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" Buck B Horsemanship"/Vaquero style/Bridle horse = Dressage?

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  • " Buck B Horsemanship"/Vaquero style/Bridle horse = Dressage?

    I was hoping some would like discuss this and maybe shed some light on this. Just another opportunity to learn.

    I've always enjoyed Buck Brannaman as a trainer. I wasn't a devouted fan but just admired his groundwork techniques and he does look like a lovely rider. I've only ever watched videos and only watched one clinic. I've used some of his techniques with certain horses but also went years where I used more traditional dressage ground work techniques like lunging in side reins, long lining ect.

    I'm in the West and many trainers here like to blend various horsemanship type stuff with Dressage. I thought this made sense, to have a ground work base to start with. But honestly it never occurred to me that some considered this type of riding to be equal or a better version of Dressage. Cue me being confused when being asked to do things that just seemed to go against what I've been taught by other dressage instructors and read about in books ect.

    I tried to follow through. There wasn't any harm in don't anything different. It just didn't seem to get us anywhere. For months. I can absolutely see ether value in some of it... But I began to question just how it would work out in progressing in dressage.

    Here is some of the things that I couldn't see how you could continue to use the techniques in dressage. Now I know some are from Buck B, who in my understanding is experienced in training up a horse as a "Bridle horse" and ranch horse. Some of this may not be from Buck B.

    The light, open hands thing. Personally I wouldn't do this for a Dressage prospect. I'm under the impression that it actually can create an unsteady uncontact. Maybe not with different reins. Also it seems to be the horse is encouraged to be backed off the bit. I realize this is in the name of feel and softness. I can see merit at the beginning with a young horse but then I would think you would want to move on and encourage the horse to seek the contact more.

    There seems to be an emphasis on turn on the forehand/haunches. It seems to me that for Dressage, we would want to get it down but then move on to more forward thinking lateral work. There is also something about switching your legs for a turn but I was lost. Also not using your calve to cue a horse.


    Buck B sure seems like a gorgeous, thoughtful rider who incorporates some Dressage into his training. I've seen lovely lateral work from him. But watching from what I've seen, it's not the same as training up the levels. It looks like how to train a very nice ranch horse or all around horse. I see merit in a lot of it but I can't understand how some see that as "Dressage" itself. Some even say that Buck has it figured out more than anyone in the actual sport or the ODG of Dressage.

    Personally for me, I think I'll use some of the ground work and a few things here in there but I prefer to stick with a more normal dressage approach.

    I'd love insight though! I do enjoy Buck B but as said am not a hardcore fan so I'm sure there are those who have insight.
    Last edited by Lunabear1988; Feb. 7, 2019, 08:17 PM.
  • Original Poster

    #2
    I apologize for for typos. Hopefully people can still understand. For some reason coth and my phone perform very strange together.

    I would like to add that the vaquero style seems to be more closely related to perhaps a French dressage type of riding. I do think I've been trained more in a German dressage type way which might be part of my confusion.

    Comment


    • #3
      So here's the thing. A really well trained, responsive western horse is supposed to go all day across terrain.

      A dressage horse is supposed to learn to put in max collection and uphill balance.

      If you were training heavily, you might do both and train the horse to shift weight back and forth, and hope it can hold up. But assuming you don't see your horse as disposable, you have to train to do what you want it to do. Many of the basics of the seat and moving off your aids are absolutely consistent. But the backed off contact which can not recycle energy to get more sit out of half halts is really NOT what you need in dressage where you want to build power and uphill. Both valid, both different end goals. You can still learn from each, but I find the difference in a young horse started by a good dressage trainer vs started by a good cowboy pretty dramatic as far as how the horse reacts to the bit.
      If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.
      -meupatdoes

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        I personally agree netg . I've seen Buck do lots lovely lateral. But I haven't seen him work a horse gymnastically like I'm used to in dressage. He doesn't do anything like extended gaits I don't think? I realize extended gaits don't have a lot of value for the horse by themselves but I think if you aren't asking the horse to perform like a dressage horse, then you can have the horse backed off the bit. Just like you stated. Different goals.

