Buck Brannaman 2019

TPO

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It's at Aintree, 7-9 June 2019. It's organised by Total Horsemanship (on FB) if anyone else is interested in going or spectating
 

Ambers Echo

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I rode with him at Aintree last year. It's quite an experience! Amber was initially a clinic horse for an overseas rider (fulfilling the brief to be 'GREEN' extremely well....) but the rider did not get on with her and gave the ride to me. So I spectated for part of it and participated for the rest. It is well worth spectating so as there are 2 groups a day I'd make sure you watch as much as possible.
 

Red-1

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I really enjoyed spectating, and at the time was sad as I could not get to ride as you had to do all 3 days and I was only available for 2 of them. Once I was spectating though I was glad I was not riding as there were many, many horses in that arena and some riders had a great time and some did not.

Next year I will spectate again and learn - then take it home to try with my horse those parts I think I would like to try.
 

flying_high

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I rode with him at Aintree last year. It's quite an experience! Amber was initially a clinic horse for an overseas rider (fulfilling the brief to be 'GREEN' extremely well....) but the rider did not get on with her and gave the ride to me. So I spectated for part of it and participated for the rest. It is well worth spectating so as there are 2 groups a day I'd make sure you watch as much as possible.
Would you ride again, Ambers Echo? Did you learn lots from riding?
 

TPO

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I really enjoyed spectating, and at the time was sad as I could not get to ride as you had to do all 3 days and I was only available for 2 of them. Once I was spectating though I was glad I was not riding as there were many, many horses in that arena and some riders had a great time and some did not.

Next year I will spectate again and learn - then take it home to try with my horse those parts I think I would like to try.

***I have not got the hang of quotes!***

That is one of my concerns as my boy is VERY green. I will do my best to get him out and about to lots between now and then so hopefully ensure that isn't an issue. Are horses/riders "allowed" to step out/to the side if they need a rest (mentally)?

I had planned to spectate the past twice but life got in the way as it has a habit of doing.

How did you find it Amber's Mum? To echo Flying_high, would you do it again?
 

Ambers Echo

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Being 100% honest - no I would not do it again. But I learnt a lot. Here's my review of it from last time:

I had offered Amber’s services as a clinic horse for riders coming from overseas (they wanted green horses) but as it happened her rider did not feel confident on her so gave the ride to me. YIPPEE.

Amber was actually very good but not surprisingly being in a huge indoor arena with 30 other horses, music and spectators was a little overwhelming for her at times. It was great but rather scary when Buck thunders things like “your horse is running off with you! You don’t mind so much because she is running off in WALK but she’s still running off and it is unacceptable!!”

But he was right. And he was very helpful in getting me to ‘get to her feet’. I had to leave the mouth alone “the mouth is not where the problem is” and gain control of her feet. Which we more or less did by the end.

Anyway here are my main learning points to take away:

1) How little I expect of my horses. Ie how low my standards are! For example, can I choose the pace at a walk? No. Amber walks at what pace she wants to - normally the pace of the horse in front - when we are out hacking or in an exciting situation. Can I move all 4 feet in any direction I like in walk – softly, in balance with no bracing. Ie can I move one foot at a time forwards or backwards, sideways and diagonally.

Buck did this on 2 green horses he had never ridden before – he’d choose a foot and choose a place for it to land – forward a step, back a step, back and out to the side, forward and out to the side, crossing in front of or behind the other foot. Whatever. He called it ‘having the reins hooked to the feet. You don’t move the head and neck with the reins, but the feet.

It was very impressive and in his view once you can do this in walk, then you learn it in trot, canter and gallop. And all on a loose/single rein. So all horses should be able to be cantered on a loose rein, in a snaffle, in open space and stop immediately without resistance. He says (and it is certainly true for me) that most people do not expect that of their horses: they are happy if the horse basically goes where he is told and doesn’t run off with you. But you can (and should) expect so much more than that.

2) The usefulness of circles. Lots of horses were getting worried/stressed in the arena and he got us all doing very tiny circles, changing directions all the time. He said if the horse is flexed to that degree he can’t rear, buck or take off and it is also calming. And indeed it was for Amber. So as her walk sped up and she ignored aids to slow I’d put her on those circles and she’d visibly settle then I’d let her go straight again until she sped up again. He said you might circle for weeks before a horse learns to listen to seat aids to slow but it is time well spent and it never leaves the horse once it is built in.


