I think it was Ray Hunt who wrote “Be prepared for the unthinkable”. He meant by that, us horse people can only be effective if, at some point, we are ready to not only talk the talk, but also, walk the walk. And yes, that means sitting on a bucking horse, sometimes.
Yesterday I wrote how my coach and friend, Daniel Dauphin of Dauphin horsemanship, has pointed out my horse was challenging my leadership in the saddle, and I had to up my game, so that situation doesn’t persist. I knew he had a point, and I took some time to sit down and re-read all the blog entries on his site. Interestingly, I came across a wonderful post titled “They didn’t get bucked off, they bailed off“. In this finely observed piece of writing, Daniel claims that the majority of people getting “bucked off” actually chose to leave the ship, and explains how, instead, they could have been successful *riding the storm*. The article is absolutely spot on, and the technical advice on why and how to stay on a bucking horse, is brilliant.
Actually, the technique offered sounds so credible and effective, that just reading it, I became convinced I could, indeed, ride my colt through a bucking fit, if it came to that (as long as he didn’t offered true bronc style, World Series class of bucking). Having a not so deep sleep last night, I think I even practiced in my vaguely unconscious mind, Daniel’s tips. “Keep looking at the horse’s withers/neck, do NOT look to the ground, lean back and stay soft in the saddle, and just wait it out. It’s safer on the horse than hitting the dirt”. This morning, I awoke and felt literally “armed” with a new ability, being “prepared for the unthinkable”. And so I went to the stables, grabbed my colt from his pasture, and went through some groundwork basics (during which I got very “big” with him for putting on a pissy face when asked to lope, gave him a hard time until he went from bratty to meek, and once he was acting all angel like, hopped in the saddle). Once up there, I flexed his neck and disengaged his hips a couple of times to “check my tools’, then clucked him forward.
I must have felt different from the get go, because he seemed more alert, and more receptive to my cues. I also started to steer him lightly (I’m riding him in a rope halter right now as he needs a couple of teeth removed, early next week), so the whole shape of the lesson was a little more directive than previously. When he started to want to slow down, or even bend himself to a stop, his offer was met with a “not yet”, in form of cluck, squeeze, and as much tapping of the whip as needed to make him surge forward again. We worked on this at the trot, and quite a bit of lope, and though he had his mind set on stopping, he found out that was not option, and I was the one deciding where and when he’d get to rest. And though I did apply the dressage whip methodically, he never once showed any annoyance or desire to protest. My mindset was different, my body probably felt different, the whole “feel” I was offering was more assertive, and he seemed to be impressed, and happy, with it.
(I’m using pictures of my previous horse, Joli, for variety’s sake, as I don’t have many image of me on Dandy, yet. Don’t get confused, the colt I’m writing about is the stout sorrel, not the lanky buckskin)
When he tried to stop less and less, I let him go for a couple of laps, then *I* asked him to stop, and let him rest. When we walked a little ways again, and I called it a day. Once I dismounted I took a good look at him. Never in his short life with me he had such a quiet, easy, contented look on his face.
Which really reninforces my belief that we have to be ready to do what’s necessary, and not doubt ourselves, so we can have some credit with the horse, and been seen as worthy of trust, and obedience. Daniel later pointed out that he often talks about people doing too much groundwork, because they feel confident and safe there, but sometimes failing to transfer that confidence and leadership in the saddle. While I’m a very strong proponent of doing groundwork, sometimes throughout the horse’s life when needed, I also do believe there comes a time we just must cow-boy up and be ready to take the risk of riding a buck or two. That’s the least we can do to be worthy of the horse’s respect.
Buck Brannaman says in his movie “Buck” that, contrary to Ray Hunt, he believes anyone, with sufficient personal involvement, passion, and given the time, can “become extraordinary at this” [horsemanship] , “but, he says, if you don’t have any gut, any try, you’d be damn lucky to be ordinary”. I know this will resonate with a lot of ladies out there, interested in this horsemanship approach. Take the confidence you’ve worked up on the ground, and bring ip with you right to the saddle. Don’t doubt yourself, you’re good enough, and you can even ride a buck or two, if you know the proper technique and believe in yourself. Your horse will thank you. And if you don’t take my word for it, give Daniel a shout, and he’ll convince you better than I can 😉