another try

look familiar?

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.

looking for the correct answer on backing
the first time you ask 

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. 

there was lots and lots of flag work
(all on the ground for attendees)

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. 

Buck teaches mounting off the rail vs a block

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.

"If you ask the horse, you'll get the truth" 

"Do less then you think it will take to get the job done"

"Ask the right question at the right time"


sunday stills ~ in your car/truck

After enjoying a delicious Sunday breakfast, we took a scenic route to the farm store. The sun peeked out at times along our drive, making the tree colors magnificent!! 

These iphotos were taken in my truck (actually hubby's truck). I used an overall auto filter called "Accentuate" to compensate for the blah cloud cover. They could have called it a blue filter. 


sequire adelante

I made it through the hardest Summer of my life. Barely. September was even harder. So if my photography/blog seemed dark at times, it was. Art is a reflection of the mind. My loss is very deep and uniquely personal. I am healing and learning to live with it. Not looking for sympathy or condolences, and am choosing not to participate in Social Media hoopla. I am only telling key friends in person, when the time is right. However, I feel a need to be transparent. With you, my longtime dear blogger friends. Who would have no way of otherwise knowing, that there is a reason things may seem different. That I seem different. I am. I have been profoundly changed forever. By circumstances out of my control.

I've been feeling much like the leaves I shared on Sunday Stills #20 . That photo was a cropped version of the one below. No photoshop wizardry was used. I tell viewers if I ever do major edits, which is just about never. This darker view is looking into our pine woods. 
Look at the leaves. I mean REALLY look at the leaves, and the photo overall. It tells a story, about life.

In addition to my personal loss, I was surprised to find out that pancreatic cancer took a photography friend (younger than me) this Summer. Our busy paths took us in different directions. We never got to shoot together, with our matching equipment & similar love of nature.

A younger horse friend is about to have a double mastectomy, to hopefully stop the big C. Another horse friend is in remission from no less than 3 different rounds and types of cancer. I've recently enjoyed treasured time with both of them.

There are a lot of life lessons to embrace from these three incredibly strong and wonderful women. As well as my hero. My beloved mom. Who raised me as a single parent in a country foreign to her, before it was the norm.

This is easily my favorite photo of us:

Me at 29 & my mom Aurora (the 2nd) at age 59

(photo of a photo, with discoloration & specks)

Let's just say, the transition from Summer into Fall has been transformative. I've re/connected with caring friends, while others will forever remain as acquaintances. Even when I thought they were more than that. When life gets hard, you find out who your people are.

I still have two of my most important humans on this earth, who truly love and understand me. My husband and my son. Thank god for my guys!! This world would be a very very lonely place with out them. Especially Brad. He knows me better than anyone else, and after all these years still chooses to spend his life with me. I have no idea how he puts up with my crazy, but I sure am thankful he does.

These are the very same leaves as the photo above, looking out of our pine woods. A much different view and feel. It also tells a story.

All we can do is Seguire Adelante (continue forward) and I am. It won't be easy, without the one person that has loved me unconditionally and been there for me my entire life. Even in her frail condition. Even as she made her way out of this world. Always and forever.

my mom's sky the day she took her last breath

(the Milky Way view, from our property)

~ ~ ~

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

~ Robert Frost

~ ~ ~

Public comments on this post have been turned off. With personal reflection, I prefer to connect one on one. If you ever find yourself in a place where sharing a meaningful conversation about a topic no one ever wants to discuss would be helpful, I am more than willing. 


short and sweet

Brad & I recently enjoyed a super short and sweet vacation up north to take in the wonders of the north woods. We caught up with friends and stayed in our long time familiar rental cabin.

taking a break from the fire, on a quiet evening with furry friends
(rolling kitten in front of door)

We haven't been to our home away from home but once, since we moved. Our travels north started as a birthday present for Brad, 10 years ago. We fell in love with the area, our visits quickly increased to 4-5 times a year.

One of my favorite things to do is soak in 
the vast beauty of the Nicolet National Forest.

orses came up with us in June & October, and we rode snowmobiles multiple times in the Winter. Depending on snow, and always around Valentines Day. If you are a long time blog follower, you might remember some of our overnight horse trials and triumphs. This is the only place we've glamped with horses. We had dreams to increase traveling and trail riding with our horses, but that went to the bottom of the list when we purchased our land. Maybe some day.

We made many treasured memories up north over the years! Some of my favorite revolve around this lookout... 