3) The need to ride FORWARD. “If you haven’t got life from the horse you can’t achieve anything.” So even those ‘hot’ horses had to be ridden forward – just had to direct the energy. As for more laid back horses – any horse can come to life instantly and with great energy. So they should give you that energy whenever you ask for it instantly with a small cue. The key here is the subtlety with which you initially cue the horse, then the authority with which you back up the initial cue. Cues should be feather light. You should be able to canter any horse from halt effortlessly. And stop again! In Buck’s view the vast majority of riders are too heavy with their first cue and too wishy washy with the follow up. So we ride in this kind of nagging middle ground – neither soft/light enough when we can be nor firm enough when we need to be. I know I definitely fit this category.


4) The need to repeat things thousands/ tens of thousands of times. (I know Mark Rashid does not agree with this.) To avoid boredom have about 6-8 exercises and work on them at the same time – switching between them every few minutes.


5) The need for a horse to be in a relaxed frame of mind to achieve anything much. Worried horses can’t learn so if a horse starts getting worried go back to the circles till he settles. Never ever ever ever try and settle a worried horse by pulling on its reins! (Guilty as charged!!) He also said unless a horse is even on both sides he can’t be mentally relaxed though he did not explain why not. So if your horse has marked asymmetries then you need to even those out by doing much more work on the weak/difficult side. (My physio does not agree with this. She says always work a horse equally on both sides. It makes more sense to me though to work on the weaker side more.)


6) Buck and Mark Rashid both talk extensively about following a feel and about softness. I love their focus on that. To achieve softness both seem to say you need mindfulness to notice and release on the slightest try and you always need to ask with as gentle a feel/cue as you possibly can. Before backing it up with something more crude. Mark advises to go up by degrees. Buck goes straight from a ‘barely noticeable’ to a ‘with authority’ cue which seems a little unnecessary but certainly works. ‘With authority’ basically means a spur in the side – HARD - or a very firm pull on the reins. However every single time you ask again, you start with the softest of soft cues.


7) The need for your horse to be paying YOU attention ALL THE TIME: Before the horse can rear, he needs to move or shift weight back. Before he shifts back he needs to think back. Before he thinks back he needs to take his attention off you. THAT is where you intervene and get his attention back on you. We have used this idea (which I was aware of before the clinic) with great benefit on Max recently. “It’s all about what happens before what happens happens.’ I can discuss Max more on another thread if anyone is interested, as this is Amber’s thread but the clinic helped to clarify my thinking a lot about him.

In terms of the overall experience, Buck has become a bit too ‘big’ I think. So there were 30 horses at a time riding and he gave very little direct feedback to any 1 rider. And many riders had no direct feedback AT ALL for 3 days. I’d feel a little cheesed off if I had paid handsomely for a 3 day clinic and had absolutely no instruction or feedback from Buck at all! I rode for free and he did talk to me twice which was very useful.

The other problem (apart from sheer numbers) was that he demonstrated for a full hour to hour and a half at the start of each session, demonstrating all the exercises. But they were all so subtle involving little shifts of hand and leg position and weight. So by the time he said ‘ok get to work’ no-one could remember the detail of each movement. Plus as a spectator you could not tell what people were working on as the exercises were quite similar, so it all just looked like a bunch of horses meandering around!

Finally the ‘Buck is God’ vibe did grate after a little while. So 3 days of intense interaction with die hard Buck followers was quite a challenge at times. Amber’s initial rider was a particularly devoted Buck Fan and she did irritate me after a while with her ‘but Buck says’….. to every last little thing. She was aghast when I gave Amber a polo in the evening! I do rather prefer Mark’s view that if it’s ok with you and your horse, it’s ok!

Buck is clearly a talented horseman, and I like his kind of connected/focused/light riding. He and Mark Rashid both want that. They want 100% of your attention on the horse and 100% of the horse’s attention on you so it becomes a true meeting of minds/bodies and it’s just effortless. That’s where the magic is! I have had those moments of connection with Thyme and with Cally. I am aware I don’t have them (yet) with Amber. But that is what I aspire to.

I would not go to another clinic, but I will certainly use what I learnt. And I will set my standards a little higher from now on!!
 