        I do know some state that a horse should be light in the contact, in self carriage first. It's not that I disagree totally, but the horse shouldn't be in a low, balance if you will. To me that seems like a horse that's just behind the bit and on the forehand I think.

        I would be interested in reading Buck's book as well as something on Vaquero style and French classical to further my insight. I don't wish to really go that direction but would love to know more just to educate myself.
        Last edited by Lunabear1988; Feb. 6, 2019, 02:55 PM.

        Comment


        • #5
          Well OP you have landed on the basic difference between western and English riding, and as another poster says its all based on function.

          All western riding has the horse behind the bit rather than on the bit, traveling relaxed until action is called for. Then they need to be quick and catty and think for themselves a bit. It's loads of fun, it can be very highly skilled, but it is not dressage as we know it.

          If you want to see horses that can do both look up Working Equitation as done by Iberian horses. This has an obstacles, dressage, and cattle work component.

          The Vaquero horsemanship does have a long lineage out of Spanish riding but entirely adapted to cattle work.

          There are not many similarities between Vaquero and French dressage, though there is some mutual respect. The finished version of a French classically trained dressage horse is just a very nice dressage horse with excellent lateral movements that doesn't hang on your hands. Lovely horses but not Vaquero horses.

          I am also around people who have adopted the "disengaging the hindquarters" and turn on the forehand and one reined stop from the western groundwork world.

          I've decided it is counter productive for dressage because my aim in lateral work is to get my horse to lift in her sternum and carry herself. The last thing I want to do is to throw her onto the forehand as way of controlling her.

          And indeed, if she's hot and prancy on the ground I can't "send her around" and disengage her hind because she will dance around in shoulder in, perfectly balanced.

          And no the western performance folk do not care about the quality of walk or trot, within reason. You aren't judged on quality of canter in reining. And no there is no place for extended trot in western riding. It's just not part of the discipline.

          Extended trot is traditionally asked for from driving horses. It isn't something you want to ride for hours on end.

          Hence western horses do jog, slow trot, canter, explosive gallop.

          With field hunters and by extension show jumpers, you have working trot but all the real work is done in canter and gallop.

          Dressage is the only under saddle discipline that spends a lot of time on extended trot. And it's the only discipline that has tools to develop the quality of gaits (though not all trainers have the tools).

          And note that when folks go looking for dressage talented horses, they end up with horses that come out of driving. There are strong carriage lines in development of warmbloods, but also Freisians and Dutch Harness Horses and Hackneys are of interest to people because of the trot. Of more interest than the stock horse breeds that typically have smaller more comfortable gaits for all day riding.

          I can't speak to whatever syncretic method you are seeing locally. My guess is it is probably decent horsemanship that is making rideable horses.

          Whether it is making horses that are skilled in either Vaquero or Dressage is something you will need to just quietly watch and evaluate and then keep silent about

          If its amatuers messing about with their horses, they aren't doing any harm if they never really get lateral moves confirmed. Bear in mind that most dressage amatuers even with a WB and a training program never get past Level One.

          And if it's local trainers blowing guff your way, well you know where not to send your horse.

          Probably there are some local folk that are making nice bomb proof riding horses with good manners out of all this.



          Last edited by Scribbler; Feb. 6, 2019, 02:52 PM.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Scribbler thank you for your well thought out response. I grew up riding western and of course spent lots of time later getting away from backing the horse of the bit for Dressage. So to hear people circling back to this as an ideal for dressage via Buck Brannaman techniques was very interesting to me. I'm afraid I don't have a solid enough education on what he teaches but a few around here teach it that's it's all about the hind end (which of course isn't a bad thing) but that you either don't need any contact, contact with no weight in your hand at all (but not collected, low poll ect) or stretching down (but also not any contact, very loose rein.) I love emphasising the importance of the hind end and back but the connection doesn't look right with the horse backed off the bit. I just don't see it every going anywhere.
            At least around here, none that are trying to combine this with Dressage have made it to the upper levels in any fashion. So I'm inclined to think they don't have a solid idea at how this effects the development of the dressage horse.

