TBfan, I wondered how the clinic went for you? Hope it was good!
Maybe she'll chime in. I got to see them the 1st day, and I really admired her fortitude! Her horse was trying her patience, to say the least. Buck was extremely helpful, and she said her horse got better each day. He gave her a lot of exercises to take home.
"Everyone will start to cheer, when you put on your sailin shoes"-Lowell George
Oregon, sitting on my couch looking out the window at a mountain
I'm back from the clinic! It was the most amazing horse experience of my life and I am now a huge BB fan. I will type up a report later, as I have to catch up on work, but wanted to bump this thread up to the top of the page.
I meant to post my clinic experience after I rode with him in March, but never it made it back here - sorry!
It was truly an amazing experience for my horse and I. He gave us many tools to work with, where nothing I was doing before was making a difference. We are starting to see results and I am so glad that I went! I was probably the most stressful clinic I've done, but that was due to my horse and to me being so unfamiliar with the format and venue - Buck made us feel really positive and confident. As he said, we were in exactly the right place we needed to be to get help!
Oregon, sitting on my couch looking out the window at a mountain
Ok, here's my first stab at a clinic report - I may add more as I remember more!
First off, the reason why I went in the first place. Exactly a year ago my mustang bucked me off HARD at our second show. I had taken him to a show the weekend before and he was great, but this show was a different story. Looking back on it (and I had this realization right away), it was my fault, as I didn't prepare him properly. I was so used to my TB, who is easy-peasy at shows, who never needs lunging, who doesn't have to walk around to get used to anything, who isn't much bothered by other horses or people, that I forgot that my mustang may not have been so easy. After he bucked me off, I got back on and rode and did two classes the next day, but scratched after that. I was in pain and I just couldn't take any more. I did what I could to work through the potential fear issue, but the physical pain was too much.
After that, I took a look at my program and what I was doing and realized the trainer I was with wasn't able to help me work through these issues. I needed tools to help me get into my horse's head, to help me help him, to work with him so that I would be his safety net and that he wouldn't go running and dump me if the shit hit the fan and he got scared. Regular dressage training wasn't going to cut it - I needed someone who had experience working with mustangs and troubled horses.
After some searching, I found a NH person whom I liked and took him over for lessons every couple weeks for a couple months. We worked on ground work and getting him to release in his body, which got him more focused in his mind. Trouble was that she had a round pen, which was great, but I only have an arena, and I wanted to be able to do the work in hand. I came up with some of my own exercises based on some of the things she taught me and started practicing.
I had heard about the 7 Clinics DVDs and after much debating with myself about whether or not they would be worth it, I decided to buy them. That was maybe 3-4 months ago. And yes, they are worth it. Right away I started working on the exercises, and right away I started to notice a difference in my horse. On a whim I looked up his clinic schedule and when I saw he was coming my way, I sent in my application to ride in the clinic.
Ok, so that's the long background. I did the Foundation Horsemanship group, which was mostly groundwork and some riding. The first day as we stood around at the beginning, Buck asked if anyone had issues they wanted to address. I told him that Mac gets attached to other horses and loses focus on me...especially with mares. He's not herdbound in the sense that I can't take him anywhere away from horses, because that actually isn't a problem. It's if we're in the company of other horses that he is so interested in them that he doesn't pay attention. Buck said that the exercises we'd work on in the clinic would help with that. He said that through keeping the horse in "the rectangle" and centered with you, that eventually the horse will seek that out himself and the distractions won't be an issue.
If you've watched the 7 Clinics DVDs, then you know what we did in the clinic. I'm glad I watched the DVDs because I felt totally prepared. We worked on making a circle with correct bend. We worked on getting the horse to "follow the feel" - doing this on the ground with the lead rope is just the first step, but will carry over to everything else - by opening the lead rope and inviting the horse to go in that direction. If the horse didn't reply, we'd give a little shake with the flag behind the balance point (girth area - flank or butt) to encourage him forward. If he didn't go, follow up with a more energetic response. We worked on bringing the rope back toward the hip and stepping in to the hip to disengage the hind end, getting the horse to cross over and come to a stop. We worked on backing. We worked on each thing separately, and then put it all together. He does a really good job of breaking things down. We also worked on the difference between a neutral lead rope that has no life in it and an active rope that is telling the horse to do something. We worked on getting the horses used to the flags and having them stand there while we moved them around the horse - and the horse knows to stand because the rope isn't telling him to do anything and our energy isn't being directed at him.
At the end we practiced a half circle exercise while we were standing still. So go a half circle, move the hindquarters over, stop the horse, move in a half circle in the opposite direction, repeat. Then our homework was to do that while walking - so we would walk forward in a straight line and the horse would do half circles in front of us whilst we continued to walk. It's hard to get that timing right!