Tiddlypom

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I haven't heard of Buck Brannaman. Should I have? So he's some guru who gets paying spectators to view 30 horses in an arena which are ridden by volunteers, some of who may be inexperienced. He barks instructions randomly at them individually while music is playing?

Sounds absolutely ghastly. Sorry, OP. I hope and your horse A. Survive B. Get something beneficial out of it.
 

Red-1

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Being 100% honest - no I would not do it again. But I learnt a lot. Here's my review of it from last time:

I had offered Amber’s services as a clinic horse for riders coming from overseas (they wanted green horses) but as it happened her rider did not feel confident on her so gave the ride to me. YIPPEE.

Amber was actually very good but not surprisingly being in a huge indoor arena with 30 other horses, music and spectators was a little overwhelming for her at times. It was great but rather scary when Buck thunders things like “your horse is running off with you! You don’t mind so much because she is running off in WALK but she’s still running off and it is unacceptable!!”

But he was right. And he was very helpful in getting me to ‘get to her feet’. I had to leave the mouth alone “the mouth is not where the problem is” and gain control of her feet. Which we more or less did by the end.

Anyway here are my main learning points to take away:

1) How little I expect of my horses. Ie how low my standards are! For example, can I choose the pace at a walk? No. Amber walks at what pace she wants to - normally the pace of the horse in front - when we are out hacking or in an exciting situation. Can I move all 4 feet in any direction I like in walk – softly, in balance with no bracing. Ie can I move one foot at a time forwards or backwards, sideways and diagonally.

Buck did this on 2 green horses he had never ridden before – he’d choose a foot and choose a place for it to land – forward a step, back a step, back and out to the side, forward and out to the side, crossing in front of or behind the other foot. Whatever. He called it ‘having the reins hooked to the feet. You don’t move the head and neck with the reins, but the feet.

It was very impressive and in his view once you can do this in walk, then you learn it in trot, canter and gallop. And all on a loose/single rein. So all horses should be able to be cantered on a loose rein, in a snaffle, in open space and stop immediately without resistance. He says (and it is certainly true for me) that most people do not expect that of their horses: they are happy if the horse basically goes where he is told and doesn’t run off with you. But you can (and should) expect so much more than that.

2) The usefulness of circles. Lots of horses were getting worried/stressed in the arena and he got us all doing very tiny circles, changing directions all the time. He said if the horse is flexed to that degree he can’t rear, buck or take off and it is also calming. And indeed it was for Amber. So as her walk sped up and she ignored aids to slow I’d put her on those circles and she’d visibly settle then I’d let her go straight again until she sped up again. He said you might circle for weeks before a horse learns to listen to seat aids to slow but it is time well spent and it never leaves the horse once it is built in.


3) The need to ride FORWARD. “If you haven’t got life from the horse you can’t achieve anything.” So even those ‘hot’ horses had to be ridden forward – just had to direct the energy. As for more laid back horses – any horse can come to life instantly and with great energy. So they should give you that energy whenever you ask for it instantly with a small cue. The key here is the subtlety with which you initially cue the horse, then the authority with which you back up the initial cue. Cues should be feather light. You should be able to canter any horse from halt effortlessly. And stop again! In Buck’s view the vast majority of riders are too heavy with their first cue and too wishy washy with the follow up. So we ride in this kind of nagging middle ground – neither soft/light enough when we can be nor firm enough when we need to be. I know I definitely fit this category.


4) The need to repeat things thousands/ tens of thousands of times. (I know Mark Rashid does not agree with this.) To avoid boredom have about 6-8 exercises and work on them at the same time – switching between them every few minutes.


5) The need for a horse to be in a relaxed frame of mind to achieve anything much. Worried horses can’t learn so if a horse starts getting worried go back to the circles till he settles. Never ever ever ever try and settle a worried horse by pulling on its reins! (Guilty as charged!!) He also said unless a horse is even on both sides he can’t be mentally relaxed though he did not explain why not. So if your horse has marked asymmetries then you need to even those out by doing much more work on the weak/difficult side. (My physio does not agree with this. She says always work a horse equally on both sides. It makes more sense to me though to work on the weaker side more.)