            I don't have any idea on Vaquero riding. And little for French classical but I think I'll read up just for my own knowledge/curiosity.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Lunabear1988 View Post
              Scribbler thank you for your well thought out response. I grew up riding western and of course spent lots of time later getting away from backing the horse of the bit for Dressage. So to hear people circling back to this as an ideal for dressage via Buck Brannaman techniques was very interesting to me. I'm afraid I don't have a solid enough education on what he teaches but a few around here teach it that's it's all about the hind end (which of course isn't a bad thing) but that you either don't need any contact, contact with no weight in your hand at all (but not collected, low poll ect) or stretching down (but also not any contact, very loose rein.) I love emphasising the importance of the hind end and back but the connection doesn't look right with the horse backed off the bit. I just don't see it every going anywhere.
              At least around here, none that are trying to combine this with Dressage have made it to the upper levels in any fashion. So I'm inclined to think they don't have a solid idea at how this effects the development of the dressage horse.

              I don't have any idea on Vaquero riding. And little for French classical but I think I'll read up just for my own knowledge/curiosity.
              The term French Classical gets adopted by all kinds of people who want an "alternative" idea. My coach trains with the Philippe Karl Legerete program which has some very solid techniques. The start of training, the horse is taught to stretch to the bit and maintain active contact and as training progresses the horse learns to raise its head and give at the poll. The horse isn't allowed to hang on the bit and the ridet isn't allowed to pull. But the contact is very definite. Lightness refers to the entire way the horse carries himself, not to a super light rein. And control of the shoulders is just as important as control of hindquarters.

              I have seen an online "classical dressage" trainer in California letting horses trot on a very long rein with a low nose, no contact, and no engagement through the hind end, in the name of dressage. Nice for a two minute break, pointless for your main schooling technique. Not dressage. Not anything.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Thank you Scribbler. They don't identify as French classical per se but I do think that's a bit what they think they are doing. And I know exactly the trainer in California you are referring too. Some of these techniques did kind of remind me of that. I think there are so many "buzz words" that trainers used to attract clients. And they don't always mean what they think it means!

                Comment


                • #9
                  I would say the western guys have more contact when riding in a snaffle -- but a bridle horse is usually in leveraged bit, and is primarily neck-reined, as cowboys need their other hand for roping and whatnot, and thus no direct contact with bit.

                  I am going the opposite way -- I am basically a trail rider, but the only lessons I have taken are dressage. So now I have a ranch horse and want to learn to ride him without a lot of contact -- but I also don't want a leveraged bit. So not sure it will happen.

                  OP, what do you think about dressage horses ridden with just a neck rope or no bit at all -- is bit contact necessary for a dressage horse?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Well, once a horse is ridden primarily off the seat and weight aids, you can ride with a cordero or no tack at all *in a safe enclosed space* as fun, demonstration, show off, whatever.

                    You don't get the horse to that stage riding with no tack and you don't maintain a horses training by riding with no tack and you'd need to be a flaming idiot to try it in an unconfined space.

                    And your horse will not go better without the tack.

                    It's a stunt in that you are taking a horse so well trained with a bit that he will replicate that behavior without a bit.

                    It's not that big a deal. You can start playing by dropping the reins to the buckle and riding patterns off your seat and legs.

                    If you want to ride western in a snaffle you can certainly have the horse off contact most of the time. Even in dressage, the snaffle is used ime more to influence *how* the horse goes than basics of stop, go, turn. Those should be mainly on the seat and legs. Voice is good for a trail horse too.

                    The leverage bit is nice because it gives a distant early warning signal that you are shifting the reins. You don't get that with a snaffle.

