This clinic was like the others I’ve been to before – though it seemed to me there were more new faces, but it could be that those folks have just ridden with Buck in places other than where I’ve ridden. I rode in both the Horsemanship 1 and Ranch Roping Class.
Writing about this clinic will be different than past clinic write ups, because, I’m advancing, and I feel like at this clinic, I learned a hell of a lot more about me than about my horses. Buck is immensely effective at putting a big ol’ mirror in front of you and showing you, through you horse, the inconsistencies. Your weaknesses. Your shortcomings.
However, I am getting to the place where fear of failure, or fear of being bucked off isn’t paralyzing like it once was. I was never scared when I rode horses in the “old” way. When I trained barrel horses for a living, and was thoughtless to how I handled them, I’d just plow them through something with no regard. And most of them let me. But “this way”, has me thinking about them, and how they may object, and are entitled to object. I now believe I have the tools to 1. read the horse, 2. get the horse soft, 3. get the horse with me, and 4. bend the horse around when / if I were to get in a bind.
I’ve finally learned the difference between being alert and being aware. And that, is a big deal, people. If you know your horse sees something that may trouble him (be aware of it), you can rub him, and know it’s there, but not make a big deal out of it. Nine times out of 10 they’ll just ride by, look and go, “Cool, if you’re not concerned, I won’t be either!” Alert means you think, “Holy SHIT! There might be a wreck!” And then your horse thinks, “Uh oh. She’s troubled, so I better get the hell outta Dodge!” From there it can go downhill fast!
The first day we led with short serpentines (shocking, I know). I rode my 3yo, 60 ride colt, DX Frigid Aire (Fridge) for the H1 class. I got a, “that looks better, Jenn, and I mean you”, from Buck about 5 minutes in. That means my timing is getting better, and I think my shoulders are more relaxed than they have been.
There was talk of how starting a horse in hackamore, if you’re inexperienced, will only take you so far, which is why you start in the snaffle, because if you’re inexperienced you can only take your horse so far with doing fancy maneuvers. You get lateral movement/moves much easier in a snaffle than you do in a hackamore. Someone like Buck, who has made hundreds of hackamore horses would be just as effective though.
I have Dino in the hackamore now, but Buck said mine (was tied wrong -yikes) and was also too soft, so he wanted me to put him in a rawhide hackamore (I have one that my friend Dave left here that I’m going to try. But this is the one I want). That hackamore has made many nice horses, but Dino can be dull to my leg, and that’s why I think he wanted something with more body. He said I had him going pretty good. I rode him in my snaffle (during the RR) for the last three days of the clinic.
These are the things I took away, in relative order of priority, for moi:
- Lead with the feet; then the hands. I often come in with my feet after the reins. I will not get my horse to truly understand my legs if I do that. So I will allow myself to be OCD about this – FEET FIRST. Then the reins. I am certain Buck has said this before when doing closed and open serpentines, but I’m sure it didn’t register.
- If you’ve done your work on the end of the lead rope, going to a slobber strap shouldn’t be that much different. Those of you who ride with Buck will know exactly what the above statement means. For those of you who haven’t, I will explain. You want your horse to move forward and backward, with a fingertip on the slobber strap of your mecate. But to teach that softness, you need a truly halter-broke horse. Most horses are not halter broke to Buck’s standard. If you have done your work on the ground with the halter, there is no difference when going to the slobber strap.
- Sweeping exercise. This is a roping drill that he taught us, and I need it, because “big loop” roping is way different than roping breakaway calves! You need a “Big girl loop” – to quote Buck, and I need less wrist action and more arm action!
Here we are, pretending to know what we’re doing! *wink*
- Get good riding your horse one-handed. Interestingly enough, I have been riding Fridge one-handed since about the third ride. With Dino, I wasn’t as certain of him or myself, so I still struggle riding him one-handed and it shows. I vow to do more of that this summer, and I will be roping the dummy from his back on a near daily basis, because that is, after all, how one gets good. With Fridge, I’ve been riding one-handed and roping the dummy from his back since about the 6th ride. He’s also lighter to my leg than Dino is, because I’ve not nagged him like I have Dino. What I have learned from the differences in these two horses it that 1. I’m more confident now than I was when I started Dino and 2. I need to start riding Dino like I ride Fridge.
