PocketPony, no worries about your updates being too long. I am loving every word! The pictures are great as well. I would love to be able to attend or better yet ride with Buck. Does he ever have older horses there or is it mostly youngster?
DLee - Can you explain more about the two exercises you really like that help settle a horse down?
A friend and I are trying to walk the same path - sort of. We are following along with the DVD's and trying to use them as a point of reference in what we are doing and what we are looking to accomplish. We are hoping for some mediocrity - though brilliance would be great. And here I got to tell you that your take on how Buck will stand in patient silence and observe is the one I will hold on to as we struggle to feel less inept at the exercises.
But suffice it to say - your posts and your blog (just found it) are helpful. I am selfishly hoping you get the opportunity to return to many more Buck Clinics.
Again - a big thanks for sharing your experiences.
from sunridge1:Go get 'em Roy! Stupid clown shoe nailing, acid pouring firstname.lastname@example.org is going to be good until the last drop!Eleneswell, the open trail begged to be used. D Taylor
DLee - Can you explain more about the two exercises you really like that help settle a horse down?
I'm posting some video clips so you can see, but basically the short serpentine is just that, a VERY short bending exercise that (hopefully) has no brace or resistance in the middle of the change of bend.
My favorite though is the one where you bring your horse's head around (say to the right) and apply your right leg to disengage the hind end, then open your right rein and lead your horse's front end around the hind and continue in the same direction. You can do it on the ground or under saddle, and both directions (of course). It's amazing what this exercise can do in situations where your horse is scared or hot, spooky, whatever. And as PocketPony said, timing is everything! I know some people look at me sideways when I do it out in public, but who cares. You just have to do it so many, many times at home to where it's just habit when you ask for it and a comforting place to your horse. During the Q&A session we had those two exercises were quite often his answers, such as to the guy who's horse jigged home constantly on trail rides. When he said he'd tried that exercise on the way home Buck basically told him "not enough". If he had to do that every single time the horse came out of a walk, well that's what he had to do. Until the horse walked on a long rein.
Not quite halfway through this video you can see him do it on his bay horse.
During the Q&A session we had those two exercises were quite often his answers, such as to the guy who's horse jigged home constantly on trail rides. When he said he'd tried that exercise on the way home Buck basically told him "not enough". If he had to do that every single time the horse came out of a walk, well that's what he had to do. Until the horse walked on a long rein.
DLee gave a good description of the exercise - and also how much Buck might expect a person to use it to get the horse calm. There were two TBs off the track in the second group. Buck had his helpers work with both of them the first day, but the next three days one of them also required his helper's hand, and the owner never touched the horse. The first two days that horse spent on the half-circle exercise in hand (which is a pre-cursor to the exercises DLee describes). The third and fourth day the horse started out with ground work and then the helper got on. He must have done 50,000 short serpentines that weekend, but that horse finally settled. The third day he was actually able to stand still, which he hadn't done theretofore! Once the horse stood still on a loose rein in the middle of the arena, Buck excused him as a reward for getting it right. The fourth day after some ground work and then some of the serpentines and 180/180 turns, the horse was able to walk forward on a loose rein, take up a "soft feel" and relax while working. It was like a different horse, I swear - it was really transformational. So much so that the hand got enthusiastic and tried some leg yields with the horse - to which Buck said, "Don't get greedy - this horse just gave you a lot, let him enjoy the release and the relaxation. There's time later for leg yields." Or something like that. Don't get greedy....sheesh, I did that just the other day.
I have a short bit of time before I go out and ride, so here's the day 3 report.
Again, we started with ground work and this time it was practicing the in-hand flexions that were our homework. We did some lateral flexions, longitudinal flexions, and backing in hand from the ground. For the backing exercise, he wanted the horse to be able to back in a straight line (it was ok to use the wall) by a soft feel on the slobber strap and then come right forward from a soft feel as well. The goal here was to get rid of any bracing that the horse holds in a transition from forward to back / back to forward. Eventually he said we would want to try to just rock the horse and shift his weight without him taking a step - shifting from side to side or front to back to front to back, etc.
The next backing exercise was backing in a circle. Basically the horse is slightly flexed in one direction, and the feet move in the opposite direction to create the circle. As I found out in my homework from the night before, it is much easier to break this down into quarter-circles before attempting an entire circle at one go. Eventually under saddle you would be able to do this exercise and then using an opening rein move the forehand over like in the 180 exercise . . . you're just going backward first.
Then Buck told us to mount up and we'd start our work under saddle. He mentioned riding with the flag and how you might do that and ride one-handed so you can use the flag as a back-up aid, or also to get the horse used to having the flag coming from above while under saddle. Here's Mac with the flag:
Buck had us work on one-rein stops, then standing and then moving the hind end over. We also were to work on shallow serpentines - OMG, it is so much harder than it looks and sounds like!
