Monday, September 12, 2011

A Whole Lotta Buck

I know I was just getting back on track with the blog and now it has been weeks. But they were busy weeks. Robin's Mom was visiting for a while, and then we had a short vacation.

First we saw the film Buck. I had been excited about this film since I first heard about it. After reading a lot of Buck's work and seeing what he can do with horses, I knew I would like the movie. And I wasn't disappointed in the slightest. Of course, I did want a little more instruction, but it wasn't that kind of movie. So if you enjoy horses and life and interesting people, this is definitely a documentary you should check out.

For Robin and I, the film was really a primer. After watching it and then spending time with her Mom, Robin and I headed up to Decorah, Iowa to audit the Buck Brannaman clinic.

On the way up, though, we got a little distracted. For the past many months I've been reading about boots. My current pair is too big for me and ultimately not made for pure riding. They've gotten the job done, but I felt ready for a real horseman's boot. I have been able to try some on in Iowa City, but we only have one good western wear shop and most of their boots have heavy lugged soles for working or flashy designs for the dance floor and country western concerts. I didn't like either.

But half way between here and Decorah we found a great boot and tack shop. They carried the brand I was looking for, too. Olathe. I was able to try on a lot of boots, and I walked away with this very cool, stylish, and comfortable boot.

I was able to wear them around the clinic and start breaking them in. Thankfully the clinic was so interesting that it distracted me from the slight pain in my ankle bones caused by the rawhide counter on the boot (luckily it has already started to soften).

This was my first horse clinic. It was four days long and each day had two classes, Horsemanship 1 in the morning and Cow Working in the afternoon. We went up interested in the former, but we ultimately learned just as much, if not more, from the latter. It turns out they didn't work cows all the much, instead we learned a ton of exercises to prepare our horses for working cattle. Also, we were a little surprised to find that working cattle seemed a lot more interesting than we would have thought, and hopefully some day we'll get a chance to do it.

We learned so much from the clinic that I cannot blog about it all now. I still have to go through the pages and pages of notes we took while we were there. One thing I will talk about a little bit are Buck's horses. Buck practices the Vaquero style of horsemanship which involves taking a horse from the snaffle bit, through the hackamore, into the two rein, and finally straight up in the bridle spade bit.

Buck had two horses at the clinic with him. In the mornings he rode the cutest gray filly I had ever seen. Gidget was a 3 year old that he spent 1 week getting used to a saddle and rider about a year ago, and this summer he had only been riding her for 3 weeks. So she had just under a month of rides in her.

You could hardly tell she was that green. This horse was easily more responsive than any other horse at the clinic. And there were a few other accomplished horses there. However, Gidget still had her 3 year old moments. And this was the fascinating part about watching Buck work with her. She would go from looking like a bomb proof little horse to leaping around because something bothered her. Buck would calmy figure it out and then get her used to it. Whatever it happened to be. In the mornings he would warm up for the clinic by doing some groundwork with Gidget and a tarp. That made for some very instructive moments about desensitizing and keeping a horse responsive.

Bear is a pretty easy going guy, but I do think I'll have to use some of these methods on him.

In the afternoons Buck rode his full bridle horse, Rebel. He is the same horse Buck was riding for much of the film. He's a big, dark bay Quarter Horse. He was so refined that it was almost impossible to see Buck asking him to do anything. Even when he would demonstrate trust and feel by riding figure-eights without the reins I still couldn't tell what Buck was doing, but Rebel sure could. I wish I had some pictures of him, but the afternoons were super bright and sunny.  Too bright for photos. Of course, to complain about the weather would be foolish, it was about as good as it could get.

I borrowed this shot of Buck on Rebel from here.
We ended the week feeling invigorated, inspired, and refreshed. It was an amazing vacation, and we can't wait to get to work with our horses.

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