Riding With Buck: Part 2

Posted in: Horse Training

Previously, we discussed who Buck is. Now we will delve into why I’d choose to ride with him above most others.

How is it, that someone, like me, who makes their living riding horses, chooses to attend a clinic in the first place?

Some might think I already know enough. I will be the first to tell you that I learn something new in this business everyday. But more important than that, is this question, which I ask myself before I listen to anyone: “Do I like the way this individual’s horse reacts/behaves/responds/leads/rides around? Is their horse a willing, happy participant with a kind, happy, expression?”

If the answer is yes, and ultimately you’d like to have your horse ride around like that clinician’s horses, then by all means, go to their clinic! To take it a step further, I like to look at whether or not that clinician is pushy, jerks, snatches, or is less than subtle about the cues they give the horse.

  • Are their hands kind?
  • Do they wait long enough?
  • Do they put a spur in their horse’s side every time they want something?
  • Do they punish the horse for not doing what they asked for immediately?
  • Do they refer to the horse as bad or naughty?
  • Do they give the horse the benefit of the doubt?
  • Does what they say make sense from an equine physiological perspective?
  • Can your horse comfortably do what’s being asked and have it make sense to them?
  • Does logic prevail in this maneuver?

Personally, I’d like to have someone have to ask me “what’d you do to get your horse to do that?” because I’m in such harmony with my horse that a spectator wouldn’t even see the cue I give.  But most important when choosing a clinic, don’t forget to look at the horse.  That is, hopefully what we’re all searching for- a happy, willing partner in our horse.  Riding with Buck you see just that – happy horses and no cues. His horses do all kinds of fancy things- canter pirouettes, side-passes, beautiful, cadenced, turn-arounds.  And you have no idea what he did to get that beautiful movement.

A perfect turn-around.

Practicality and Safety.

Taking the above a step further, I think it’s important to look at what it is you want to accomplish with your horse. That’s not to say that if you’re a barrel racer, a calf roper, or a trail rider you won’t benefit. Quite the contrary. Though there are those that would say, “well what he’s teaching doesn’t apply to me.” Those are the people who probably need not attend a clinic like this. It absolutely applies.

Seven years ago, when I was training barrel horses for the public full-time, I probably could have learned something from his clinics, but I would have been offended by some of the things he said, because frankly, I had a chip on my shoulder. I thought I was getting my horses *broke. I know now that I had barely touched the tip of the iceberg. My attitude and mindset would have had me not gleaning as much as I could have from the clinic. Honestly, I thought I knew that what I was doing was best for myself and the horse; and as such, my feelings would have been hurt. I said you can’t be thinned skinned to attend. I would have missed the spiritual connection that he’s trying to teach, because while I did what I thought was best for my horses, I wasn’t always putting their thoughts or feelings first.

*As an aside, one of the most misused terms in the horse-world is “broke”. It is often confused with gentle. They’re not the same thing, however. You can have a broke horse that isn’t gentle and a gentle horse that isn’t broke. With the best combination being a broke horse that is gentle. And broke means different things to different people, but it ultimately should mean a soft, willing horse, who correctly moves in a collected manner. He’s safe to ride in any circumstance and is so tuned into you that the world could fall down around you in a wreck and if you’re not bothered by that wreck, then he’ll stand there solid as the most immovable boulder. He goes the speed you ride, when you ride, where you ride.

If you’re interested in riding your horse, as opposed to playing with your horse, and your horse needs to be practical for you or you simply want him to be practical- i.e. the time you spend with him you want to spend on his back- then the Brannaman Clinics are great, because he too needs his horses to be practical since he runs yearling cattle on his Wyoming ranch. Here on our ranch near Eagle Butte, SD, we want to give our colts a job as soon as we can. If they’re riding around safe and soft at all three gaits, we might take them out to the pasture at ride 7, 10 or 12 and move cows on them, or sort bulls, or even flag another colt from their back. His clinics teach safety (which is a key part of horsemanship) and through that safety you undoubtedly gain confidence.

We will cover how confidence is gained in the next installment. Stay tuned!

Posted in: Horse Training

About Jenn Zeller

Jenn Zeller is the creative mind and boss lady behind The South Dakota Cowgirl. She is an aspiring horsewoman, photographer, brilliant social media strategist and lover of all things western. After a brief career in the investment world to support her horse habit (and satisfy her...

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