I watched the other groups, which were both riding - no ground work. There were a couple of really troubled TBs and one troubled Arab in the second group, so Buck had his assistants work with them on ground work while he got everyone else going under saddle. They worked on similar things that we worked on - circles with bend, one-rein stop, bending and moving over with the hind end - they just did it while moving.
At the beginning of the day my horse was really nervous in the big indoor arena with buzzing lights and bleachers and people stomping on the bleachers and music over the loudspeakers and banners and all the commotion. He also immediately picked out the mares he liked and called and talked to other horses a lot.
I did ask Buck also about energy. I've worked with a couple trainers who HAVE A LOT OF ENERGY - like everything they do must be like yelling to a horse, or at least to Mac, because he got a little nervous just being around them. I've had people tell me that he just needs to get used to it and deal with it, so I asked Buck his opinion. He thought the opposite. He thinks that we need to be there for our horses to support them. So if that means that sometimes our energy is soft and quiet to offer them support or relief, then so be it. If our energy has to change to perhaps get their attention focused on us, then that's fine, too. It is a matter of dialing it up and down to meet the needs of the horse, not a matter of always being on high and making the horse get used to it.
So here's my day 1 takeaway. Buck loves the horses. He does what he does to help the horses. He doesn't care what discipline you ride - good horsemanship is good horsemanship. He's very gracious and humble and funny. He also said some people come to his clinics thinking they'll impress him and his response is "I learned from Ray Hunt. Do you think you could do anything better than him that would be impressive?" (or something like that) He is honest and straightforward. I don't understand why anybody wouldn't like him - if he's "picking on you" it is because he sincerely wants to help you and sees that you're not in a position to do it yourself (there was one lady in the afternoon group that he sort of singled out) for some reason. You should pay attention and try to do what he is telling you - don't just do the same thing over and over and over again when he is giving you tools on how to solve a problem. Do what he says. He hates it when people ride with rope halters under a bridle - it is ugly. Stay out of his horse's bubble. If you ride, then come back and watch the other classes - he expects you to be there all day AND to do your homework.
Gotta run and do chores, I'll be back with more later!
Oregon, sitting on my couch looking out the window at a mountain
Thanks, guys - I was afraid I typed way too much and people's eyes would glaze over. So in order to prevent too much of that, I'll add some pictures that my friend was kind enough to take. Here's me and Buck and Mac after day 2:
I'm having a hard time remembering the specifics of day 2 at this point. I think it was more of the same to start, so we were to work on moving around the arena on the ground, not just doing the half-circle exercise in one place. This is really hard and I actually ended up doing something a little different because I felt like that was what Mac needed at the time. Instead of going around the whole arena, I worked on the fenceline near the stands, since that seemed to scare him the most. What I worked on was simply the half-circle exercise but standing in place. I'd pick a spot along the wall and work there for a bit, then move to a different spot on the wall and work there, and so on. What I did (and I'll refer back to this later so make a mental note) was to create a "chute" of sorts whereby Mac had to pass between me and the wall. At first the chute was wide, but I slowly narrowed it so he'd have to go closer to the wall to stay out of my bubble. There were points where I would open the door (ask him to "follow the feel" of my lead rope) and he'd hesitate. All I would do is quietly raise my flag - I didn't shake it, I didn't make my energy loud, I just raised it from pointing at the ground to pointing at him behind the balance point - and wait. I didn't increase my energy because I could see his little brain trying to decide if he could trust me and if it was safe to go through. And he did trust me, and he did go through (and as soon as he made a step forward, I lowered my flag). After a couple times of decreasing hesitation, he went through with no trouble so I'd move to a different spot.
Here's a photo of me and Mac while we're standing around waiting for our next instructions. This is an example of a neutral lead rope. My body language isn't asking him to do anything, yet I'm waving my flag all around him and he doesn't move.
Back to what I said to remember for the future. Buck worked on the very thing I mentioned earlier about Mac with regard to thinking and trying to figure something out. There was another horse who didn't understand how to follow the feel and the invitation to move forward. He took the horse from the owner and did a demonstration on how to get it to work, as I mentioned in my first update. If he could see the horse thinking and considering and trying to make a decision, he wouldn't up the energy, he'd wait on the horse to figure it out.
Buck was all about patience and waiting on the horse, which was so refreshing! If the horse said no, then Buck would show him the right answer and try again until the horse showed some try. When the horse was trying, Buck would wait on him to get the right answer and Buck would let him just stand there for a moment and think about it, then go back to the exercise, perhaps on the other side.
