I learned so much this weekend that it still feels like I’m absorbing everything that got placed into my brain. The Buck Brannaman clinic was well worth the time to travel to Clemson and I’m heartbroken that I won’t be able to go to the one next weekend in Lexington.
I may look like a wet dog, but I got to meet Buck Brannaman!
I haven’t fully digested everything yet and don’t have the time to fully spend writing up my notes (far more than I ever took in college), but I’ll try to intersperse things from the clinic as I go along. I’ll also take some time later this week to give a general overview of it. It’s at the very least totally worth your time and money to go and at least audit his clinic.
That’s his “green” horse. He has a much different idea of “green” than I do…
Last night was this first time since the clinic that I got to see Smokey, which means he had a whole weekend to be a horse and not do a single thing. There are two new horses at the barn, too. I got there late last night as I’m a procrastinator and didn’t leave work at a reasonable hour.
I had grand illusions of Buck Brannaman-ing Smokey all night, but as you know you can never go to the barn with a plan and have it come to fruition.
I retrieved Smokes from the pasture and walked him past the new horses with no incident. Only after we got out of the pasture gate did we have issues. There were several blankets laying on the ground behind a hedge that were apparently monsters that Smokey could not possibly be told were anything else. So we fought. I’ve never seen Smokey just outright terrified of something, but these blankets were imminent danger to his being, clearly.
One of the big takeaways from the clinic was to never let your horse move your feet. This means that your horse’s feet belong to you and instead of him bullying you at any juncture, you can own his feet and put him where you want him instead of having to move your own feet. With this in mind, I tried to gracefully ask Smokey to move himself around while snorting and making a general fool of himself instead of bowl me over or try to do something stupid like jump back in the pasture (which is what he seemed to want to do).
So we danced about for quite some time; long enough for it to get dark. By the time we got up to the barn, I decided that it was too hard to root around in my tack trunk for too much so I brushed him off, show sheened his mane and tail and got ready to go down to the arena with just the clinician’s lead. We stopped off at the blankets and had a learning session with those. He had finally gotten over the snorty/bolty moment he was having and let me toss them around and lay them on him. All in all, a success.
We did some groundwork out in the arena. Another takeaway from the clinic was “untracking the hind end.” In essence, moving your horse’s butt is one of the most important fundamentals. I worked on the half circle exercise of sending him off one direction, having him go half way around the circle and then changing directions back the other way. This also gets them rolled back on their haunches, a very important step to getting them to ultimately collect and balance. Smokey is pretty good at these things and he picks up on patterns almost immediately. I’m really impressed with how far he can come in a few minutes of doing an exercise.
We did the half circles for a few minutes and then I decided to turn him back out. It was dark and I didn’t want to try to ride him alone in the dark after he had been all worked up from the blanket situation.
Another note on Smokey in particular: he’s already fuzzy for winter. What. I think his body just doesn’t realize he’s living in the south now, and while we’re having this amazing cooler weather, it doesn’t mean that we’re going to get snow next week like he’s used to out west. I’m not looking forward to having him double in size this winter due to his coat blossoming. It’s no doubt, though, that I won’t need to blanket him for pretty much any reason. I’m not sure how I’ll cope with him being wet and cold, but we’ll see if he can even stand to be blanketed and not tear it to pieces every time as I suspect he would.
So more on the clinic soon. I’ll have a few days off from seeing Smokes to think about it all and write up some interesting tidbits.
Another big thing that happened this weekend was the Mustang Million in Ft. Worth. Some really great trainers took their adopted mustangs to compete in a whole bunch of specialty classes and overall divisions. Though the folks I had been following locally didn’t make the top 20, they all finished really well in the standings and it sounds like it was a generally good time had by all. As with all shows that involve any significant purse money, this one had some drama as well. I almost wish they would keep these shows small to keep the drama at bay at least a little.
I will say that the show really did showcase the diversity and utility of the mustang as a trainable, showable and more than capable riding partner. There were plenty of horses doing things that most people’s domestic horses are woefully incapable of doing. Not only were there tricks, but lots of useful skills taught to each of these horses who either wen back home with their trainer or were reassigned to a new owner while in Ft. Worth.
So congrats to all of the riders, trainers and adopters! It sounds like a great job was done by all and the Mustang Heritage Foundation put on a good show for everyone. I’m sure there are plenty of videos on YouTube now of all the finalists, but I’ll share one here – This is Bobby Kerr placing third with Jingle Bob in the finals freestyle. His two horses came in second and third. All final results can be found here.
I think the more I see of these mustang makeovers, the more I would like to try it. I know that Smokey isn’t nearly as far along as some of these horses, but I have a lot more tools in my chest now for how to train one faster and more skillfully. Poor Smokes was just the crash test dummy. Good thing I make it up to him with copious amounts of carrots.
Here’s a great list of must-watch videos from the event as well. Don’t forget that the youth division did some really cool things too!