6) Buck and Mark Rashid both talk extensively about following a feel and about softness. I love their focus on that. To achieve softness both seem to say you need mindfulness to notice and release on the slightest try and you always need to ask with as gentle a feel/cue as you possibly can. Before backing it up with something more crude. Mark advises to go up by degrees. Buck goes straight from a ‘barely noticeable’ to a ‘with authority’ cue which seems a little unnecessary but certainly works. ‘With authority’ basically means a spur in the side – HARD - or a very firm pull on the reins. However every single time you ask again, you start with the softest of soft cues.


7) The need for your horse to be paying YOU attention ALL THE TIME: Before the horse can rear, he needs to move or shift weight back. Before he shifts back he needs to think back. Before he thinks back he needs to take his attention off you. THAT is where you intervene and get his attention back on you. We have used this idea (which I was aware of before the clinic) with great benefit on Max recently. “It’s all about what happens before what happens happens.’ I can discuss Max more on another thread if anyone is interested, as this is Amber’s thread but the clinic helped to clarify my thinking a lot about him.

In terms of the overall experience, Buck has become a bit too ‘big’ I think. So there were 30 horses at a time riding and he gave very little direct feedback to any 1 rider. And many riders had no direct feedback AT ALL for 3 days. I’d feel a little cheesed off if I had paid handsomely for a 3 day clinic and had absolutely no instruction or feedback from Buck at all! I rode for free and he did talk to me twice which was very useful.

The other problem (apart from sheer numbers) was that he demonstrated for a full hour to hour and a half at the start of each session, demonstrating all the exercises. But they were all so subtle involving little shifts of hand and leg position and weight. So by the time he said ‘ok get to work’ no-one could remember the detail of each movement. Plus as a spectator you could not tell what people were working on as the exercises were quite similar, so it all just looked like a bunch of horses meandering around!

Finally the ‘Buck is God’ vibe did grate after a little while. So 3 days of intense interaction with die hard Buck followers was quite a challenge at times. Amber’s initial rider was a particularly devoted Buck Fan and she did irritate me after a while with her ‘but Buck says’….. to every last little thing. She was aghast when I gave Amber a polo in the evening! I do rather prefer Mark’s view that if it’s ok with you and your horse, it’s ok!

Buck is clearly a talented horseman, and I like his kind of connected/focused/light riding. He and Mark Rashid both want that. They want 100% of your attention on the horse and 100% of the horse’s attention on you so it becomes a true meeting of minds/bodies and it’s just effortless. That’s where the magic is! I have had those moments of connection with Thyme and with Cally. I am aware I don’t have them (yet) with Amber. But that is what I aspire to.

I would not go to another clinic, but I will certainly use what I learnt. And I will set my standards a little higher from now on!!
It was the number of horses in the arena that I was uneasy with. One poor lady was in tears as he had told her to do something a couple of times, but it was against vets advice and she did try to tell him but first of all could not get his attention, then when he said some rather cutting comment about her not doing it after being told to a couple of times, she tried again to explain but he was having none of it. Personally I would have left the arena at that point.

There were so many horses there I found it difficult to see the improvements in individuals as keeping track of them all was not possible for me. I also felt uneasy about the length of time they were doing "figure 8s" which were turning round a circle the size of a bucket, changing rein to another circle the size of a bucket, very tight indeed. Doing this for a few minutes is OK I guess, but they are at it for half an hour or so, some younger horses, a rest then do it again.

As a spectator I did learn a lot, about expectations and influencing the legs. About the horse being off the leg and in a space that you have designated.

However, I have been on a few Mark Rashid clinics, both riding and as a spectator in this country, and as a rider several times in Colorado, and have found this to be a much more horse-friendly experience. Also Manu and Andrew McLean, both riding and spectating. With those clinicians I would be fighting for a rider place.

With Buck I felt that the riders were basically there for the spectators' benefit. Some benefitted hugely, I am sure, but Some of the riders seemed disoriented, as did some of the horses.

The horse Buck rode was an eye opener. That horse got a huge amount out of it, changed in front of your eyes under Buck.
 

Ambers Echo

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I haven't heard of Buck Brannaman. Should I have?
No reason why you should have done but if you are interested.....

Buck was originally a rodeo rider - from aged about 5. He was beaten severely as a boy and ended up in foster care on a ranch. He worked initially just as a ranch hand and then met Ray Hunt who himself was a student of Tom Dorrance. Those 2 are probably the best known and most influential of the American horse trainers who wanted to find a softer, more harmonious way of working with horses. (LONG LONG before Monty Roberts/Pat Parelli etc tried to say they invented this). Unlike MR and PP they are not ''gimmicky' either and nor is Buck.

