I really didn't want to put this in the "Horse Training" section, as I'm more disappointed in a person here.
So my friends and I saved up to attend a Buck Brannaman clinic this summer. We chose to attend the clinic this last weekend at Elkhorn, NE at the Chance Ridge Equestrian Center. I'd been reading about Ray Hunt's methods and riding for months, and my friends had been preparing as well. One friend was in the Ranch Roping session, so he roped endlessly. We were all geared for a good time, and anxious to see how our skills would be put to the test. None of us really had the money to attend, but we scrimped and saved, and decided to split frozen dinners instead of cooking decent meals, just to attend this clinic. We were all very serious about this clinic, so we didn't goof around or act stupid. We hung on his every word, and tried our hardest at the exercises he assigned.
So Day 1: We arrive at the Chance Ridge Equestrian Center. The stalls are more like a sale barn- just cattle panels making a square stall. No wheelbarrows for transporting manure, just muck buckets that you have to drag. Irritating, but we made do.
My friend and I each decided to take the Horsemanship 1 session, thinking that's where everyone has to start. We get our horses into the arena, and the first 45 minutes is Buck talking to us about molding a good bridle horse. After that, we are sent around the arena to do small serpentines and circles, to practice pivoting the horse on his back and front feet only. We do this for the next hour and a half. Then we quit and Buck talks and takes questions. We did not do ANYTHING else that first day.
During the activities, Buck talks about past clinic participants, and gets really rude. He talked about asking one woman "where her belly button was" (I'm assuming in relation to her pelvis posture), and the crowd laughed when she, not quite understanding, pointed to her belly button. A few other participants were asking about the mecate reins that he wanted everyone to use, and he looked at them and said they'd be laughed out of any arena he and his friends were in, because they had rope halters under their bridles. (We talked to them later, and they said they expected there to be quite a bit of groundwork, which was the reason for the halters.) Buck also talked down about dressage and dressage riders, describing them as snobby. He had about 5-6 participants riding in dressage saddles, so I didn't think it was a wise choice.
Day 2: Buck spends the first 45 minutes talking. We do small serpentines and small circles again. Practice pivoting on back feet, practice pivoting on front feet. Same thing as Day 1. Most people don't seem to be struggling with it, and by this time my horse was about ready to kill me, as she had been doing it right on Day 1, and there was no variation in the tasks assigned. All of this is done walking. We do no trotting whatsoever in the entire 4 days.
Today Buck makes a few rude comments, one about people in his California clinics that come up and say to him, "Buck, I've got a rescue horse..." He said that then he has to "save the rescue from the rescuer" and went on to say that "feeding and watering a horse isn't enough. They aren't content with just that." I understand that some people make excuses for their horses, but what's wrong with people caring for them if it makes them feel good? And Kip Fladland, the guy who arranged the clinic (in reality, he just took the checks; he didn't do much else), was by the fence when I went by him and he laughed and said to a guy next to him, "Hear how quiet it is?" It was just rude. Like my friend said, it was a pretty stupid remark for Buck to make, considering he himself is a "rescue."
Day 3: Talking for 45 minutes. Same serpentines and small circles. He added backing to the list, to try to get people to develop a "soft feel." It mixed it up a bit more, but not much. Buck was nicer, and nothing nasty was said. Spent the last 45 minutes answering questions or just telling stories.
Day 4: Talking for 45 minutes at first. Small serpentines and small circles, and turning while backing. Trying to develop a soft feel. Buck was still nicer, but I expected stuff to come together on the last day. We ended the session about 15 minutes early, with the last 30 minutes being devoted to him advertising a "Legacy of Legends" gathering in Las Vegas.
All in all, we were very, very disappointed in the clinic. When I left for this clinic, I literally had $50 in my bank account. I had to withdrawl $200 from my emergency fund bank account (of $600) just to have money for meals. I cried on the 2nd day because I felt so, so cheated. I could have used that money for vet bills, HAY, my car... And I just wasted it.
I couldn't believe that we didn't accomplish more at this clinic. What Buck taught me in 4 days (12 hours of riding), could have been taught by my current riding instructor in 1 hour of instruction (at $40/hr). In fact, I knew everything that we were doing in the clinic. I'd covered it millenia ago, and even my friend, who didn't take lessons but who'd ridden her whole life, was disappointed. My guy friend wasn't unhappy with the roping session, as they got to practice on live cattle. I wish I would have done that instead. I overheard about one participant that didn't have a lively horse, asking Kip Fladland what he thought the problem was. Kip went on and on about how he'd seen horses that were scared of cattle, and that was definitely the problem. He got p***y with the people when they tried to kindly object. Actually, that horse was as cool as a cucumber when a cow whizzed by him- he just seemed bored, as most of them were standing around all the time.
One mother and her son were participating, but they left a day early. The little boy was probably 7, and he was an excellent rider. No idea why they left. A dressage rider across from us was p.o.'ed about the rude comments towards those in dressage. I'd ridden around her quite a bit, and saw that her horse was well-trained, and relaxed. She wasn't hanging off his mouth by any means. No one was, actually.
I just don't know what to think.... How disappointing. We went for a fun time, and it was just pure torture. All of the horses there were reasonably well-trained (no dangerous horses), and no one got injured, or even close to it. But Buck kept stating that "We'd never have a horse as broke as his." I wanted to say, "Well, probably not, but can't we try? What's wrong with trying? Why shoot us down when we haven't begun to try yet?" It just seemed like he always wanted to prove something. And we kept asking ourselves, "So, are we going to be the entertainment for the next clinic?"
I just don't know what to think anymore...