Koda & I at the lookout (2014)


Koda overlooking the Nicolet
full color trees, as far as the eye can see

Oconto County used to be WI's best kept secret, but the secret is out. The only October reservation we could make was during the week. Spur of the Moment Ranch is experiencing their best year/s, they are heavily booked year round. I am very happy for them, it is well deserved. They are a great family!

We have gotten to know each other well, share many laughs and go out to eat together etc. When we headed back home on a Friday, weekend reservations were rolling in non-stop.

We had tentatively planned on bringing horses with us, but I am SO glad we didn't!! A few months after our last trip, 100mph straight line winds hit and severely damaged the area. Forever labeled as the July 2019 derecho. I/we had completely forgotten about it.

What we saw was shocking, and very sad. It was such a beautiful area :( Allllll those trees, up rooted or snapped in half. For miles and miles. 100's of thousands of trees. I guess the structure of the ground has been saturated and destroyed, any little wind and more trees topple over.

You know the saying, out of sight out of mind. Well, it is in my mind now and we didn't even see the worst of it. 
They are hardy people, with a strong work ethic. The area came back from tornado damage years earlier, and will eventually rebound from this storm as well. It is an aging population with limited resources that depend on tourism. Every single family restaurant/bar is for sale. It is going to take around 10 years to restore the large damaged section of the Nicolet Forest. Even then, it will never be the same. 

Treasure every moment, you never know when things might change.


Instead of the horses or snowmobiles, we brought our not so little Tank with us. He was a puppy last time he stayed at the ranch. Tank travels like a dream, and slept the entire 3.5 hour drive.

We took advantage of our one full day, and squeezed in as much as we could ~ and still relax.

In the morning, we headed out south towards my favorite trail that does not allow motorized vehicles (except in the Winter).

to get to anywhere, you have to take the multi use trail

It is an old railroad bed, if you head north it goes all the way up to Michigan. Not a fan of riding it horseback. Some areas have steep sides with no where to go if your horse decides to take issue. On the weekends, it is a sure bet you will come upon groups of four wheelers. We have never had a problem, they have always been respectful but there is a first time for everything.

Here it is! Interesting, they re-numbered all the trails
and added more signage

It is (or was) a beautiful windy less traveled path, with sections of birch. The orange, yellow and reds are absolutely stunning! We were there within a week or less of peak color. The reds are typically further into the forest. With every bend we took, we found more tree/s blocking the trail. 

We ducked, and climbed over and around them. The fallen trees seem to increase in size, the further in we got. All the down trees would have been impassable with horses, without pulling them to the side. The first one was doable, the ones that followed would have required chain saws and/or ropes. Photos don't do a good job of showing size.

leaning trees

more down trees

you never know what you might find, like a pile of white cushion stuffing

Then we came across this unpassable mess. Much worse than it looks. I tried to find a way to walk around it, but the woods are thick annnnd we turned around. We had hiked far enough anyways. 

high and thick blockage
complete with a snapped large tree waiting to fall on your head

my happy (wet) feet

early evening fire thoughts

The familiar huge horse eating rock Koda had to befriend over the years, has not changed. I'll never forget that first overnight learning trip when Koda and Nemo were four, it wasn't all fun. Koda's paddock was beyond the rock...I missed having our horses enjoy the fire (and trails!) with us.

this damn tree hangs over the fire pit
and has been dropping crap on my head for years

We come home with remnants of it tucked in our clothes, camp chairs etc
Some things never change.

at least it didn't drop a kitten on me!!

We made new campfire friends (not residents)

The very young grey kitty looked a lot like our Leo. The sociable calico was about 3-4 months.

I don't know what to say, other than she hissed and spit fire

the small broken Ash cabin angel has survived all these years

heading over to see the resident horses/mini donks in their dry lot

Tank posing on the rock
(2 yrs old)

We are really proud of how Tank handled everything!! The dog friendly ranch is a bustling place these days, compared to our quiet homestead. Regardless, we already have a Winter trip planned. They assure us snowmobile trails will be cleared. I hope it snows for everyones sake!! They barely had any snow last year, we never made the trip up. At home we got snow, but in little amounts. We won't ride on questionable trails and never made it out on our sleds last year. I look forward to riding snowy trails, they are SO much better and breathtaking up north!!


sunday stills ~ bugs eye view

Some views from my walk in our woods today. My phone is on the ground, I am not.


where like minds meet

I planned my travel route, printed a hard copy map and even reviewed it with my doesn't need GPS savvy husband. I thought I chose the best travel route to a highly anticipated Fall hike-a-bout in the woods. Much to my dismay, the route I chose to take to meet blogger Val at Kickapoo Valley Reserve (KVR) was a total bust. I will never take that route to get there again, unless it's for a slooow Sunday type scenic drive.

