February 6, 2012
Honoring horsemen of the past and helping horses of the present and future.
Among the things Vegas is known for is the endless buffets, the all-you-can-eat offerings of just about any kind of food you can imagine. But February 3-5, there was an even better smorgasbord … of knowledge. The Legacy of Legends clinic brought together students of Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt to share their teachings with the next generation.
The demonstrations, of course, focus on education — to give spectators some nuggets of wisdom they can take home and apply. The clinic also served as a fundraiser for scholarships given to young men and women who never got the chance to study with Tom or Ray before their passings. The scholarship recipients receive funding so that they can study with some Dorrance or Hunt proteges, sending the knowledge into the next generation.
There was way too much information from the clinic for just one blog, and too many clinicians to do them all justice. So, for this first post, let’s take just a few pointers from the colt-starters: Buck Brannaman and his daughter, Reata; Peter Campbell and his niece Megan; and Martin Black and his son Wade. The younger generation did most of the hands-on work, with Buck, Peter and Martin helping as necessary and providing commentary.
Buck, on doing groundwork with a horsemanship flag and the difference between using the flag to get the horse used to the sensation and using it to ask him to move out:
“The deal is, if your leading hand is offering for him to go, well then, that’s when that flag ought to have that kind of meaning. If your leading hand is in neutral, then he ought to understand how to separate that out and realize that you’re just kind of waving that flag around.
“Try to be a little careless with it. Try to find some place to touch him with it that he doesn’t like it. Get that worked out. With the flag, you can be a lot handier, you can get to places that you might not be able to get to with your hand or with your saddle blanket. Really work that cinch area; get him where he can stand that. Now ask him to move his feet. You’ve got to keep going back to the cinch area when he’s moving his feet.
“The way you move that flag toward him, it ought to be easy for him to separate between you just waving it around and you needing him to go. It ought to look different to him.”
Peter on bending and the relief a colt finds in getting straight:
“When you bend this colt’s head, it puts his body in a bind. When I tip his nose, his hindquarters need to step over. And then he gets relief by getting straight. So when you’re saddling those colts, if he goes to move, Megan will draw on his head to get his hindquarters to move, but then when he gets straight, there’s a split second in there where she’s giving him relief, and there’s an opportunity to stop.
“When you’re working a young horse, there’s a moment in there where he gets straight. You better give him just a split second, and if you’re careful, if your feel is right on, he’ll stand. But if you’re not, he’ll start moving again.”
Martin on getting a colt to move out under saddle:
“Kicking, in itself, is a pretty backwards cue if you stop and think about it. If somebody comes up and pokes you in the ribs, you don’t throw your arms up and stretch out, you’re going to tighten your ribs and shorten up. If you can make some noise like Wade’s doing, or I see these girls slapping their rope (against the saddle and their chinks) … get the horse ready, then bring your legs in. You can spank one on the butt (with the end of the mecate’s lead rope) or you can get some life with some noise. And once the horse understands his job (which is to go forward), then start doing more with your legs. It’s handy for us to use our legs, but it’s kind of backwards for the horse.”
And it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words. So learn more with the slideshow below, and click on the photos to read the captions. Also, make sure that your AQHA membership is current so you won’t miss the full story in a future issue of America’s Horse magazine, which is an exclusive member benefit.
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Editor, America's Horse magazine