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Two clinics and some historical mishaps

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Buck at LiverpoolWonderful learning was had at the Buck Brannaman clinic in Liverpool at the beginning of June. I loved the clarity and the respect for the horses. It was his first UK clinic, and I may have paraphrased some, but I have tried to be true to the meaning. There was a lot to take in. I also wrote the exercises he did, with points to take care of.

Some quoted from Buck.....

"The reins are connected to the feet not the  bit."

"If they want to move then get busy, because if they want to move and you try to make them be still then all you do is wind them up tight. There is always something that they are not good enough at, so put that energy to good use. They soon find that I like riding!"

"Get busy BEFORE it all falls apart."

"Work out what happened before what happened, happened."

"The horse has to be punctual."

Over bending occurs when you do not get to the feet, and is worse when you give an inappropriate release. To resolve it keep the aid on until the feet connect."

"Don't be afraid to use your hands. Stretch his lips right out!"

"When you bring the head around and the ears are unlevel then wait and let him explore. Habitually unlevel ears are catastrophic to the horse's balance."

Serpentines. We did a lot of serpentines. When the poll is free the ears will be level. Serpentines will unlock this area, a horse can be transformed in 3 days, and if you do 2 solid weeks it will be transformed for life.

The short serpentine is the way to get engagement. Holding the front end through the reins will get resistance not engagement.

Do serpentines.

"Never block the end of the horse that is over achieving. Make the under achieving end catch up."

"The short serpentine is the closest thing to an exorcism that you will ever get on a horse."

A horse that is very uneven left/right cannot be balanced mentally either."

"Ray Hunt's horses would do anything for him because they didn't want to disappoint him."

"The horse is centred in a rectangle. Your rectangle, not his."

"It's all about the rectangle. Once he knows that he will hunt the centre of that rectangle as much as you. The centre of the rectangle is peace."

"Look after their safety. If they are in a tight spot move them to a more comfortable place. They will learn you now all the cool places. Canter to the safer place in the arena if you can. Once they trust you as much as their mother to keep them safe then they have a totally different feel."

"I will do more in the correction than the original transgression was."

"In a distracting environment, if he checks out then you have to make the dance interesting and complex enough to hold his attention and engage him mentally so he has no attention on anything else."

"If your horse does not retain his improvement from one day to the next you have to know that there is a difference between responding and reacting. If he does not retain the lesson he reacted. If he responds and is met with peace he will remember. He needs time to respond. Reacting is where you push."

"He needed lbs yesterday, today it is ozs."

"That is all your horses want - to be left alone. So, let that be the incentive for them, the release."

"Don't treat them how they are - treat them how you would like them to be."

"Give the horse the dignity of allowing him to work it out. Give him the time. It makes him eager to search. That is more important than the exercise you are doing."

"This is the deal with horses. You go from euphoria to despair. As you get more experienced you don't get such huge swings. You just get on with it when it's not going so well."

"He was all amped up but I didn't let him change me, and that let me change him."


And now...a historical mishap... I was answering a query from someone alarmed that their horse had gone to his knees whilst being ridden... in order to eat. She was concerned that the horse was ill or something. I thought you might like the reply.........

.......... Ha Ha, naughty horse!

You are not alone. I was riding a Police Horse in Training at an early (as in, in his career) football match in a busy city centre. Ready againThe match proved busier than anticipated, and we took 5 minutes on some grass so he could pee. Meanwhile control opened a new radio channel, and asked Mounted Section to change channels. I am not sure they know how difficult that is, when sitting on a young horse, wearing helmet with visor, and thick padded Public Order gloves.

Having had his pee the horse wanted to graze, and had to be told no. Picture the area, a small patch of grass next to a skateboard park, with flats behind us, and shops to the side, with a car park to boot. Very busy. You need two hands to change channel, and I could not drop the reins, so I looped them over, round and around, my Public Order baton. That way the horse could argue with the baton on the merits of eating grass while I got on with the job in hand.

The horse realised the futility of his battle, and stopped. "Good" I thought, but no, he was merely considering his actions in light of the restricted rein situation. He did no more than plop straight to the floor, on his knees, and start to eat.