The mapped route apparently didn't take into consideration the hilly curvy roads and multiple Amish buggies one has to patiently coast behind. What really threw me for a loop, was the closer I got to KVR the less signage there was. At times I had no idea what the speed limit was (changes willy nilly) OH that is right. No worries, I was moving at the speed of a Morgan pulling a cart!

I really thought I was doing good on time. Until I wasn't. I ended up being very (very) late and completely frustrated by the time I happened upon KVR. 
With little road signage I wasn't sure which direction was shorter around the 8,600 acre park, to get to where I needed to be. I pulled over to text Val and let her know where I was. Our phones didn't connect more than they did. After finally connecting and turning around, she found me. I must have looked really overwhelmed (I was) because Val was very understanding. Not remotely mad. Now that's a good friend!! Whew, what a rough way to start a beautiful day.


Our hike started by walking UP to a lookout. I needed to catch my breath more than once. WOW, I am out of shape!! That was humbling, and a clear sign I need to start working out again. The climb really wasn't that steep, unless you don't hike elevations. I do walk the dogs almost every day, but our property is mostly flat. I am more about taking in my surroundings, and walk at a stroll.

The lookout was beautiful!! We sat, and chatted. Val took more photos than I did up/along the way, including one of us. You can view them on her blogpost about this adventure. I think in part because my mind was still preoccupied, trying to let go of my heavy thoughts.

It is always interesting to see what captures another photographer's attention. 


I didn't want to interrupt our conversation, and took a quick phone photo as we hiked past this:

serious rock face peeking around the tree & watching intently

made me smile

We walked out of the woods and into a stunning prairie. Orange and yellow hues glowed as far as the eye could see, between the grass swayyying in the breeze. I was awe struck!!

Prairie's are so special, for their hidden qualities. You have to stop, listen and look. They are a great place for portraits, birding and nature watching in general. I am a big fan!

the woods we walked out of

day moon was visible from the prairie

Have I ever mentioned I love photographing weeds?! I find them so interesting, in all seasons. Look at all the seeds held captive: 

stopped me in my tracks

prairie bokeh is gorgeous, especially in the Fall

We didn't walk through or explore this covered bridge very close. There was a warning sign posted on the fence, it was being inhabited by active bees/wasps. I was glad the route Val chose for us went the other direction!

The yellow arrow below points to the (white rock spot) lookout we hiked up to. We saw the covered bridge in the distance, when we were at the lookout:

We crossed a bridge, over a serene part of the Kickapoo River:

The sandy patterns in the water caught my eye, and a lone leaf. Very reflective of where my mind is at these days.

my favorite photo of the day

We had a wonderful time together sharing good conversation in nature. Kickapoo Valley Reserve, where like minds meet. It should really be their motto.


sunday stills ~ cats/kittens

We raised three feral kittens into lovable indoor/outdoor cats. They are two now, and have very different personalities. We have grown very fond of them. All three cats love the dogs (especially Tank) more than us humans.

This is our small girl Tinkerbell. She is sweet and funny, and has a gypsy soul. She still randomly jumps in the air, and is our most playful cat. Over the years I've tried several methods to get her to come home nightly for supper. Nothing has worked. 
Tinkerbell disappears on extended safari's whenever she feels like it. She lets herself inside most nights, and leaves in the morning before I get out to the barn. I haven't seen her much lately.

Here is a marginal cell phone shot I don't think I've shared before. I couldn't leave her out. 

Tinkerbell always sleeps on her cat throne
August 29, 2021

I only wanted two cats. When they caught the wild little Tabico kitten by her back legs and Brad saw the poor thing dangling and screaming, he didn't hesitate and said we would take her too. I told him she would have to be his cat then, and he named her Purr. She turned the guy who didn't like cats into a cat lover. Purr was the hardest to gentle, yet is almost always in the barn or nearby. She has the funniest little squeak when you pick her up and is a lovable quirky cat, who lives life on her terms.


Last but far from least is Leo. He is a regular on this blog, and needs no introduction. We are sure Purr & Leo are from the same litter, they sleep together frequently. When Leo was so sick earlier this year, Purr stayed close by his side.

Leo has a big welt on his nose and one ear for today's photos. We think he got stung by ground bee's. 

Leo loves hanging out on our columns


see more kitty cats at sunday stills