A friend of mine is a long time follower of Buck Brannaman. She practices his ground handling methods and has attended around 5-6 of his clinics, owns his DVD series etc. No, I am not talking about blogger Linda :)
I shared arena/barn time with my friend D for years. She is familiar with my horse struggles and knows Koda (and Nemo & Cierra). We always clicked, while both boarding at the show barn. I haven't seen her since we moved our horses home.
She recently visited our ranch for the first time, and invited me to join her at Buck's October local-ish clinic. D thought I would relate to his horsemanship style. Over the years, I've heard nothing but good things about Buck. The last time I audited a clinic, it soured me on ever auditing again. That was a long time ago, and this is a different clinician. It was time to give it another try.
D had recommended watching the Buck documentary prior to the clinic. I didn't get a chance to do that, but found some detailed info online about his past. I was already aware of his well-known connection to Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance. I learned, his unofficial online presence is pretty buttoned up.
We attended on a Saturday, the second day of the clinic. I had no idea what to expect at a Buck clinic, but knew if nothing else I would enjoy spending a day away with a horse friend.
My first take-away from Bucks clinic was ~ wow ~ it was really well attended! I would call the riding arena crowded. He did. Not sure I would be saying that over a loud speaker to people who payed good money to ride with me, but everyone just chuckled when he said "I haven't been able to lope my horse in months because the arenas are so damn crowded".
After doing hours of ground work, the sea of handlers parted to watch him ride/school before a lunch break. During the Foundation Horsemanship morning section, Buck had talked about the use of tools (or lack of). Including proper use of spurs. He loped his first horse very briefly, only in key spots. When he was done, he explained his use of leg pressure & spurs further. It didn't have much to do with the ground work lessons, but it did have everything to do with pressure in general. Which as you know, is all related.
There were a lot of auditors. I was surprised how often the clinic organizers asked auditors to see wristbands. There must be roaming freeloaders hitting up clinics. A crowded arena made it much harder to see what was being taught. Horses don't make very good windows. D would fill me in when I couldn't see what he was doing with a horse to help the handler. She is so familiar with Buck's methods.
She mentioned recognizing many of the same people attending, wearing the same attire. It was awesome people/horse watching! I loved seeing all the classic Western wear and tack, that you don't normally see in the MidWest. Funny, Buck also commented about repeat attendees. He said his clinic must be a social event of sorts, since he reteaches the same thing over and over. Guess you had to be there. It was funny when Buck said it.
My crappy phone photos were quickly snapped in between the many horses. The arena at times looked like controlled chaos, and he called them on it. I quickly learned, Buck is not a soft spoken man. Not harsh, but direct. Likely a reflection of his past. However, he has an undertone of kindness. Especially towards horses.
Buck did an admirable job of explaining the why. He used the familiar human on a rope to teach how a horse would react. At one point he was on his hands and knees in the sand.
I wonder if every single rider got one on one attention. He definitely did not cater to any one in particular, but there were sooo many horse/rider combo's participating in the clinic. 25-ish? I did not count.
There was a vaquero rider at the clinic, doing his own thing. D mentioned he travels with Buck. Fun to watch. I thought it might have been Jeff Sanders, known for his Garrocha work. When I got home and looked Jeff up, it clearly wasn't. Apparently there is a common classic look among modern day vaqueros. If you aren't familiar, here is a video of Jeff doing garoccha training in Spain. It is beautiful.
By early afternoon my brain was mush. I could never ride in a clinic for three whole days. Although his clinics are clearly amazing!! Talk about information overload. The clinic was non-stop action. There were multiple things going on at all times. While handlers were working with their horse, Buck was working on-on-one or teaching auditors by telling related stories. He is chatty and tells A LOT of great stories! He swears more than I do, lol. Most stories were humorous, and all included reinforcing lessons. Buck is one funny guy. I could have brought my camera, and played photographer - but I wanted to soak it in real time.
his apprentice did most of the hands on rail work helping handlers
Buck started the afternoon section with a riding presentation on a different horse. You could have heard a pin drop. His riding was very slow & purposeful. He only did a little loping and not the show off stuff so frequently seen by presenters. Buck talked a lot about dancing with the horse. It was very interesting to watch him ride.
The afternoon session (Horsemanship 1) was mounted, with about half the attendees. I got more out of the first half of the clinic, only because it was a lot to absorb.
D said she missed watching Buck work with a rogue horse. There wasn't one. Which is a good thing, but unusual. I have seen a fair amount of clinics over the years and there is always one rider/horse who really shouldn't be there. They tend to monopolize the clinicians time out of need, but there are always valuable lessons to learn.
Buck announced he is cutting back on clinics & travel. He is in the process of putting together video clips. The "Buck Channel" will be available on his website, as soon as the end of this year.
I have to admit, I had a hard time writing this lengthy post. There were so many good lessons and stories. If I shared them or my notes, it would make no sense without being at the clinic. My general takeaway is something all the good ones teach, timing is everything.
"Ask the right question at the right time"