Wednesday, May 23, 2012


For the past 9 months Robin and I have been doing our best to apply the things we learned at the Buck Brannaman clinic in Decorah.  It has been a fun and rewarding 9 months.  We have both seen huge changes in softness, responsiveness, and how both our horses view us.  We've still had some problems and questions in that time, and while we did see some enormous progress, it was also apparent that we were maybe leaving some things out.

So last week we took a road trip to Ft. Collins, Colorado to audit another Buck clinic.  At the first clinic we saw Horsemanship 1 and Cow Working.  This time we got to start with Foundation Horsemanship in the morning and then review Horsemanship 1 in the afternoon.

The first time we saw Buck it was an amazing eye opener.  It seemed that every 10 minutes we were learning something completely new.  The awesome thing about this approach to working with horses is that it makes so much sense once you hear it.  Sometimes you wonder why you haven't thought of such things before.

Of course, in practice, things are a little different.  And this time around I pretty much knew what was coming, but I still ended up taking way more notes than last time.  I won't go through them all now, but over the next few weeks I'll try to talk about the things I do with Bear and Laredo, how I used to do the exercises, and what I learned to hopefully make things go a little bit better.

One of the cool things about going to a Buck clinic is just watching him ride.  It is unbelievable how smooth and graceful he rides.  He is 100 percent with his horse all the time.  He makes it look so easy, but clearly it is not as no one else in the arena is able to do what he can do.

During one of the exercises, a few riders were having trouble with their body position, and they just couldn't see how their movements were affecting their horses. Buck told everyone to watch closely, cuz he was only going to do it once.  Then he rode Gidget through the hind-end/front end movement we call whirly-gigs, but he did not time his requests with the feet and he did not move with the horse.  Gidget stumbled through the movement, but it was not pretty, and afterwards she gave him this look that seemed to be asking, "what the hell did you do that for?"  I know I need to get with my horse, but that illustration just hammered it into my head even more.

When moving the front end over Buck slides the hand of the leading rein up to his hip.  That was something I was missing.
It was neat to see Gidget again.  She is 4 now and looking a little more mature than last fall.  He still has her in the snaffle, but you can see he is much more demanding on her than he was last year.  Both under saddle and on the ground.  Again he brought the tarp out each morning.  This was great, as we got to see her with the tarp last year.  He says he hasn't been using it much lately, as he likes to vary things up as much as possible, so we could have easily missed the tarp work.  But overall, Buck works horses with the tarp on and off for 2 to 3 years.  Definitely something to keep in mind.

$4 tarp from a hardware store, the cheapest piece of horse equipment you'll ever find.
Buck also had an assistant with him this year, a young guy named Isaac.  In between running the sound system and bringing Buck his coffee, Isaac would work with some of the more troubled horses on the ground and under saddle.  We got to see him ride many different horses, and none of them were the easy ones.  Each time he made an unbelievable turn around.  Buck did the same thing with a few horses on the ground, but it is no surprise that he can do that.  Seeing another person make similar gains was great.  I've always known that "it is the rider's fault" when things go wrong.  But what I got from watching Isaac ride (and from Buck's bad riding example I mentioned above), was that it is also the rider who can make things go well.  Funny that I never really stopped to think of it that way.

Isaac on a Friesian guiding the hind and front with the propulsion created by Buck tossing a rope.
The clinic was very educational and inspiring.  It kind of makes me want to go watch another one as soon as I can. But I know once I start revisiting exercises with Bear and Laredo I will be content for a while. Then at some point we'll probably have some other questions and can go to another clinic to reload again.


  1. I didn't meet you at the Decorah clinic last year did I? I'm so glad you've gotten to ride with him a couple times! Keep up the good work!

  2. No, we didn't meet in Decorah. We were actually only auditing, and I didn't find your blog until I got back home and looked for some write ups on Buck clinics. We emailed briefly after that, because there were a few things I really liked about your write up.

    We also only audited in Colorado. Someday we'll get to ride with Buck, but right now we don't really have the means to trailer our guys to wherever we need to go. So our current goal is to audit at least one clinic a year and learn everything we can. So far it is working great!