                    If you don't want to use a curb, a mechanical hackamore is a very nice bit for trail riding. It's got more power in an emergency than a side pull, but most of the time you just leave it alone.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      BlueDrifter I agree with scribbler on this too lol. Actually my examples all do that, ride a horse biteless. No harm done but I can't see how that alone is a useful training tool. Just a fun thing to do after training. And in this case of those I know most horses go better tackless then with tack. Honestly the horses appears almost fearful of the bit but this is a horse trained with "lightness" in mind. To my eye sometimes it seem like a nervousness, the horse will put it's head down behind the contact and lives there.


                      ????Also, most Western trainers I know, certainly not all, do use contact much differently. Too me it's much more a headset, a back and forth action on the bit. Not teaching the horse to seek the contact.

                      Not saying that's wrong but to me it isn't dressage either.

                      I hope others weigh in more though. I enjoy learning and discussing this stuff.
                      Last edited by Lunabear1988; Feb. 6, 2019, 08:29 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Ooh... a great topic and I wish I had more time right meow to speak to it.

                        I have spent more time with Brannaman and his ilk (while being discerning about which pro I'd "take" ideas from and which ideas I'd find applicable to making a dressage horse).

                        Two things I'd point out to all y'all in Dressage World (with the slight exception of the Frenchies) for you guys to consider until I get back from work and have time to discuss more.

                        1. Don't worry so much about "behind the bit." More on why in point #2. That said, the progression recommended by traditional dressage means that those dressagists can't school the light or behind-the-bit relationship that the Western disciplines install in their horses from the beginning.

                        I had this conversation with a thoughtful student of one of Brannaman's good students with whom she had trained for years. When speaking about the impossibility of meshing my young dressage horse's training too far with the Vaquero stuff because of the "ideal relationship with the bit" difference, she pointed out that those guys did want contact and "through" (my word, but we all understood this to mean, pushing from the back feet forward, all the way up to the shoulders (again, see point #2) and forward. But this contact or steadiness could be something she would teach her horse later, not initially.

                        I don't think I want to wait until I have a finished bridle horse (or one far along) in order to create the relationship with the bit that I need for lower level dressage. But! I took their point and tradition to heart: I can create more than one relationship with a bit (meaning some kind of snaffle) with a horse. And I can create different relationships with different pieces of equipment-- bosal, double bridle, a well-chosen spade bit. I can do this in practice. But it also reminds me that one can do this in theory, too, because.

                        2. The relationship with the bit is *not* where the focus should be. Rather, all that nice riding and work you see Brannaman do (and he is a very nice rider), is that admirable because he's actually worried about the the relationship between the shoulders and hind end. Where the horse's head goes isn't the point, rather the horse's anatomy means that controlling the head's position is a means to an end. If you control the horse's head-- that 45# or so hanging out at the end of that long neck-- you gain a mechanical basis for getting him to use his core to hold himself up in front.

                        So the real point is we aren't that far apart. Horses generally have the same architecture across the breeds, so everyone is using their preferred equipment and method to find a way to get a horse to engage his core. To consider this in terms of Point #1. Yes, the relationship with the bit that you teach a horse will be different, but don't let that issue be bigger than it properly is.

                        The emphasis on moving the hind end (and also the shoulders) is a good way to get the horse (particularly the low, well-muscled stock breeds) to have to maintain their balance and moments of squatting and uphill self-carriage. And really, once you have ridden a Vaquero style horse that lets you control "all four corners" with such lightness and precision, you see the value of it. It's a pretty neat ride.

                        So, OP, here is how I use both styles together.

                        I have an Arabian who is weak at the base of her neck, so I ride her a Vaquero would-- I ignore the top 2/3s of her neck and think about keeping the base of her neck in-line with her shoulders. If she gets wiggly, I think about moving the shoulders to get back in line with her head, not moving her head to get back in line with her shoulders.

