Guest Writer, Heather Beachum is a riding coach specializing in online programs to support women 40+ ride with relaxed confidence.  A resident of Virginia, Heather recently embarked on her own confidence building adventure. Kindly, she shares her tale with WARHorses – how an east coast, Feldenkrais practitioner traveled to the American west to, well…. to herd cattle and so much more!

Hello my fellow WARHorses!

I just returned from a wonderful horse adventure in beautiful Montana and wanted to share a bit about it with you.

I rode in a clinic with Buck Brannaman, this is my second with him, and my first experience with cows – all I can say is where I once saw a herd of cows I now see a herd of wily buggers!  What possessed me to ride in a cow clinic?  The love of doing something new, something fresh, and I’m so glad I did…

…and for the most part the other clinic participants were WARHorses all giving it a go, and smiling from ear to ear.

It’s so easy to put people in a box … oh Buck he’s a western trainer, no he’s a Vaquero horseman, no he’s the guy in the movie … but to me he is a man who meets each rider where they are and offers his unending support to ride with quality.

What again warmed my heart to him was when he talked about his frustration when a rider tells him that she “only” trail rides – he asks why would anyone diminish themselves in this way?…to ride the trail with quality…to connect with your horse with balance and communication so he knows he can look to you to feel good about himself, is a beautiful thing.

He couldn’t care less where you are now in your riding or what riding activities you want to do, he only cares that you have “try” in you, that you show up ready to give your best to your horse.

The common theme in these trainings is that your horse wants one thing and one thing only, and that is peace.  The second is that your horse’s love for you is based solely on how you make him feel, and that this love is conditional.

We bring peace to our horses by communicating with him in sync with his movement and balance meaning we coordinate pressure and release with the timing of the hoof, this way we never disrupt his balance because an unbalanced horse is a fearful horse.  He gave us outwardly simple exercises to harmonize our movement with our horses, but they required total concentration.

I really love not just the” what” Buck teaches, but the “how” he teaches.  We gather, he talks, demonstrates, clearly outlines the exercise we are to practice, and sets us off to do that – we are FREE to experience and learn.  After a bit, we gather, he notes what he saw and clarifies the sticky spots then sets us off to learn from our horses some more, and steps in as needed.

He talked a bit about the difference between training horses and training people.  With people he has to break every step down into little crumbs, but with horses they just get the whole picture.  He didn’t come out and say that horses are smarter than people, but he didn’t have to, I think we all know that’s true:)

So in the morning lessons we worked with two underlying skills … “soft feel” also known as flexion at the poll, and feeling where each hoof is at any given moment.

I truly appreciate Buck because the concepts of soft feel and timing are part of all classical horsemanship, but in my experience, are considered things that come after endless hours of lessons and practice, if at all.

With Buck, they are part built-in to our learning from day 1.

Now, of course, there were times he went into high level riding – call it flatwork, call it dressage – doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that he spoke to us as adults who can learn (whereas most in the industry speak to us in a tone as if we are in first grade).

A lot of what he taught at this time is above me, but so what.

And THEN….in the afternoon…CAME THE COWS!

WARHorses_herdingcows_Montana 2016

We were 5 to a team, had to cut 3 head from the herd, direct them through a course, and into a funnel of ropers!  There was a time limit, points for every task completed successfully, and then if a roper got one/all of our cows we got extra points!

We were all on ranch cow ponies who knew their jobs well, and put up with we beginner cowgirls stoically, bless each one of them!

And I’m happy to say my team won the day!  Okay Okay we only won by 1 point only, but we still enjoyed our moment!

I think what I really loved in this experience was seeing the flatwork I’ve been practicing for a while now actually serve a purpose.  Up to this point, an exercise like leg yielding was beneficial and fun, but a bit abstract.  Certainly I have used the movement to close gates, but in Montana I used it to herd two cows into the roper funnel – when it was over it’s like, oh my gosh, so that’s what a leg yield is for!

After a long day, the horses ate their oats as we enjoyed a cool beverage of choice, it tasted so good, and the sense of accomplishment felt so rewarding.

Ladies, I conclude saying to you from my heart…anything you ever thought you’d like to do in riding … GO FOR IT!  You can do it, and your time is NOW! I can’t wait to hear all about it!

Heather Beachum