- Do less than you think you need to do to “get it’. This is how you get your horse soft to your leg and your hand. I asked Buck a question about my colt leaning to the left, and he told me to really leg yield him so my rectangle and my leg would mean more to him. He also told me to quit kicking him in the back cinch. That he was “laughing at [me]”. And when I really sent him off and kicked him in the belly like I meant it, off he hopped, in the left lead, and that has been one of my struggles. He said, they’ll do that when you send them off with meaning!
- Always take responsibility for where and how your horse goes. Where he goes and how he goes is your responsibility EVERY DAY. This isn’t so much for me, because I’m pretty aware of how and where my horses are and how they act toward others. But it’s good to keep in mind, when I’m helping people who come to the ranch to ride. It has taken me the better part of two years to get to a place where I had Dino really soft and able to feel like he could walk on egg-shells. This clinic, it took me about 20 minutes to get Fridge there. That’s an improvement in me with my feel and my thinking.
- Do not let fear of making a mistake keep you from trying. This was huge for me, because for a long time, I’d not handle horses I thought were “above my pay-grade” for fear of ruining them or getting myself in a wreck. The reality of it is, I have the tools I need to handle most any situation and experience will only come with more horses. And with experience comes confidence.
I am inconsistent in how I ask with my feet. I either do too much or not enough. The more horses I ride, the better I will become and that leads to this:
I can work as hard, or harder than anyone who attends these clinics. I have the ultimate opportunity to do so. On any given day there are more than a dozen horses to choose from to ride: Nukie, Banjo, Chachi, Dozer, Fridge, Dino, Avie, Festus, Nora, Dolce, Maytag, Nutter Butter, Cisco, and soon Rival, Louie and Bombshell. It’s not just riding the colts that will make me better. It’s groundwork, it’s riding the saddle horses, it’s the every day, emersion of being with them. It’s roping the dummy, heading to the bull trap with a breakaway in hand and roping bulls, BECAUSE I CAN! I mean, how awesome is that? I will rope the dummy as much as my tennis elbow will allow.
Don’t leave until the good deal works. I tend to leave too early. I get it better, but I don’t get it great. I don’t always ride long enough to make the good deal become the FIRST and only thing that happens. The better my timing gets the faster I’m going to get to a place where the good deal takes less and less time to achieve. But in the meantime, I’m resolving to myself that I will get every horse I handle daily to a better place at the end than they were when we began. That may mean we go back to something they’re good at, but since it’s all related, working on bringing the hind through and then the shoulders will help with vertical softness, will help with attaching a rein to a foot, and so on and so forth. I think you get the picture!
A soft, light horse is light to the leg. They won’t be truly soft in the face if they’re not soft to the leg. In my opinion, this is especially true and easy to feel in the turn around.
I need to spend more time riding one-handed. I don’t ride one-handed as much as I should on all my horses. I’ve been riding Fridge around one-handed since about the third ride, but Dino, I rarely do that with, and he’s pretty decent at operating off my legs.
Learn to ride the horse from the back to the front. This is my mission for the summer. What I mean by this is, I will figure out where those hind feet are. I will be calling cadence until I can do it in my sleep. On Dino, I will miss my left to ride lead change about 50% of the time, because I’m not as good riding from left to right as I am from right to left. That’s me being unhandy with my left side.
A couple other things of note:
I got a lot of compliments on my colt. In fact, a friend of ours that audited, wanted to know if I’d sell him. This guy makes handy horses, so I did price Fridge to him. We’ll see. He said he’s asking for him for Father’s Day, hehe! I have the factory, so it’s not like I can’t make another. Another guy, that I did not know, told me that he was the nicest horse in the class. It’s nice to get compliments on my work.
And now, I better get off of here, catch a horse and get to my goals!
Happy Trails and Happy Riding!