After decades in the saddle, she felt she was a good rider and doing right by her horses.
“I had always done it in a way that I thought was right, that I thought was kind. But I was putting way too much pressure on the horse, too much leg, using strong bits. We weren’t really communicating. I was being more of a dictator,” she says in the set’s introduction.
Taking a Brannaman clinic introduced her to a whole new approach and impassioned her to share Brannaman’s work and philosophies with as wide an audience as possible.
After the hugely successful 2011 documentary film, “Buck,” producer Meehl still had over three hundred hours of footage. She felt she owed it to the horse community to share Brannaman’s expertise in an instructional format, she said.
What follows is 10 hours of straight-forward guidance on everything from beginning ground work to advanced problem solving.
“It’s not magic. He gives you the tools to get so light,” said Meehl. “And what a difference it makes in the horses’ understanding of you and [your] understanding of them.”
7 Clinics lines up pragmatic exercises for working with horses at any level, any discipline. Each DVD features a detailed, chaptered menu, making it easy to bounce from one topic to another or progress logically from one exercise moment to the next.
The first two discs are dedicated to groundwork, followed by lessons on horseback for the remaining five discs. All told there are more than 10 hours of tutorial.
If you haven’t seen or heard Brannaman before, know this: the Montana horseman is blunt, usually unsmiling and humorless. If you’re waiting for a flash of white teeth, a laugh, or a virtual hug, you’ll be waiting a long time. Nonetheless, the Ray Hunt protégé is focused and fervent in his dedication to the horse and his interest in passing his understanding onto students. He makes it clear that it’s the humans that desperately need help.
- On the one-rein stop: “It ought to be something you’d bet your life on.” Read more about Buck’s take on bolting here.
- On the use of gimmicks: “I don’t use gimmicks. I don’t use martingales, tie-downs, drop nose bands, none of it. There’s never been a gimmick invented that’s gotten through to a horse mentally. Physically, there are levers that people have devised that are frightening. They force rather than ask the horse to give.”
Horsemanship is not like going to a fix-it shop. It’s a lifetime commitment which might involve retraining oneself to be consistent and disciplined in offering a soft feel. Brannaman chides students not to miss opportunities for release and to make connections as clear as possible for their equine partners.
Betty Staley and Annette Venteicher Coker, successful clinicians in their own rights, help flush out the narrative, bringing different perspective to Buck’s work and what he brings to horses and riders. When Buck discusses “hooking on” Staley elaborates: “Hooking on is the horse accepting your leadership. Then you owe him something. It’s your responsibility to never put him in a position where he can get in trouble or fail, be it too high a jump, too complicated a dressage move, or too aggressive a cow…”
Watching 7 Clinics may be the perfect mid-winter pastime when riding has been put on hold. As is said, riding is “setting the horse up for success.” 7 Clinics has the same idea in mind for its viewers.