So keeping that in the back of your mind, I came up with a theory on how Buck works with the students in his class. IIRC, people here have mentioned that Buck seems to ignore people or not give everyone attention. First off, I will say that if you have a question, he will take his time to answer it for you. The beginning of each class is a lot of standing around and talking because he is answering questions and explaining things. I asked a question before class "started" every day, but once under saddle or doing exercises I got no instruction from him (except for one comment where he said "good timing" ). I think the reason for this is the same as what I mentioned above with the horse. I think (and I could be totally wrong) that if he sees you *trying* to figure it out and he sees that your tries result in a correct response (eventually - it is hard to get on the first try!), then you are going to have a better understanding of how to get it right than if he told you all the time what you were doing wrong. Does that make sense? If he saw me doing something and I was close to getting it right, and then the next time I got it right, then the next time I didn't, but I did get it right two times after that, he would see that I'm progressing in my learning and the best way for me to learn is to get feedback from the horse. The horse's correct response is the best lesson and that's what will make it sink in more than anything. I hope that makes sense.
Here's a picture break to look at Mac because he's cute in a big-head sort of way.
At the end of day 2 we put our bridles on and worked on flexion for just a little bit, and that was to be our homework for the evening. Working on lateral flexion from the ground was (of course) the precursor to getting it under saddle. Buck looks for 3 things from lateral flexion: bend (turning the head to 90 degrees), poll higher than the withers, and ears level. He is adamant that if the ears aren't level then the horse will be out of balance. Of course, in the beginning you're not going to get all three at once, so start by just accepting one thing as correct. Then as that is consistent, wait on the horse until he finds the next thing and build on that, etc. Again, this isn't something that we force our horses in to. We ask, wait for them to offer the correct response, and release immediately. If you take up the reins and the horse just starts to bend, reward that and build on it. When he's getting the correct bend, then wait for him to bring his poll up (if it is too low) and as soon as he does a minute lifting of the poll with the bend, then release. Build on that. Then once he's got the bend and the poll up, wait for him to level out his ears. Once he does, immediately release. And so on and so forth. Giving breaks for really good tries is important.
Buck said lateral flexion comes before longitudinal flexion, so after we practiced the lateral we moved on to longitudinal. Same thing. Poll higher than the withers. Ears even. This time the head should be centered. Reward for tries and progress from there.
So our homework after day 2 was to practice these flexions and also to combine "leg" into the mix with lateral flexion. So once you are in lateral flexion, use your stirrup to gently bump, bump, bump behind the balance point. Again, quietly and gently, and wait and see how light you can be with that aid to get the horse to move over behind. Release once he starts moving so he knows that's what you want is movement. Repeat. As with all the other exercises, be patient and wait on your horse to figure it out and release immediately once he gives you a try.
And for some inspiration, here's Buck on his young horse Reuben.
My clinic experience was similiar to Pocket Pony's - except I did the Horsemanship 1. Wish they had offered Foundation Horsemanship, but Buck had his assistant help me with the groundwork also. That seems to be the basis of all his work and it has helped us SO much. My horse was really being a PITA the first day, but he helped us through it and by the end I was getting compliments about my quiet pony!
I agree Buck's sympathy is all for the horses - I got the feeling he was trying to be as patient as possible with the riders so that they would get better for the horse's sake.
I was thrilled with all the help I got - I so wish I could ride with him more often as he has so much knowledge to share. I will definitely look for another clinic with him in the future. I've been riding for 40 years and don't think I could ever be half the horseman he is.
I love the 7 Clinics DVDs! I got my library to buy them but after checking them out and watching them I bought my own set. There is a 7 Clinics FB page if anyone is interested.
Buck will be at the WA State Horse Park in July. I'm planning to drive up and audit the first two days. Can't wait. The last time I saw him was 12 + years ago and I didn't know much about his methods. I think I'll get more out of auditing now.
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Pocket Pony, I love the pics and your clinic writings! And TBfan, so very glad it was good for you.
If I could only see half a day of a Buck clinic, I'd still do it in a heartbeat. For sure I'd buy the dvd's.
When I rode my OTTB with him a couple of years ago in Horsemanship 2, I got a lot out of it, but THE most valuable things I got were the two exercises, the small serpentines and the disengagement of the hind and front. And while I was getting those, I didn't really even realize it. It took me a bit (four days actually, lol) of watching, riding and listening to his answers to questions, to get just how important these two things are. For a tense horse who needs to GO somewhere, to have a familiar and comforting movement like these two things, that enable them to move their feet and release some energy without anything negative happening. What I would not have given for my gelding to have known these when I took him to the Kentucky Horse Park on xc schooling day and the activity literally blew his mind. He wanted to explode and it would have been a perfect place to use these exercises.
I've also realized just how much a horse has to do these to be able to recognize them in the middle of a crisis, and settle down into doing them. It's doing them a lot at home that enables you to use them when you need them somewhere else.
This Sept I am riding my 5yo homebred TB mare in H1, and I'm so looking forward to it.
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