It was very impressive from a chaos standpoint. Whereas he had the afternoon groups working all in the same direction, since we started off practicing mostly non-forward-moving exercises, everyone ended up going every which way! I got so bogged down in moving feet that I wasn't executing the exercise very well. Every time I looked up to move, it seemed like someone was right there and so I'd circle some more. Gah! I will say, though, I got the feeling of how it must feel to train a horse to do a spin! It was fun to figure out that opening rein and linking it with a front foot and feeling like the degree to which you open your rein, or the timing thereof will tell your horse how long to hold that foot in the air and/or how far to move it over. What fun!
And speaking of spins, Buck went into a discussion about the difference between what he teaches and reining spins. IIRC, reining spins have the horse spin on the inside leg and he wants the horse to have the outside leg planted. ACK - do I remember correctly? Anyway, he said it was more practical for working cows the way he does it, otherwise the horse wouldn't be ready to move out at a moment's notice.
As we were working our way around the arena in our serpentines, we got to the point where there was a flickering sunbeam on the ground that caught Mac's attention. Buck had the same situation with Reuben on the first day and used it as an opportunity to keep Reuben in "the rectangle" and centered and focused on Buck. So I did the same with Mac and he was very responsive. He did have to give it a good look, though.
Finally we were relaxed enough to have a little trot. Sheesh - I so look like a hunter in a western saddle!
IIRC, reining spins have the horse spin on the inside leg and he wants the horse to have the outside leg planted. ACK - do I remember correctly?
Yup! That's right.
Pocketpony, I so wish I had time to drop by the fairgrounds last Monday, I was in town for a birthday party.
And I love Mac, what a lovely fellow
I really enjoy your explanations. I find that making explanations for someone else, really helps firm up my own thinking, and get me clear on what is going on and what I have learned.
I just found out that I got off the waiting list, and into the Colt Starting clinic in Dayton, WA in June, with my 2-year-old unbroke colt. Yay! Well, I get to go for the H1 during 'part two' of Buck's Dayton clinic, he'll be there 9 days. The first 4 days is Colt Starting, which I didn't get into, and then a day off, and then all the colts go into the "H1" class which will be a bit different than usual because it will be all colts. So I'm a bit bummed that I won't be starting my filly with Buck, but I should have her ready to fit right in by then. (My helper comes to my place and works one-on-one with me. I met him at a Buck clinic, and Buck has called him to come and help at clinics. So I am in good hands there, and if my helper says we're ready to fit in to the H1 with the other colts, that'll be good enough for Buck.)
Anywho, the reining spin...if you look at a slow-mo video, you can see that the horse is in the 'wrong lead': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePdn2tKW8fg
...meaning that the outside hind is not the first beat of the canter. If you wanted to go canter off after a cow, the horse would not be able to strike right out, he'd have the wrong foot on the ground. If you pivot on the outside hind, the horse can canter (or gallop) right out of his tracks, like a dressage horse can canter right on out of a pirouette.
This is also related to why, in the 180, 180 hindquarters, frontquarters exercises, you move the hind end before the front end. Moving the hind end first, sets the horse up to anchor his outside hind foot. He then rocks his bodyweight back on to that outside hind, and can move his front end across in an athletic and graceful manner. The horse can strike right off into a canter, on the proper lead for the direction he just turned, without having to re-organize his legs.
If you watch Martin Black (and I'm sure Buck, too, but I don't have a video) on a greenish horse, working cattle, you'll see Martin set the horse up for a turn. He starts a leg yield when the cow looks like it's setting up to stop and turn. From the leg yield, the horse gets his outside hind leg weighted so that when the cow stops, he stops, too, rocks his horse's weight back and has been set up to strike off in a canter (or gallop)...the outside hind is the 'correct' strike off foot for the lead you need.
Another thing I really like is your description of waiting on a horse.
If you are familiar with Ray Hunt, he's always quoted as saying, Make the Right Thing Easy, and the Wrong Thing Difficult.
Bill Dorrance said, "You don't want any part of making things difficult for the horse".
They're saying the same thing...
If your horse is not quite able to do what you ask, but he's trying, then the Wrong Thing (not doing It) is already Difficult. If you wait on him, and let him know he can think his way through what you're asking, you're Making the Right Thing Easy.
What people often do instead is, instead of waiting, bother the horse further. (Maybe they run the horse around the pen, or get after him in some way.) This is Making the Right Thing a Pain, and the Wrong Thing Pure Hell. Most horses will eventually 'choose' the path of least resistance, the option of 'less pressure', but there is no release. The horse knows he didn't freely come up with your idea, too, he knows that you trapped him in a no-win situation of 'this option sucks, but that option sucks MORE' so that he'd choose the less awful of the two.
That is so different from watching someone like Buck, waiting on a horse, setting up the 'right thing' so the horse can find it, and find peace in it.
And, I have more to say about the great environment that Buck can set up for riders to learn, even without much 'individual attention' and 20 riders in the class...but I have to go put some escaped heifers back into the proper pasture now
Fillabeana, I like your descriptions as well. Buck did make mention of "crouching tiger, hidden person" or something like that, whereby you see people crouching down as if to pounce on their horses to scare them into moving away.
