Riding with Buck: Part 4

Posted in: Horse Training

In first three installments of this series, we learned a little about who Buck Brannaman is, how I chose to ride with him, and how practicality, safety and confidence play a role in his clinics. Today, we’ll discuss the classes he offers and the next post will focus on the effectiveness of his clinics.

I haven’t been to but a handful of clinics in my entire professional career.  But I read what other horsemen have to say, from books to magazines, and purchase DVDs from horsemen and individuals that I admire;  there is usually something to be gleaned from everyone- even if what you learn is what NOT to do.

What I can tell you about Buck’s clinics, is that he is a master at assessing the level of the riders in the class and can learn more about each individual by watching their horse, than he can from actually talking to you. He can see that such and so isn’t very assertive, because maybe their horse is pushy; or that this person over here is overly aggressive and their horse is about to come apart at the seams because they are impossible to please. And he can stop that wreck before it happens, because of his ability to read the horse.  I believe there is a spiritual/emotional side too- because I’m sure he can see the sadness and struggles someone has by looking at their horse.

Our horses, they don’t lie.

He can see straight past what we think we know, or what we think we’re showing him because how he reads a horse is a gift; an impeccable talent that he spent years honing.  He’ll tell you that Ray Hunt was the master at that very thing (and you’ll shake your head thinking, “but, but, but, I just saw what you did, and you’re saying he was better?”); that what he learned doing ground work with colts, wasn’t anything specific that Ray taught him, because Ray could read a horse so well he could knew what he could skip, still be safe and get the job done. Helping a rider get to the root of their problem, and making the solution easy for the horse to understand is something that Buck is quite adept at; in fact, he’s genius. Make the right thing easy, the wrong thing difficult; and don’t punish the horse in the process.

In theory and more often than not, function, his clinics are broken down like this (from his website):

Colt Starting: A class for young horses that may or may not have been handled or worked with, instruction is directed on groundwork and preparation for the first ride. Halter work, gentling and saddling without stress – for both horse and rider – are the main focuses of Colt Starting. The four day class is intended to conclude with the rider safely aboard and beginning work in the snaffle bit.

Fundamental Horsemanship: This new class is for the green rider or a green horse who may feel the need for additional groundwork prior to riding. During each of the four-day sessions half of the class is dedicated to working the horse from the ground in preparation for riding, with the second half of the class horseback.

Horsemanship 1: For the green horse and rider already comfortable in the snaffle bit along with aged horses needing continued work. This is the first stage of progressing into the bridle with all basic movements introduced. All levels of riders – no matter what discipline – will benefit. The class features strictly dry work – no cattle. All maneuvers stress the vaquero style of riding and are appropriate for horses from first level snaffle to experienced bridle horses. Hackamore horses welcome.

Horsemanship 2:  The next phase in the development of the versatile bridle horse. Horsemanship 2 introduces the rider to working the horse in the hackamore and beyond. Horsemanship 1 is a prerequisite for enrolling in Horsemanship 2 unless otherwise approved by Buck. The class involves working cattle and ranch roping so that all aspects in preparing the bridle horse-in-the-making are addressed.

Ranch Roping:  As the name implies this class is designed to refine and improve rope skills – for both horse and rider – with regard to ranch related activities with stock from horseback. This class is not about timed event roping; rather it is about perfecting a variety of roping shots as well as proper positioning of the horse. Aspects of working cattle outside as well as arena roping are practiced with the ultimate intent of creating a calm and skilled approach to handling stock with a rope. Rider’s relative adeptness with a rope is a plus, but not required.

Cow Work:  Limited to 12 riders, cow working is for the experienced rider who wishes to expose a green horse to cattle work or to help work further with horses already started on cattle. Tracking, sorting and cutting are worked on with the intent of introducing or refining work with stock for the purpose of ranch work. Calmness and precision are stressed as Buck’s Cow Working classes are designed with the working stockman in mind.

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...

View all posts by Jenn Zeller