Buck recognised that what Ray Hunt was doing was very different and became his life-long student and now teaches the same approaches. I have friends who had clinics with him 20 years ago in the USA and he had 6-8 people in a clinic and gave huge amounts of individual attention. I think he has become too big now and the large clinics are probably geared more to the spectators than the actual riders.
 

Ambers Echo

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Cross-posted with Red-1 but I agree with everything she said. I much prefer the style of Mark Rashid's clinics. Also echo what was said about watching Buck ride. It really is inspirational to watch someone transform a horse instantly!

The movie, Buck, is worth a watch. Plus The Horse Whisperer film with Robert Redford is based on Buck and it is his horse in the film playing Pilgrim when the trained horse messed up the take too many times.
 

JFTD-WS

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This is certainly an interesting thread, anyway.

(I'm sure you and your horse will survive, TPO! I think to presume otherwise would be to set the expectations rather too low!)
 

TPO

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Thank you Amber's mum for such an epic post! Definitely a lot of food for thought o_O

Is it the grey horse you are referring to that Buck was riding? I know the lady who bought him after the clinic and is taking him back next year.

For those that have been before; if it gets too much are you allowed to take your horse to the side?
 

Ambers Echo

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No-one took their horse out when I was there. I would not have dared! But then again I'm a bit pathetic. Ask the organisers first and see what they say.

I can't remember what colour horses Buck was riding - there were 2 and I am thinking of the darker one. Bay or brown.
 

Red-1

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Red-1 when and where did you ride at a Mark Rashid UK clinic? I have watched a few clinics here.
Hi, Solihull - can't remember the year. I brought and rode a bay mare, she bucked hard enough the first day that everyone sat up and pointed when we arrived in the arena on the 2nd day! I had intended to ride 2 horses, but someone else's horse went lame and she was going to miss her lessons, no refund. She was so disappointed that I decided to be generous and loan her OH's grey Charlie Horse for the 2nd day so she did not miss out (I hope this was not you as she did not like Charles at all and was rather impolite about him at the start).

Mark had seen me ride him, and did let her know that the horse was capable, but she was astonished when he was half passing after a few minutes. He was not the most extravagant horse, a bit upright and choppy, but he did have other qualities - such as I knew he was genuine and safe to let a total stranger ride him in an arena with spectators, even if that rider had been a total novice! He also did BE to Nov, BD to Nov and BS to Newc as well as hunt, team chase and teach OH to ride. I guess it just hurt a bit to see him be slated when he was one of our apples of our eyes. Hey Ho. The lessons were great though, and Mark managed to communicate to her that she was perhaps being ungenerous in her assessment of him without stamping her down.

I found it well worth going to America for the weeklong clinics. Life changing, in fact.
 

Ambers Echo

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I have never ridden with Mark. I went to demos in Hampshire and Scotland. I was booked on to ride in Scotland when he pulled out and I have since heard he has no plans to return to the UK. I would LOVE to do a Mark Rashid clinic. He seems to have managed to maintain humility and the personal touch despite how successful he is. He genuinely behaves like he writes. At least from what I have seen of him.
 

Red-1

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I have never ridden with Mark. I went to demos in Hampshire and Scotland. I was booked on to ride in Scotland when he pulled out and I have since heard he has no plans to return to the UK. I would LOVE to do a Mark Rashid clinic. He seems to have managed to maintain humility and the personal touch despite how successful he is. He genuinely behaves like he writes. At least from what I have seen of him.
I also rode with Kathleen, his assistant, when she started to do clinics on her own, in Hampshire. I have watched all over, including Scotland/ Yorkshire/down south/ Birmingham.

After recommending the weeklong/intensive clinics, a few other people I know went, everyone had a fabulous time. I also made lifelong friends, keep in touch 15 years on, and it has led to me travelling round America and even teaching in clinics there in English V Western clinics. The people on the clinics were wonderful. The Aikido workshop was interesting too, I now see circular movement wherever I go.