It really is amazing the stuff we learned that, again, might look so boring to someone who wasn't doing it or who didn't know what we were trying to achieve. Since coming home, I've only ridden twice, but in those two rides Mac has been more forward and responsive than ever. Perhaps it is his new fancy bridle and snaffle bit that I got him (I was in a Myler comfort snaffle with the roller but I think he was just fussing with the roller too much - now he's in a single-jointed eggbut snaffle), or his fancy new saddle blanket but the transformation is marked.
Buck made mention of seat positions . . . actually not in our class, but in the other class. There's position 1 where you're a bit forward in your saddle, as if you're going to take off going forward; there's position 2 where you're sitting with your seatbones straight up and down; and position 3 is where you're rolled back on your pockets just a bit.
I played with going from position 2 to position 3 for downward transitions, and whoa boy - what a difference it makes! Like Mac actually brings his hind end under him in a downward transition and I can feel him almost coiling on his hind end. Weird!
And something dawned on me today while I was out riding. Softness in the bridle comes from suppleness in the body, not the other way around, if that makes sense. I think of all the hours I've been on a 20-meter circle, just not getting the softness in the bridle that I wanted. Yes, the horse would be "on the bit" but it would be a struggle because all we'd do is go around and around and around and the horse would feel heavy in my hand. Doing the ground work exercises and/or the same exercises when first getting on take care of suppling the body and lateral flexion such that when I go forward, longitudinal flexion pretty much takes care of itself. My hands are there to guide and set parameters of where the head can go, but I can ride with such a light contact because I've gotten to his feet and the brace has released and he's responsive and ready.
Of course this is something I always heard - leg before hand, or coming from behind - but this is the first time an instructor has been able to explain it to me with such detail and clarity that I'm bummed it has taken me 30 years or so to get it!!!!!
Riding isn't easy. But it is easier than it has been made out to be from other trainers I've worked with. Some people try to make it so complicated that I'm sorry I wasted time in the past that would have been better spent learning this stuff. Sigh.
Pocketpony, I think you just described very well the magic of riding in a Buck clinic...your horse gets to where he is not braced, and his body is in balance, and his idea is your idea...and that, to me, is what a horse must be to be 'on the bit'. It isn't a physical position as much as a mental connection, a place where the horse isn't bracing or resisting what you are asking, because the horse would rather be there with you, doing exactly what you are doing, than slowing down or speeding up or going back to the barn. The physical 'on the bit' part works itself out because the horse is soft and willing, in an athletic position to use himself properly.
There were two TBs off the track in the second group. Buck had his helpers work with both of them the first day, but the next three days one of them also required his helper's hand, and the owner never touched the horse. The first two days that horse spent on the half-circle exercise in hand (which is a pre-cursor to the exercises DLee describes). The third and fourth day the horse started out with ground work and then the helper got on. He must have done 50,000 short serpentines that weekend, but that horse finally settled. The third day he was actually able to stand still, which he hadn't done theretofore! Once the horse stood still on a loose rein in the middle of the arena, Buck excused him as a reward for getting it right. The fourth day after some ground work and then some of the serpentines and 180/180 turns, the horse was able to walk forward on a loose rein, take up a "soft feel" and relax while working. It was like a different horse, I swear - it was really transformational. So much so that the hand got enthusiastic and tried some leg yields with the horse - to which Buck said, "Don't get greedy - this horse just gave you a lot, let him enjoy the release and the relaxation. There's time later for leg yields." Or something like that. Don't get greedy....sheesh, I did that just the other day.
Was the owner standing near "the hand" on days 2,3,4? The horse was calmer at the end of the clinic but the owner never worked with him directly after the first day? Just wondering what the chances are the owner went away from the clinic with enough experience to be able to support the calm horse.
The owner was there the whole time, in the arena, up close. As to his skill level, I have no idea. I suppose it is possible that he got some 1-1 instruction afterward - there were a few trainers there who were helpful and gave another person some individual attention to help them "get it" with a different troubled horse.
Sounds like many of you are having a great time with your horses there and all you are learning.
I wanted to mention that you really can't compare a reining spin with any other spin movement that is part of other.
Reining spins are started from a balanced and still horse, performed as that one movement alone and ended as such, the horse again standing still.
For that specific movement, the definition is just for that and so it is different than a spin you would do when it is part of a horse in movement, like a rollback or any other.
It is important to know the differences, as noted, from a reining spin as one self standing movement in a reining pattern and turn arounds or cutting turns or any other time a horse may spin and keep on moving out.
Here are the NRHA requirements for a spin.
Horses learn the differences between spin and turnaround as you practice, as part of their motor memory:
Spins are a series of 360-degree turns, executed over a station- ary (inside) hind leg. Propulsion for the spin is supplied by the outside rear leg and front legs, and contact should be made with the ground and a front leg. The location of hindquarters should be fixed at the start of the spin and maintained throughout the spins. It is helpful for a judge to watch for the horse to remain in the same location, rather than watching for a stationary in- side leg. This allows for easier focus on other elements of the spin (i.e., cadence, attitude, smoothness, finesse, and speed)."---