                        And then, again because of the weak neck her breed gives her, I ride her as, I think a French Dressagist would--- I strive to keep her throatlatch open and her neck telescoping up and out from her shoulder. As she gets stronger, I can have more pounds of pressure in my hand. But! If she doesn't generate that from behind, I offer "room" in front with my hand. What you can see, I hope, is that "steady in the contact" is way down my list of priorities. And, I think, Brannaman is also about the feel in the horse's body; the horse being dull or light to the rider's aids is necessary to train, but it's how those are applied to the horse as needed that I find worthwhile no matter which discipline I raise this mare in.

                        Also, the groundwork and slow stuff you see Brannaman do has lots in common with what I take to be the philosophy of French dressage-- the point is to produce the posture and balance you want. You ride for that first and get the movement second. I think Dutch/German dressage might rank movements and posture/balance the other way around. I ride my weak, wiggly mare toward correct posture because she needs so much help getting strong enough to hold herself in an uphill posture.

                        When I ride this mare, I rank my priorities to parts of her body-- I ride the base of the neck-shoulder connection first. She's weakest there and can relax her core into a downhill posture in a single foot fall. So I have to pay attention to this section of her body, always. Second, I try to generate more push from behind-- without losing the posture in front, and I try to feel for some swing in her back. But we don't go fast enough that she falls on her forehand. Last, I pay attention to where her head is-- forehead on the vertical or behind it. Really, as I ride, I kind of check in on these three body parts as needed and constantly. But I leave her alone when she's in the sweet spot and correct. I try to identify that to her so that she learns how to earn a soft ride. I don't know is this is an expressely western idea or not, but I do recall having a Western trainer tell me that "leave them alone as a reward."

                        The last things I'd say about Vaquero stuff-- and watching Brannaman's clinics can be confusing on this point-- is about groundwork. My mare is wonderfully broke on the ground, She is so light and obedient. I'll never go back to anything but the Vaquero's high standards. And she digs it, too. She has learned to focus well and never has to get her head pulled anywhere. She follows the feel of the rope. It's so peaceful and polite! That said, no horseman spends 3 hours at a stretch perfecting the art of having his horse disengage his hind end or back in a figure 8 or whathaveyou. That's just an unfortunate artifact of the way this industry does it's teaching via those weekend clinics.

                        What I do appreciate about Brannaman/Hunt/Dorrance is their emphasis on the horse's experience and estimation of his training. I don't hear quite so much talk about this so close to the surface among most traditional dressagists.

                        I do think different training styles matured along with selective breeding that produced differences in horses' conformation. I'd be loath to take a lanky, tall 4 year old WB to a Brannaman clinic and spin him around on his hind end for 3 hours. Perhaps that's not so hard for a Quarter Horse. By the same token, if you attempted to drive a quarter horse up into the bridle the way you might, say, a Hannoverian, I think you are setting yourself up to work very, very hard for very little return-- for you and for the horse. My Ay-rab doesn't do well at this in the initial stages, either: Her conformation makes it easiest to tuck her chin, leave her sternum low and run if she's ridden from leg to hand with lots of impulsion. I have to do that French or Vaquero work around that emphasizes posture for her in order to get anywhere. When she is stronger-- more like that purpose-bred Hannoverian, she can be ridden more like him.
                        Last edited by mvp; Feb. 7, 2019, 08:25 AM.
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                        Comment


                        • #13
                          "What I do appreciate about Brannaman/Hunt/Dorrance is their emphasis on the horse's experience and estimation of his training. I don't hear quite so much talk about this so close to the surface among most traditional dressagists."

                          Me too. It's amazing what a horse can do when his heart is in it. Nothing else feels like that.

                          Without any actual knowledge, this is what I see with Valegro and Verdades.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Scribbler View Post

                            All western riding has the horse behind the bit rather than on the bit, traveling relaxed until action is called for. Then they need to be quick and catty and think for themselves a bit. It's loads of fun, it can be very highly skilled, but it is not dressage as we know it.
                            Wow, this is not how my western horses go at all. My horses need to be relaxed at all times, and being behind the bit is not being relaxed in the slightest.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Showbizz View Post

                              Wow, this is not how my western horses go at all. My horses need to be relaxed at all times, and being behind the bit is not being relaxed in the slightest.
                              I was thinking of performance or working horses that need to move along mellow for an hour until you find those calves in a coulee. Then start cutting or penning taking some initiative once the rider tells them to work.