There seem to be clinics in Colorado in May, June, August and September for 2019 where you can ride his horses. It is worth looking at, as the cost was a lot less than I expected. He recommends modest accommodation and I felt very comfortable travelling alone as you are not alone for long. The weeklong/intensive ones are not just about the horses, it is more about looking at yourself and how you live life. You get a big ol' mirror held up to you and it helps you shift stuff and make changes. It was exhausting but exhilarating at the same time.
 

Ambers Echo

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Red-1 that sounds awesome!
I met Kathleen last year - I invited her to run a clinic at my yard and she stayed with me which was fascinating. She has been a Buck student for the past few years.

I'd love to go to Colorado..... One day maybe....
 

eahotson

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Well I have a trainer who went to his last demo at Liverpool.She did wonder at the number of people in the arena at any one time but did like some of his stuff including the stuff which helps horse suppleness,something that is close to her heart.I bought his DVD.He started off by doing a master class (which should be viewed by all) in how to bridle a young/sensitive horse.For me it went completely downhill after that.To me personally he came across as an unpleasant bully with anger management issues.That first bit was meant to lead you in by making you think what a nice man he is.It's a mind game.One of the best people I have ever met with horses was a horse driver called John Wilmot whose approach,while utterly effective,was in complete contrast to that DVD.Mind you,John doesn't sell headcollars,books DVDs etc.Anyone who thinks all driving horses are a dodldle needs to think again.His best driving horse was a whilte hispano Arab called Cruella.As I said though.Other people must make up their own minds.Google on this forum Buck Brannaman.
 

Scarlett

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Being 100% honest - no I would not do it again. But I learnt a lot. Here's my review of it from last time:

I had offered Amber’s services as a clinic horse for riders coming from overseas (they wanted green horses) but as it happened her rider did not feel confident on her so gave the ride to me. YIPPEE.

Amber was actually very good but not surprisingly being in a huge indoor arena with 30 other horses, music and spectators was a little overwhelming for her at times. It was great but rather scary when Buck thunders things like “your horse is running off with you! You don’t mind so much because she is running off in WALK but she’s still running off and it is unacceptable!!”

But he was right. And he was very helpful in getting me to ‘get to her feet’. I had to leave the mouth alone “the mouth is not where the problem is” and gain control of her feet. Which we more or less did by the end.

Anyway here are my main learning points to take away:

1) How little I expect of my horses. Ie how low my standards are! For example, can I choose the pace at a walk? No. Amber walks at what pace she wants to - normally the pace of the horse in front - when we are out hacking or in an exciting situation. Can I move all 4 feet in any direction I like in walk – softly, in balance with no bracing. Ie can I move one foot at a time forwards or backwards, sideways and diagonally.

Buck did this on 2 green horses he had never ridden before – he’d choose a foot and choose a place for it to land – forward a step, back a step, back and out to the side, forward and out to the side, crossing in front of or behind the other foot. Whatever. He called it ‘having the reins hooked to the feet. You don’t move the head and neck with the reins, but the feet.

It was very impressive and in his view once you can do this in walk, then you learn it in trot, canter and gallop. And all on a loose/single rein. So all horses should be able to be cantered on a loose rein, in a snaffle, in open space and stop immediately without resistance. He says (and it is certainly true for me) that most people do not expect that of their horses: they are happy if the horse basically goes where he is told and doesn’t run off with you. But you can (and should) expect so much more than that.

2) The usefulness of circles. Lots of horses were getting worried/stressed in the arena and he got us all doing very tiny circles, changing directions all the time. He said if the horse is flexed to that degree he can’t rear, buck or take off and it is also calming. And indeed it was for Amber. So as her walk sped up and she ignored aids to slow I’d put her on those circles and she’d visibly settle then I’d let her go straight again until she sped up again. He said you might circle for weeks before a horse learns to listen to seat aids to slow but it is time well spent and it never leaves the horse once it is built in.


3) The need to ride FORWARD. “If you haven’t got life from the horse you can’t achieve anything.” So even those ‘hot’ horses had to be ridden forward – just had to direct the energy. As for more laid back horses – any horse can come to life instantly and with great energy. So they should give you that energy whenever you ask for it instantly with a small cue. The key here is the subtlety with which you initially cue the horse, then the authority with which you back up the initial cue. Cues should be feather light. You should be able to canter any horse from halt effortlessly. And stop again! In Buck’s view the vast majority of riders are too heavy with their first cue and too wishy washy with the follow up. So we ride in this kind of nagging middle ground – neither soft/light enough when we can be nor firm enough when we need to be. I know I definitely fit this category.


