Riding with Buck: The Conclusion

by Jenn Zeller

In previous discussions about my time riding with Buck, we discussed what to look for when deciding to attend a clinic, how effective his clinics are, and how to get the most out of the experience. We’ll wrap up this series today by talking about how the experience benefitted my business and why I would recommend other professional horsemen attend his clinics.

Absolutely any time you go ride with someone else- even if they’re a friend of yours that has a lot more experience than you, you can almost always take something away from that experience. As I’ve said before, even if what you learn is what not to do it can be beneficial. But to really grasp why you should attend Buck Brannaman clinics, we’ll have to delve a little deeper.

1. Positivity.

Saying that you’ll come away with a different attitude is an understatement. This may be true for other clinics too- I don’t know, but Buck never makes you feel like you’re not good enough or that you won’t get there. He will tell you- “just keep working-you’ll get there”. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. He’s quick to tell you when you get it right, and is absolutely encouraging when you still have a ways to go!

2. A New Perspective

I know plenty of trainers that approach horse training from a negative perspective. One in which they feel they must exaggerate things to “make” the horse do what they want; or think that as if by the exaggeration they are teaching their horse that things will be easier when they let up. On some levels I can see that way of thinking- and as I’ve said before “believe in what you’re doing or do what you believe in”.

But what you’ll learn by riding with Buck is that our horses are an exceptionally forgiving creature. That they truly love to please us, and that teaching them is a simple as pressure and release, even if you don’t immediately get what you want, you reward the slightest try so that they learn to work hard for you. You’ll learn that your horse can think his way through things if you set it up and wait when it comes time to teach him. You’ll also learn to let go before your horse feels like he has to quit. For example, if you’ve a lazy colt that has trouble moving out the last thing you want to do the first time he lopes off is force him to go around the arena a half a dozen times. What you should do is get him to lope off and then immediately let him trot again. By releasing the pressure to go faster as soon as you get what you want, your horse will start to search for the release, and that’s what we’re all after.

The difference in theory between today’s modern performance horse trainer and someone who trains in the Ray Hunt/Buck Brannaman method, could in and of itself be several posts for discussion.

3. New Skills

It is inevitable that you’ll come away with new skills that can be implemented on not only the horse you took to the clinic, but skills that will apply across the board to other horses. Now, that is not to say that every horse is the same, they’re certainly not, and what works for one horse will not necessarily work in the same order on another horse but you’ll have some new tools in your arsenal. Not only will you get some new skills, but you’ll have plenty to think about for the coming months, and plenty to work on. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll come away with a new set of goals and ideas and thoughts and you’ll be frenzied just thinking about it all.

4. Life Lessons

One of the things that I think makes a Buck Brannaman clinic a totally unique experience, is that in addition to gaining a positive attitude, perspective and new skills, you learn things that will help you throughout the rest of your life. I think the most important of those being consistency. If you can be consistent and positive for your horse, and make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult without punishing your horse in the process, then it isn’t a far reach to say that you can apply those same principles to people; interpersonal relationships with your family members, your kids, your co-workers- the list goes on. Now, I’m not altogether excellent at this yet, but I know plenty of people that are just brilliant at it and I’m fortunate enough to live with one of them!

Have these clinics helped our business? I can’t say that there’s measurable fiscal result as of yet; and one of the reasons for that, is that Buck, to me, is like God. You don’t take his name in vain. As such, it’s fine to say you’ve been to a Buck Brannaman clinic in marketing yourself, but one Buck Brannaman Clinic does not a Buck Brannaman horseman make. Maybe 5 years of riding with Buck can get you closer, but I believe it’s a very fine line to walk. That’s not to say that I don’t tell people that I practice natural horsemanship in the style of Ray Hunt and Buck Brannaman, because we clearly do here, at the ranch, but I have a very long way to go before I get to a place of competence, to a place where I can claim that I’m even remotely close to being a horseman that stands on the same, sacred ground as Buck Brannaman.

Should every professional horseman go to a Buck Brannaman clinic? My answer to that might surprise you. I do not think that every professional horseman should go to a Buck clinic. The reason is really quite simple. There are plenty of professionals that believe their way is the best way, and they’re not particularly concerned with the horse, or with broadening their horizons. They believe that what they’re doing is working for them, and that’s fine. They also might believe that they don’t need help and they don’t need to learn anything else, and for them, that’s fine.

As for me and my horses, we’ll continue the journey of horsemanship and try to fine tune the balance, timing and harmony, so that someday my horse can be as happy and satisfied as Buck’s horses- and maybe, just maybe, he’ll be just as handy as Buck’s horses are too!

PS:

There is now an award winning documentary about Buck. You can learn details about this video here– it might be coming to a theater near you!

Here’s the trailer:

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