I did stay on, despite wearing very heavy body armour, thigh pads, shin pads, helmet, hand cuffs, and all the other detritus attached to my front. I also kicked like Billy Wizz to get the dratted thing to stand up again, as he seemed to have no inclination to move!

The horse never did it again, but then every time he tried he was met with legs like bee's wings. In fact he learned that the very thought of stopping to eat brought about temporary frantic leg action, and he had to trot as well, if it was not too busy.

Never work with children or horses.

Oh yes, last September I stopped working with Horses, and now work in a school. Eeek!


Another historical mishap...I was on a web site, talking about those Ooops moments that include losing your horse....... I remembered this one, with Charlie Horse. In fact I will attach a photo of Charles out hunting. He was not so sure about the running and jumping, but enjoyed the social. .....

.........................I took Charlie Horse hunting a few years ago, and he is known to be so safe he is dangerous.

It was my fault, there was a hedge to jump and the field spread a bit, but it was a BIG field, and we were several deep holding up at canter to filter to a place. I found my place, and slipped in behind a pony.

The pony jumped, but pecked on landing, and momentarily it looked as if Charles would have to abandon the jump and stop. The pony got itself together, scrambled away, and Charlie was not one for stopping, so he decided to pop a small one in and take off a bit close. Sadly there was a bit of a ditch/bog under the hedge, and he sunk.

Gamely Charles pushed as hard as he could with his rump, and did a huge jump. Sadly with his back feet sinking it was not enough, he chested the hedge, fell through it, landed steeply whereupon his front feet sunk too and everything came to an abrupt halt. Everything except me that is.

Yep, I reached terminal velocity to one side of Charles' neck and plopped onto my head, somersaulting right over. I saw feet sunk into earth and mud, I saw blood on Charlie, then I saw nothing as 100 horses, Charles amongst them, disappeared over the hill.

I got up and started following on foot, up to the road whereupon a car follower informed me that Charlie was last seen high tailing it back to his box. They gave me a lift, as it was a fair distance, and when we were almost back I was surprised to find Charlie, with a middle aged male rider on his back, trotting off to join the hunt! I flagged the rider down, informed him that this was my horse and checked him over. He had small cuts but was otherwise fine.

Sadly I was due to fly next day, to go watch a rugby match in Paris with my husband. Poor man has little non horse time, and I dare not tell him on returning home how sore I was. Next day there was no hiding it though, as the whiplash from torpedoing my head into the ground had left me with terrible whiplash, and even in the hot plane I had to tie my head on tight with a scarf to support it.Charlie Hunting


Weeks after the actual clinic I am finding out how much the Buck Brannaman clinic has helped me.....

I have done slow and steady with our work, Jay is not very fit, and much as I appreciate half an hour morning and night doing tight serpentines would improve matters ("the closest thing to an exorcism!" - "The reason my horses achieve engagement before they should for their experience." - Buck Brannaman), I feel that it may be too much strain on the ginger one if I went from light work to a huge amount of twisty work. So, whenever I ride we do "some" serpentines.

The first time Jay was a bit grumpy, did them initially very reluctantly, but they did loosen up. The second time we were in his field, and he was obliging enough until the neighbours brought their motorbike home then started to rummage in their garage. That was something he wanted to make a fuss over, so serpentines it was, and he got very aerated, the front end was a bit light, so I kept faith, kept the neck at 90 degrees, kept the back end moving (which took a strong kick) and did my best.

I was lucky that at lunchtime of the second day the horse that Buck rode on the clinic took exception to the fact that the other horses were leaving the arena, and the spectators were walking around, and he ended up doing some pretty "lively" serpentines. That was lucky as when Jay's serpentines were also a bit lively I knew what to do. There was an uncomfortable moment when changing from right to left, where Buck had said to allow one stride straight, and the one straight stride turned into a "neck strap moment" as Jay boinged three boings in a row, but I stuck with it and we came out the other side.

This evening our serpentines were much more civilised. I like that in the serpentine I can feel how Jay habitually hides at the back of "his rectangle", and how I can really get after that, with his head at 90 degrees it puts me in the captain's chair. After some serpentine magic we did some pretty reasonable trot work.

