Have you ever known one of those kids who got so excited about doing something that his or her parents couldn’t tell them anything ahead of time? My brother in law and his wife had that problem. Years ago, they booked a trip to Disneyland. They knew that if they told the kids about the trip, they would get so excited they would make themselves sick, so they told them they were going camping that weekend instead. They packed three sleeping kids into the car in the middle of the night and drove all night long. They finally figured it was safe to tell the kids at their breakfast stop that morning about 100 miles north of Disneyland. The two girls greeted the news with howls of delight, but they were accompanied by anguished tears from their son. It seems he had a new hatchet and he’d really wanted to get to use it camping that weekend. They had a great time anyway, but had to go camping the next weekend so their son could use his hatchet.
Anyway, I’m that person. I have this thing where I’m afraid I will jinx something if I get too excited about it. Which is why I haven’t told too many people that I’m riding with Buck Brannaman this weekend. I’ve thought about riding with him for years, but somehow it never seemed to work out. He used to do clinics in Smith Valley every year, but at the time I didn’t know enough about natural horsemanship and the Dorrance/Hunt legacy to understand what I was missing. Oh, I thought about auditing, but never got around to it. I did know a little bit about Ray Hunt, but that was filtered through comments from folks who had ridden with him. They were all pretty good ropers, so I thought you had to be a good roper to ride with Ray. More missed opportunities.
Along the way, I also picked up some interesting notions about Buck. Somewhere along the line, I got the idea that you had to be a top hand to ride with him too, so I wasn’t “good enough.” Then I started to do Parelli, and was told that Buck hates Parelli Natural Horsemanship and if you show up with a carrot stick or Parelli halter, he’ll send you packing. I was also told he was mean and liked to make women cry. I was also told that if you did Parelli, you weren’t good enough to ride with Buck anyway so don’t bother. So I spent some time shunning the notion of Buck and ignoring any chances that came up. But then, I figured out that the same people who were telling me I wasn’t good enough to ride with him because I did Parelli had all been doing PNH when they started riding with him. So I finally put two and two together—thank God for that math degree, huh?. I mean, I’ve heard a lot of the same negative stuff about Parelli. Heck, I’ve even heard of one woman who wouldn’t ride with Parelli because “his eyes are too close together!”
I figured out that maybe it was time for me to suck it up and make up my own mind! So I started looking for a clinic to audit in 2011, but I just couldn’t find one close enough and at the right time to make it work. And then the movie came out. Buck went from being some guy that does natural horsemanship to “that guy in the movie!” Everybody wanted to ride with Buck. His 2012 schedule wasn’t even out and half of his clinics were already full. I was beginning to think I was going to get to ride with him in maybe 10 years if I was lucky. But then I had a stroke of luck… I like to lurk on a certain Internet forum which is mostly made up of people who ride with Buck. They are very pro-Buck and mostly anti—you know who. I don’t like a lot of the snarky stuff, but there is also some good, thoughtful discussion about horsemanship there. (The one time I posted, I was castigated for not harboring enough anti—you know who sentiments.)
So one day while I was lurking away, I found a thread about Buck’s 2012 schedule having been posted—that day. I went to his website thinking to find something close enough to audit and the sun came out from behind a cloud and the Angels all sang “Laaaaa…” There was a clinic scheduled in Fallon (about 2 hours drive) in May. I am pleased to note that I really did learn something from our tractor buying experience. I called right away and said “where do I mail the check?” I had David mail it the next morning on his way to work! And don’t bother coming home if you forget! And I was in.
Only, I didn’t have a horse… Well, at least not a sound one. Kind of like our chain saw. I told David I was thinking about buying a new chain saw.
To which he replied “we have a chain saw…” long pause “Oh, you mean one that works!”
Um, yeah… I want a horse that works. So I redoubled my efforts to get Dolly sound. To which she responded by getting lamer.
Sometime in February, I finally started to realize that I was going to need to find another horse to ride. A friend of mine who runs a pack station told me about a half-Arab mare he’d like to sell. He says she has a nice fast walk, but it’s so fast that she outwalks the mules. He has to keep holding her back and she gets stressed and she would probably be better off not leading a string of pack mules. Well I heard fast walk and go-ey and thought she sounded like the perfect horse for me. The plan was that I would borrow her for a month and ride her and decide if I liked her. He was planning to pick up the horses from their winter pasture about a week before the clinic, so I’d have a week to get to know her and figure out which saddle fits and so on.
And before anyone asks why we didn’t just go out there and catch her in the pasture (because I did think of that), I’ll explain. The pasture is huge—it’s like a half section or more—and these are pack station horses, not the cream puff pets that you and I have who want to be tucked in at night with a mug of hot chocolate in their jammies. Once they are turned out for the winter, they aren’t planning to be caught by anybody for any reason. So I had to wait until he could round them up and bring them into the neighbor’s corrals to be enslaved for the coming season. Only that fell through… Which is how I found myself with no horse to ride three days before I was supposed to leave for the clinic!
So I went home that night and put an appeal on Facebook. By morning, I had not one, but four possible rides! It’s amazing how generous people are. Two of the horses are located in Smith Valley, which is on the way to Fallon, so now I had to choose! How great was that? I talked at length to both owners and decided to ride an appendix Quarter Horse who sounds pretty similar size and disposition-wise to Po. I decided that maybe I should stay within my comfort zone just a little bit since this whole clinic experience will be very different from what I’m used to.
So the horse trailer and truck are packed to the gills. I think I’ve packed half of the clothes I own—the half without any of you know who’s logos on them (just in case)! I’ve also packed a bunch of extra tack “just in case” for this unfamiliar horse. I may spend half the weekend fiddling with saddles, bits, bridles and girths, but I think that will work out fine. I’m ready for a heat wave as well as a snowstorm although as I remember, the most likely weather event is going to be wind. (I’ve been to Wyoming folks, and I swear Nevada’s windier.) I haven’t been to the fairgrounds out there for more than 20 years, but I distinctly remember that we had to cancel the last few classes at the last show I went to because the wind kept blowing the jumps over! I’m really praying for sun, but only because I got the coolest new sun visor for my helmet and I want to try it out. Couple of days of sun and I’ll be praying for snow!
So I think I’m all prepared to go. I’m doing my darnedest to not get to excited or happy yet. I’m still a little worried about jinxing myself—especially after my boat experience last weekend. Maybe I’ll just wait until I get checked in to the Motel to post this particular blog.