounds. I know this because I’m walking proof. Ask me next time you see me.
The rest of the day is a blur, though I know my horse really did ride good that day, because I was aware of where he was and was there to support him when he needed the help. If we become aware of what our horses need from us, everyday horseback will become a good time horseback. You’ll never have a bad ride again!
Stay tuned- Day four is forthcoming, as is a post about a night at the movies!
More about my time riding with Buck is below.
Day One from Iowa
Day Two from Iowa
First Clinic in Belton, TX:
Second Clinic in Steamboat Springs, CO: