Friday, July 15, 2011

Buck, the trail, and the loose horses

I came home from a business trip and hooked up with Trail Rider and watched Buck. It was a great movie, and I came home looking forward to my day off to go ride my horses.

I had been struck how much Buck B. was like Mark Rashid in energy and demeanor. We all know that most of these trainers in the Ray Hunt, Tom Dorrance, style of training do much of the same things - gentle consistent firm work with flags, rope halters, a sharp eye for detail. There are many scenes in the movie that linger, many I wish I hadn't seen, frankly.

But reality is like that, isn't it?

I came away renewed and ready to work. There's a scene where students are working cows and Buck talks about horses (and people) needing to have work to do.

I have a day off from the kids and Dad as well as the office today, so headed out early to ride. Lily and I just mounted up and did trail work, made it through a few balks, widened our circle of riding to down the road alone. It was good.

The trainer insisted we ride next door on the ranch. I didn't want to. I just wanted to have a nice day, not confront my issues. Work on a few things in the arena, do the little trails. Part of it is I could see Smokey was hot today, very up. When he had come into eat, tossing his head like a little mustang, I knew what space he was in and didn't really want to have to deal with it on my one day off in months.

We rode in round pen to warm up. Cantering to the right he threw a fit. We worked through it, but this was not a horse I felt like dealing with on the trail.

She insisted. I should have declined. I didn't. "He needs this," she said. "And you do too."


We had a few arguments on the trail, Smokey and I, and I did win them all. Then we heard the sound of animals running. A herd of five horses was running loose, having broken through some fences. I elected to dismount. This was not an argument I wanted to have with Smokey in the saddle.

We kept trying to chase the herd off, they kept trying to enlarge their herd by two horses. The trainer would attempt to shoo them off, but it wasn't working at all. Smokey did well, just a little prancy, but respected my space after a quick reminder, and settled, looking to me.

The herd kept tailing us, chasing after us as we tried to walk off. At one point they surrounded the trainer on her horse and I had to toss rocks at them to drive them off. Still they returned.

I finally got fed up. I poured my anger out at them full bore, yelling, and tossed a few rocks, hitting flanks here and there. They got the message. They took off and this time stayed gone.

People. Don't tick me off. I'm like a crazy woman.

I got back in the saddle and we rode home.

The ride home Smokey was up. He needed to run out some energy from that whole loose horse episode, and I didn't have it in me. We worked on trot walk transitions and trot halts. It was ugly. I didn't want to end on that note.

When we got back to our familiar trails I just hit those alone with Smokey and bushwacked around. Much better. Then Smokey and I worked on standing still.

Sometimes, I told Smokey, your job is to stand still. It took a bit, but he got it.

I think we are at a place where we need a job to get through this. I think of Cactus Jack Splash and his DOR and I think, a job would be good for us.

So I'm going to think about it. Maybe if we had something else to focus on other than each other this would be fun again.


Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

That took a lot of courage and I know it wasn't easy.

Betty and I audited one of Buck Brannaman's clinics in Santa Fe several years ago. You're right about his demeanor.

Hang in there.


Fetlock said...

I am SO jealous you got to see Buck. I was thinking of visiting my friend in Seattle just so I could make it to the movie.

I have twin sons who are seventeen right now, and I've had to walk the same tightrope with them regarding battle-picking. Sometimes I feel like a bad parent because I keep my mouth shut, but I know that without a relationship with them I will lose what little leverage I have.

We have to keep a relationship open with our horses, too. Don't feel bad for one second that you dismounted. I bet Smokey was impressed watching you holler and pitch rocks at the other horses!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Well that didn't sound fun at all...well at least until it was just the two of you again and you could refocus on each other without all the distractions.

Good for you standing up to those loose horses. Once when I was leasing some grazing pasture for my mare, Baby Doll, 5 mosey loose horses came over and tried to harass me as I groomed and fed my mare some grain. I just happened to have brought my umbrella with me and went batsh*t crazy flapping my umbrella at those horses until the knew I meant business and left me and my horse alone. lol!

But what I think I was most impressed by was that my mare was At Liberty, and with all my screaming, jumping and flapping, you would have thought she would have took off for the hills, too. But she stood right behind me, trusting that I'd protect her. Pretty cool.

I agree about horses having a job. I've seen many horses through my involvement in ACTHA, who were a complete mess before they started doing Competitive Trail Challenge Rides, and once they have that job to do and are challenged, while receiving all the praise and attention that goes along with that, it's amazing how so many of them become model equine citizens. It also helps the rider, too, because they have goals to train for and both the horse and human build confidence with all their successes and time spent together.

Plus, it's just a whole lot of fun!


Anonymous said...

Loose horses are a nightmare and an accident waiting to happen. Dismounting is fine, particularly if it gives you and the horse confidence - there's no need to "win" either in terms of what you do or the horse does. Just dealing with what comes up moment by moment is just fine, and that's what you did.

I've never seen Buck in person but you're right, I expect it's similar to watching Mark work in terms of demeanor - I think the best trainers are the quiet ones who are like watching grass grow - that's where the real work happens.

Cheyenne said...

Done good, you did! Sometimes, not to engage in a battle, is to win the war. Life is a continuous battle, emotions, tantrums and needs and wants.
I have 4 kids, although they are all in their late 20`s! They can still be kids!
My ex and I used to pick our battles, just to stay in touch with what they were doing!
Horses can be the same.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

VERY smart decision to just get off. I do the same thing if I think things are going to get out of control.

You know, I feel ya on not always wanting to push or be pushed. Sometimes it's nice to just not have to deal with 'issues'. You just want to mosey around and stay in that comfort zone.