4) The need to repeat things thousands/ tens of thousands of times. (I know Mark Rashid does not agree with this.) To avoid boredom have about 6-8 exercises and work on them at the same time – switching between them every few minutes.


5) The need for a horse to be in a relaxed frame of mind to achieve anything much. Worried horses can’t learn so if a horse starts getting worried go back to the circles till he settles. Never ever ever ever try and settle a worried horse by pulling on its reins! (Guilty as charged!!) He also said unless a horse is even on both sides he can’t be mentally relaxed though he did not explain why not. So if your horse has marked asymmetries then you need to even those out by doing much more work on the weak/difficult side. (My physio does not agree with this. She says always work a horse equally on both sides. It makes more sense to me though to work on the weaker side more.)


6) Buck and Mark Rashid both talk extensively about following a feel and about softness. I love their focus on that. To achieve softness both seem to say you need mindfulness to notice and release on the slightest try and you always need to ask with as gentle a feel/cue as you possibly can. Before backing it up with something more crude. Mark advises to go up by degrees. Buck goes straight from a ‘barely noticeable’ to a ‘with authority’ cue which seems a little unnecessary but certainly works. ‘With authority’ basically means a spur in the side – HARD - or a very firm pull on the reins. However every single time you ask again, you start with the softest of soft cues.


7) The need for your horse to be paying YOU attention ALL THE TIME: Before the horse can rear, he needs to move or shift weight back. Before he shifts back he needs to think back. Before he thinks back he needs to take his attention off you. THAT is where you intervene and get his attention back on you. We have used this idea (which I was aware of before the clinic) with great benefit on Max recently. “It’s all about what happens before what happens happens.’ I can discuss Max more on another thread if anyone is interested, as this is Amber’s thread but the clinic helped to clarify my thinking a lot about him.

In terms of the overall experience, Buck has become a bit too ‘big’ I think. So there were 30 horses at a time riding and he gave very little direct feedback to any 1 rider. And many riders had no direct feedback AT ALL for 3 days. I’d feel a little cheesed off if I had paid handsomely for a 3 day clinic and had absolutely no instruction or feedback from Buck at all! I rode for free and he did talk to me twice which was very useful.

The other problem (apart from sheer numbers) was that he demonstrated for a full hour to hour and a half at the start of each session, demonstrating all the exercises. But they were all so subtle involving little shifts of hand and leg position and weight. So by the time he said ‘ok get to work’ no-one could remember the detail of each movement. Plus as a spectator you could not tell what people were working on as the exercises were quite similar, so it all just looked like a bunch of horses meandering around!

Finally the ‘Buck is God’ vibe did grate after a little while. So 3 days of intense interaction with die hard Buck followers was quite a challenge at times. Amber’s initial rider was a particularly devoted Buck Fan and she did irritate me after a while with her ‘but Buck says’….. to every last little thing. She was aghast when I gave Amber a polo in the evening! I do rather prefer Mark’s view that if it’s ok with you and your horse, it’s ok!

Buck is clearly a talented horseman, and I like his kind of connected/focused/light riding. He and Mark Rashid both want that. They want 100% of your attention on the horse and 100% of the horse’s attention on you so it becomes a true meeting of minds/bodies and it’s just effortless. That’s where the magic is! I have had those moments of connection with Thyme and with Cally. I am aware I don’t have them (yet) with Amber. But that is what I aspire to.

I would not go to another clinic, but I will certainly use what I learnt. And I will set my standards a little higher from now on!!
Quite frankly I think this only reflects on how little we ask our horses and how low our expectations are rather than being a poor reflection on Buck.

The things he askes are things you should be able to do. Choosing a pace in walk is part of the very basics of horse training regardless of discipline - and something I am struggling with at the moment on my 5yo - as should be moving the feet individually. Riding a horse truly forward from the leg is something, again, we don't seem to have mastered in this country and is actually the cause of so many issues that people have. The horse should go off a light leg aid first time every time. I don't see what the issue is with the 'with authority' cue. You wont have to do that very often as the horse will learn to go off the softer cue quickly, mine certainly did.

I occasionally train with a 4* eventer and he works on all of those things above before he lets you near a fence.
 
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