Friday, August 7, 2009
First off I have no pictures to share. So I'll relay what I recall by writing about it.
I decided to take Cricket and I'm still not sure if I made the right choice on that. We arrived on schedule at the facility. I signed in and unloaded and saddled Cricket. She was standing tied to the side of the trailer. I moved to the other side to organize some equipment and get my bridle, I heard her blow up and put on a full fledged bucking fit while tied, rearing and bucking. When she bucks she means business and it's rough stock rodeo worthy.
I thought great, just what I need on this of all days. She has not bucked with me this year and while she has gotten upset and tight I was able to redirect and she seemed to settle.
I untied her and bridled her with no problem, did a little ground work getting her to flex to me, walking some circles and what I thought was enough untracking her hind end.
I led her to the arena which was filled with the other 19 participants, another horse was high and tight and promptly dumped her rider although the rider was rather green and sort of fell of, she was unhurt and her horse ran off. Cricket was a little tight from all the commotion and nervous.
This is the first time I had ridden her off the place and her first experience being hauled and working in a group riding situation. I did a few more ground work lead throughs and untracking, while she seemed a little tight still, I figured her to settle as I walked her to relax and move with the others. I checked my cinch and swung on, I sat on her for a minute asked her to flex and yield left and right a few times, she still seemed a little tight but I figured I was on and we needed to get moving.
I held both reins in my left hand and grabbed my nightlatch with my right, I jiggled and bumped my legs asking her to move forward..... forward she did, with a grunt and a fart up she went in true bronc form, hit the ground hard with her front feet, bogged her head and did it 3 more times, by this time I started to come loose and decided this jump was as good as any to get off, her next pitch bounced me good onto the saddle horn for good measure and the next pitch threw me clear.
I was thankful for well worked soft arena dirt and landed on my hands and knees. I kept a grip on my reins, I do have a knack for keeping hold of the horse. She proceeded to drag me about 2 feet before she stopped and turned to face me. I wasn't hurt and other than the overflow of adrenaline a bruise on my bicep and bruise and scrape on my solar plexus I was OK.... although once I stood up I realized my belt buckle worked as a nifty funnel to scoop about a cup of dirt straight into the waist band of my jeans..... suffice it to say I was a bit gritty down there all day.
I spent a few minutes, catching my breath, calming down and soothing Cricket. I chatted with a woman that saw it all and she kept asking me if I was OK and did I need drink (I thought to myself maybe tequila). She commended my lady bronc skills and was helpful to reassure me .... I had to chuckle.
I did a bit more ground work and mounted again, one hand on the reins and right hand on the nightlatch........Jiggled and bumped my legs and let her move off. She did this time rough, crude and started trotting and weaving around, I circled her this way and that, after a turn or 2 I decided to two-hand the reins and managed to steer her around. By this time other horses were taking advantage of their green riders and another girl fell off. Her horse was acting up and she turned him too tight his reaction was to slightly rear to escape the pressure and instead of releasing and holding the saddle she pulled harder on the reins as she lost her balance and fell off backward. The woman was unhurt and her horse earned the privilege of being ridden hard and learning respect and yielding by one of Bucks experienced hands. The woman also earned the home work he assigned and was expected to accomplish that evening.
After several minutes Buck called us into a circle to start the morning discussion for the day...... So much for the smooth start to the clinic.
Buck was adamant on our horses responding to the light feel, both from the leg and the bit, as we discussed his expectation and questions about it were brought up different aspects of those 2 terms were analyzed, he told us "your legs are dead, they have no life" , "your have dulled your horse", "stop nagging with the leg" "ask for the light feel" and "do what it takes"
Apparently my name was drawn out of the hat for the target of the day, I never saw anybody pin the bullseye to my back, but it was there and Buck took aim every chance he could. "Your legs have no life" he barked, "stop grinding your heel into your horse" on my attempts to generate energy with my legs I was hollered at "quit trying to punch a hole in your horse's sides" my attempts to use the soft feel were completely ignored by Cricket, I was still concerned about getting dumped, she was still tight and a little high under me, our steering was shot to hell, she refused to get close to the rail, I had zero flexion and arc to the right (her bad side), she was over flexing to the left and it was 100 degrees with no breeze in an outdoor arena.
My frustration with the horse and my irritation with Buck were interpreted by him as anger, "Geeze people" he barked, "you look so miserable, if you can't have fun , JUST GO HOME", I was hollered at to reward the slightest try, " you have a tendency to demand too much, Rae", he barked " You could pet your horse once in a while, otherwise she will just say 'to hell with it, I can't please you anyway'"
I was thinking I was at the wrong place, on the wrong day and I brought the wrong horse, I certainly didn't pay $500 to become somebodys target. Hell, for $25 I could have sat under a tent in the shade and watched somebody else get ripped.
After about an hour of circles, one rein stops, extremely short serpentines, 1/2 circles, hind end stepping and reaching across, using the light feel with the reins and stopping with position 3 with our seats (pelvis tipped under and sitting on our pockets, slightly braced) we formed another circle for discussion.
I was very tired, VERY hot and feeling targeted.
Buck uses the ending discussion circle to one on one address each rider and how they were doing, when he asked me how I was doing I told him "I brought the wrong horse" he said something about me not needing to impress him and me looking good was not his concern.