                              Not so much pleasure horses.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Scribbler View Post

                                I was thinking of performance or working horses that need to move along mellow for an hour until you find those calves in a coulee. Then start cutting or penning taking some initiative once the rider tells them to work.

                                Not so much pleasure horses.
                                Ah, okay. When you said "All western horses..." I took that as literal.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  MVP, thank you for a more thoughtful and better informed response than I gave. I agree I love all the groundwork aspects of the western trainers, and the focus on the horse being emotionally OK.

                                  I have an uphill Paint who needed a lot of work reaching into the bit, lifting her back, lifting her sternum and lenthening a rushy little trot. She's naturally catty (for her size) in a way that a warmblood never is.

                                  We worked on her way of going from the start, considering that more important than moves, and I've found that to be true, if the horse gets balanced and straight early in the process the moves come faster when you want them.

                                  My Paint would prefer to be a western horse and ride on no contact mostly off leg seat and voice. I trail ride her in a mechanical hackamore.

                                  However I find that her posture and her moves deteriorate with too much hackamore time because I cannot do the things with the snaffle that I would practice even on trails, stretch to the bit, lateral flexions, or balancing a rushy trot.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    mvp thank you so much. Do you mind if I ask you a few more questions? Keep in mind that while I've seen Buck B, I'm far from super knowledgeable about his techniques. And I'm not very knowledgeable about French Dressage. I really just like to learn and ponder dressage and horsemanship. And any differences behind, I think we all do it for the same reasons..the love of the horse!

                                    Reading your posts, I do not see a whole lot different in the way any of my German based Dressage trainers have ever taught me. The contact would be steady but forward thinking and it's always with an emphasis on how the horses body feels. I've been taught very heavily over the years but to focus on the head.

                                    So I ask you, how do you achieve this? The trainers I know around here do a lot of bending the head around, back and forth with the bit or another backs their horses anytime they feel them put any weight on the bit. Now I haven't seen Buck ride much so I don't if they are using his techniques as intended or not.

                                    And the horses are all behind the vertical. One trainer the horses backs don't often look engaged and another the horse is so behind the leg and on the forehand. But again, maybe this isn't correct for what Buck would want either. Or maybe I can't see the end game that are working towards.

                                    Also, does Buck have a Dressage background? How high have you trained your horses using this type of techniques? Do you know anyone who has used it to the upper levels? I ask because in dressage I think it's important that who's teaching us knows how it all works out as you progress higher. Honestly before I always thought the value of Buck's stuff was mostly great ground work, colt/problem horse riding and ranch horse stuff. Combining it with Dressage is new to me.

                                    I'd love if anyone had any video of a Dressage horse trained in this more vaquero/Buck B style. Maybe I'm just missing the pieces. I probably won't incorporate it into my riding as the Dressage trainers I use aren't fans but still neat to educate myself.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      No. BB is not training dressage horses. I can see a dressage trainer picking up some of this for colt starting. You start every green horse learning how to move the butt over from physical pressure and then just from your body or energy. You start every green horse learning how back up on the ground from you just lifting your body towards them. Etc.

                                      But at some point sooner rather than later you have to get the horse taking contact, stretching over the back, striding up with the hinds etc.

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Scribbler that is my thinking but there are a good chunk of people that do feel that Buck B and his style of trainer is Dressage and some around here that his teaching is even superior... Just trying to learn why some feel/see it that way. I didn't know if Buck B had trained with a dressage trainer maybe at one point. I know one Dressage trainer wrote a book about it but I haven't read it. Her name is Betsy Staley I think. I didn't think she was an upper level rider though so that doesn't give much insight to me.


                                        I'm just trying to learn from someone else's viewpoint. Even though it might not change my thinking it's still interesting.

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