Buck Brannaman A Fantastic Clinic!!

The last blog post I made was a few days prior to the Buck Brannaman Clinic…I was busy preparing the horses, loading my equipment in the trailer and  packing my belongings.  I was full of nerves and excitement at what was ahead.

I can now look back at the clinic with eyes wide open and full of motivation!  I took my two foster horses Flynn and Maximus from Hope For Horses to the Buck clinic.  They had to share a small trailer and be stabled in close proximity. These were very valid concerns as they come from the same abusive situation which left them with a very unhealthy relationship towards one another. I am happy to say; “They did fabulous hauling to the Tacoma Unit as well as stabling together.” It was like they had been doing it forever.”

 Vanessa Howard  Kissing Maximus @ Buck Brannaman Clinic

Vanessa Howard Kissing Maximus @ Buck Brannaman Clinic

I arrived a day and a half early in hopes to have the horses settle in before their first session.  I worked and rode both Flynn and Maximus Friday evening before the Saturday morning sessions.  The boys did okay but were very tense and curious about the indoor arena and the new horses arriving for the clinic.  Maximus had the hardest time as he struggles with being “left” so when the horses left the arena he had a bit of a meltdown.  We were able to work through it…but it was one of many signs that I had made the right decision by bringing the boys to the clinic.

I thought long and hard about my strategy regarding who I would ride in the 1st and 2nd sessions…as I wanted to make this clinic as successful as possible for myself and the horses.  I decided to do Flynn in the 1st Session and Maximus in the 2nd Session.  I can’t even begin to describe the excitement and nerves I had when I put my foot in the stirrup and swung my leg over Flynn’s back.  I saw Buck entering the arena with his grey mare and just hoped Flynn and I could keep it together for the beginning of the clinic.

Flynn & Vanessa Howard at the Buck Brannaman Clinic

Flynn & Vanessa Howard at the Buck Brannaman Clinic

Flynn and I did a bit of ground work movements horse back and then we were called to the center to meet Buck and share any information regarding ourselves and our horse.  I knew I needed to let Buck know about Flynn’s history without sounding like I was making excuses for his behavior.  I believe I was the 1st or 2nd  person to raise my hand…when Buck looked over and said my name I felt a hug lump in my throat.  The last thing I wanted to sound like was a person who was justifying or making excuses for me and my horse.  My goal with sharing was to let Buck and others know about Flynn being a 2year old in an 11 year old horses body as well as being gelded at 10 years of age.  I wanted to be transparent about the potential concerns of Flynn working in close proximity with other horses in order to stay safe.  Buck seemed to have little concern about what I shared and I was able to give  a hug sign of relief.  I had a great deal of work ahead of me but felt supported and thankful to be in the clinic.

I had a 1 hour break between sessions which does not seem very long when you need to put your 1st horse away, give him lunch, feed yourself and tack up the 2nd horse in order to have enough time to do a good amount of ground work before the 2nd session starts.  Maximus was very excited to see I was preparing to take him to the ring…I did my ground work in the ring as there was a huge audience there to see Buck (many of them there for the very first time).  Maximus handled the crowd great but was a bit too interested in the other horses in the ring.  Looking back over the 4 days I realized I did not start doing enough ground work with Maximus until day 3 or 4 as Maximus requires a great deal of involvement when asking him to move his feet, yield to the flag and move away from the human.

Maximus and Vanessa Howard @ The Buck Brannaman Clinic

Maximus and Vanessa Howard @ The Buck Brannaman Clinic

I was able to be horse back before Buck arrived with his Bridled horse…which was my main goal for the first day.  I did a bit of riding and then we were called to the center again for a meet and greet.  When Buck asked his signature question “Does anyone have anything they want to share about themselves or their horse?” I immediately raised my hand.  Again, when he looked over and said my name I felt the lump in my throat return.  I wanted to share with him and the group that Maximus was another foster horse who was 18 years old and gelded only 1 year prior.  All I remember about Buck’s response was him making a comment like; “Who would wait so long to geld a horse.”  I new the reason but was sure to not reply as it was meant more as a rhetorical question.  As an FYI…Maximus was gelded so late in life as it was the only other option as he and Flynn were too dangerous to handle otherwise.  The choice to geld them was not an easy one but it provided a 2nd chance at a quality life.

Flynn, Maximus as well as I made tremendous strides with our ground work and ride-ability in large groups.  By the 4th day of the clinic we were really starting to jive and the “dance” Buck refers to was beginning to come together.  We decided to haul home the following morning so as to make sure we were not hauling the boys in the dark during rush hour.  The boys hauled home great…my husband needed to stop for a quick bit to eat so Maximus had the opportunity to demonstrate his ability to stand quietly in the trailer.  When we returned home they stepped off the trailer with eagerness.

Since returning from the clinic…I have been busy working on all I have learned: small serpentines, hind quarters/front quarters, 1 rein stop, backing in circles, the list goes on and on.  It has been great to work with my other horses as well, as they are more experienced with this type of work and teach me!

I had an invaluable clinic with Maximus and Flynn and am so grateful to have the opportunity to work with them.  I have grown tremendously has a horse-person and feel rejuvenated in my work with the horses!!  I also want to thank  all the amazing volunteers from Hope For Horses who came to watch and support Flynn and Maximus!!