Sunday, March 22, 2015

Texas and Buck Brannaman and Springtime

Last Saturday, Brian and I drove to Texas. His parents have moved to the Dallas area, and it was high time we got down there to visit. While this did mean we were away from our horses for a while, happily Buck was nearby. On Monday, we kidnapped Brian's mother and all of us audited a day of his Horsemanship II class in Farmersville, Texas. It had been a while since we'd seen Buck in person. It was massively educational, as always. Unfortunately Buck was riding in shade while we were sitting in sun, and was always pretty far away. And I only had my phone. So I didn't get any good photos.


I got a lot of other good stuff, though. While a lot of what we hear at clinics is repetition at this point, there are always many moments that help/clarify/enlighten. Sometimes a little something gets cleared up or explained in a different way. Sometimes you hear something you've heard before, but it gels somehow with something you hadn't realized it was related to. Even in just a few hours dropping in at the end of clinic, I got a lot to take home and work on. Here's a quick list:

1) Canter Transitions - Buck clarified that once his horses are capable of going from the walk to the canter, he rarely asks them to go from the trot to the canter. This is actually something I have been wondering about lately. So it was just good to hear Buck discuss why he believes separating the trot from the canter is a good thing. It enables the horse to more easily maintain a large, energetic trot without always wondering if you're going to tip him into the canter.

2) Matching Energy - While riding Guapo, Buck mentioned that he corrected his colt at one point because the horse's energy didn't match the energy of his ask. This was a really good reminder that a "meh" response to an energetic cue doesn't cut it.

3) Responsive vs Reactive - At one point, Buck talked about the importance of teaching a horse to be alive and responsive, but not reactive. He talked about how this is a hard line to walk, and how it took him a while to figure out how to bring the life up in a horse without getting the horse to feeling persecuted. This was good to hear, because it's something I have always struggled with on Steen. Steen's threshold from crossing from "alive" to "anxious" is very, very short. Sometimes I default to doing too little because I don't want to push him too hard, where other times I push him too hard and get him upset. It's always a little encouraging to hear that even the best hands out there had to learn this kind of thing through trial and error, and got it wrong a lot before they started getting it right most of the time.

4) Non-Linear Progression - Lastly, we heard Buck talk again about the bridle horse progression, and how you sometimes have to move ahead to find the holes you left, then go back and fix them. He emphasized you might go back and forth between the stages many times before you really, truly make it to the next step in the progression. He encouraged people to try to move ahead, even knowing you're probably going to have to fall back. We've heard him say this before, but was good to hear it again.

Anyway, we had a nice time in Texas, and got back home on Wednesday. I had a big, complex website to launch on Thursday, so that day was all work and no play for me. But I was able to take Friday off to finish the first draft of my second contemporary western novel and go ride horses later in the day.

We had some great weather for the weekend. Green things are just just barely starting to grow. We were able to spend lots of time grooming our filthy horses out in the sun.

On Friday, I rode Steen. And I was just a bit more particular than I have been lately about how he responded to my asks. I have actually been starting to wonder lately if Steen's age was beginning to interfere with the things I sometimes ask him to do. He has felt a bit dull this winter, both less light on the hackamore and less lively off my legs. After listening to Buck, I realized it was more likely an issue with me than him. So we spent a little bit of time on recalibrating. On Friday he got a little over amped after I corrected him once or twice, but I just worked on being supportive and soft and he calmed back down. On Saturday, he was very settled, but lighter than I've felt in a while. Today, he was absolutely awesome. So I think I've actually been selling him short - convincing myself that he's been getting less on top of things. Sure, he's getting older and he's not in super great shape coming off our more limited winter riding. But that means I just need more careful about what I ask him to do - not that I should get sloppy about the quality of our work together.


Horseback Hours YTD: 22:30

2 comments:

  1. The concern about age/ability is something I find myself thinking about with Tranikla too (as well as with myself...although that's another story). I often find myself going back and forth between "oh, he's old and out of shape" and "he should totally be able to do this!". I think it can be a difficult balance to maintain. With Tranikla, there are definitely some things he can't (or at least shouldn't) do, like lope to the right for any real length of time. As well as a number of things that are difficult for him, but helpful as long as they're not pushed too far, like trotting smallish circles with a nice bend.

    The main thing I try to do is pay attention to how Tranikla behaves, and mix "easy" stuff in with the difficult. He does this certain head-toss/foot stomp when he's frustrated because he's having a hard time physically. If I see that, or if he's starting to feel stiff and rigid when he was feeling soft a minute ago, I try to switch to a simpler or more relaxed exercise.

    I guess the main thing is that you just gotta use your best judgement. And talk to the vet a lot to get their opinion about what things are "real" and what are just in your head.

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    1. Fortunately, Steen isn't to the point yet that he genuinely can't do anything, but I know it's just a matter of time. With so much scar tissue on both hind legs, he does get tight in the winter. I know as he continued to age it's going to be a balancing act between keeping him limber and pushing him too hard. Definitely just something I'm going to have to keep feeling out as I go.

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