I asked about using my legs, asking for the soft feel and not getting it, he barked "your horse doesn't respect you, move your horse to the side" he said, I pressed her with my heel and I knew she wouldn't step to the side, I used a bit more heel, "STOP grinding your heel into your horse, IT NEVER WORKED BEFORE, IT ISN'T GOING TO WORK NOW"
He then went on to discuss if it(anything we are doing) isn't working before it won't work now, "do something different to get something different" he said.
He elaborated on stopping with the seat and holding the soft feel with the reins, always teetering back with the soft feel after coming to a stop.
He asked me to back Cricket, I picked up the reins, held slight feel and jiggled my legs and squeezed.... she didn't back. I have always used that sequence, I had that drilled into me from the beginning of my riding career.... Don't back with the bit .......create some energy with your seat and legs, stop forward motion with the reins and direct it backward...... Buck barked "NO, that isn't working, that is NOT how you back, backing like that will RUIN the back up on a bridle horse",I started to explain that was all I knew, that was how I learned to back up a horse, he ignored me and went on to explain how important it is to back off the soft feel ONLY, I asked about legs, again he barked "NO you DO NOT use your legs backing".
He again asked me to hold a soft feel, I set a soft feel on Cricket and we waited, and waited and waited, after about 20 seconds I kind of shrugged and looked at him, "She'll sit here all day" I said.....
Buck said " Your horse isn't halter broke, get off your horse" as I dismounted he admonished me to dismount more cleanly next time as I drug my toe slightly over her hip, "With you riding a sensitive horse, you should be mindful of causing her more distress". I intentionally have been doing that on mounting and dismounting to desensitize her.....sigh.
He asked his daughter Reata to bring her horse to the middle and he dismounted his horse, he demonstrated how to back the horse holding the bit, he used held the rein close to the bit and applied a very light touch releasing minutely in time with the front feet leaving the ground (that is the release), when the horse didn't back as lightly as the feel he offered, he demonstrated how to press the bit hard into the jaw bone, backing that horse hard 4 or 5 steps, then release and ask for the soft feel again, hard enough to cause that horse to me more mindful to the soft feel initially offered, it should be hard enough to have him think you don't want to do it again. He said "now you try it".
I did and my initial attempts were not hard enough he said, and I was holding the rein not close enough to the snaffle ring.
My next attempts were better. He said "your horse isn't halter broke, when she is halter broke that will improve."
Buck demonstrated how his horse is respectful and soft on the ground, yielded to him and will move on the softest of suggestions. After other discussion and various questions he told us tomorrow we would be doing 'sets'.
A 'set' is backing on the soft feel 10 steps, exactly ten steps, then stepping forward 10 steps , no more, no less. Back 9 steps and forward 9 steps, backward 8 steps forward 8 steps all the way down to one. Keeping a soft feel, if the horse sticks, hard pressure on the jaw, find the soft feel again and start again.
We were dismissed.
I left the arena completely confused, I wondered where the memo was for the information I apparently missed. I really listened hard and I seemed to miss some critical information from somewhere. "do what it takes" "where is the soft feel?" "do something" "don't do that".......
I was untacking Cricket and was preparing to lead her to the water when another participant came to me and commended me on my bronc riding skills, she was impressed that I stayed on as long as I did and she wanted to tell me she thought I did a great job.....too funny.
I was eating my lunch at the trailer and watching Cricket eat hers when a girlfriend I have not seen in 17 years approached me...... She and I used to show horses together and hauled to shows and rode with the same trainer for a time, I was never so surprised.
She has ridden a couple clinics and audited several more, she and her husband have become close acquaintances with Buck.
She encouraged me, she reassured me that Buck does not take personal offense nor does he hold a grudge, he is focused on the horse and focused on the rider. He is totally absorbed with getting the best out of and for both.
I insisted to her I brought the wrong horse and that I should have ridden Domino. She encouraged me to ride Cricket, the greener horse would benefit and I could get the help I needed. We visited for some time and caught up...... as we were chatting the afternoon Ranch Roping clinic had started in the indoor arena and I heard Buck call my name, he kept asking if I was still here and as he was using his legs to get his horse to back.... he wanted me to see the difference. I heard Reata tell him I was outside, he replied "OK". Later we went in to watch the last part of the roping clinic and he addressed me to tell the importance of sometimes using the legs to back a horse, but ONLY the legs and only as an advanced movement, useful when the hands are occupied with roping and holding a roped animal.
At the end of the day, and after Buck had finished answering all the questions from the ranch roping participants I approached him. I told him I still thought I brought the wrong horse and my concern was getting the tools I need to ride all my horses, not to necessarily fix this one. He said "I think she's doing fine and she really needs the work", I said "I think I'm not getting what I need because I'm spending so much time dealing with her issues" I asked if he thought it better to ride the less green horse, he said "I don't care which horse you bring either way is OK with me".
The guy has a knack of never telling you anything and always letting you find your own answer...... damn.
After I came home and late in the evening I went out and worked Cricket on the lead backing on the soft feel with the rope halter, then backing sets from the ground with the snaffle. I did some small serpentines and practiced sets from the saddle.....
Tomorrow I'm going to be prepared.