I can really feel how that one exercise will get us out of the "Jay trap." He does nice work, but stays a bit long and low. The serpentines are helping him engage and collect, without making him heavy on the front end, because I am not "holding".

A weekend well spent!


 Learning alert...I like this article, especially the part where doing "obstacles" is seen as a great conversation starter. Thank you Ruth D/C! www.annablakeblog.com/2014/04/18/calming-signals-are-you-listening/ 


Hot July! One steaming day I had a lovely morning at school, made palm trees from paper, and did English. When I left at lunchtime my car in the sun said it was 38 degrees wherever the temp gauge was.

Teaching in the afternoon, it was hot hot hot, standing on a black rubber arena in 29 degrees. It was good though, horse and rider making progress.

Sadly then it was so hot my number plate fell off, there are 2 screw holes, but no one drilled the plate so it has been held on for 3 years with stickers, and today the glue melted.

At least Jay was saved by David. Jay was rather cross at how hot it was, and was very prescriptive about it being time to come in NOW, about 2 hours early. Fair enough, he sunk two buckets of water soon after coming in, so he must have been hot. Not that he was short of water or shade in the field, but a stable is insulated as well, so the horse shows sense.


If anyone has not seen the Lloyds Bank advert, it is fab, makes me cry and here it is... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6eZ3WQCjhA&feature=share


My long summer holiday was supposed to start with 2 days at a Manuela McLean clinic, but looking at Jay he was not fit enough for 2 days running with a long box journey each day. I was looking forward to it, but he had a few days off 3 weeks before, then 2 weeks before it was too hot to ride for pleasure, then the week before... three times I tacked up to ride and the weather did a sudden change from hot sun to wind and thunder and lightning.

I changed to just doing one lesson, and a few days before I decided I must ride, so even though he had not been ridden for AGES I slapped a saddle on, ignored the weather that was threatening a storm AGAIN and we strolled round the village.

I never thought Jay would turn into a horse who could be left for ages then have a ride out but he is the most chilled out mentally that I have ever known him.

The day after we were a bit more upbeat and went to the field for a trot and canter. Jay was fab, but a bit jumpy at one spot. We were having a last canter when he was a bit cross, changed behind, then was even crosser, and we had boinging, while I laughed at me grappling with the fly rug, looking for his neck strap.

Jay means no harm, but because of his history if he has a bit of a boing (like a silly canter that is all up and down and no forward) and you pull the rein he will then panic. I usually use the neck strap to moderate him, and ride more forward to lose the up and down. Today I just did..... nothing really but laugh..... and he was fine.

On our walk back through the long grass I realised why he was cross, the long grass hid thistles. Tall, prickly, tangly thistles...Ouch!


 Finally on the day I took Jay in his posh car to the clinic with Manuela McLean. I knew that even though Jay was not fit she would find good work for us to do.

Jay was a super hero. He was forward and honest in his work even when he was tired. He bust a gut to find the right answer, and this time we started with some collection. Once we had achieved some collection the lateral moves were easy.

It was Manuela who chose the collection as being focus for our lesson, I am happy as I believe Jay was finally ready for this due to the...serpentines!!! He has always been quite supple laterally, but had been like trying to pick up warm treacle from front to back (longitudinally). The serpentines have helped him sit some, with no hanging on to the front end. This lesson picked up on this and turned it into something I can ask for, I can just pick him up and ask for a bit of sit.

Lovely day out with one beautiful Orange horse, who is honest and fun. It reminds me how far he has come, as we have done these clinics every year and can compare year on year. I can remember the days when I would have to lunge him before we went, and arrange to get into the arena early to acclimatise. These days he is just a cool dude, and even though he has not been worked much lately I could just roll up in time to saddle up, did not care if we were indoors or outdoors, and we can be a team.

Thank you for coming too mum, and for telling me 100 times on the way home how nice the Jay man is!


Summer holidays.... had a lovely ride out on Jay man, but he requests that I do not sing "On the Road Again" ever again!

It was perhaps not only my voice, but also that I only actually know one line, so it was maybe a bit repetitive!

Poor Jay Man. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvwojnLeMH4


I was linked to another great video, courtesy of Epona TV .... http://epona.tv/conditioned-fear ...... Click quick as it is time limited!

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