The Legacy Of Legends 2018

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By Lisa Sparks

The Legacy of Legends held its 8th annual event at the Will Rogers Arena in Fort Worth, Texas on March 9-11, 2018 to benefit the Legacy of Legends Scholarship Program.  This colt-starting event demonstrates what the recipients learned after spending time with a horseman, clinician and/or trainer who adheres to the philosophy of Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt.  Their approach uses the self-preservation of the horse to build a relationship of trust with the human.  This year’s event paid tribute to what Ray Hunt considered the foundation for everything else to come in a horse’s life, so we gathered in Fort Worth to build a solid foundation of learning.

On the first day, a special tribute was given to the late Peter Campbell, a truly committed horseman who worked closely with Tom Dorrance.  He wrote the book Willing Partners, and was a renowned clinician.

Six clinicians that represent this gentle approach were chosen from the 2017 scholarship program horsemen and horsewomen to start two-year-old colts from the six ranches represented in this year’s event.

BUSTER McLAURIE had a bald faced mare his daughter Tiffany was riding, who blew up with every phase of handling.  His interpretation was that she was not comfortable inside the round pen and saddled better outside in the open.  But she had to learn, even though he had addressed her claustrophobia.  In the round pen, Buster mounted his steed and moved her around the pen with the other horses to get her feet moving, using upward and downward transitions.  Smooth transitions are important and have a calming effect. When it came time to saddle, she had to have support from him mounted, as he led her around and brought her in close to be petted. The same was true when the rider mounted her.  That support allowed her time to decide on her own that it was safe.  With this same approach she was ridden on the third day in the round pen and outside.  

Buster grew up with horses and worked on the 6666 Ranch out of high school.  He is a convert to Ray Hunt’s philosophy, and treats each horse by reinforcing these simple principles.  He was working with the colts from Rocker B Ranch in Barnhart, Texas.

JATON LORD is Ray Hunt’s grandson, starting his first colt at age 15.  He has worked on ranches with trainers and now conducts clinics and rides horses for the public.  He has a passion for learning and takes special interest in working with interns. As his grandfather would say, “I am the best because I learn more.” This year he brought some of his own colts.  Carlos from Mexico and an Israeli girl teamed up with him to guide the participants in his group.  Getting the horse in a learning frame of mind was stressed.  Wait for them to settle while you are asking them or you will teach them to spook.

ANTHONY DESREAUX is from Australia and left home at age 14 to work on large stock camps.  Having not worked with Ray directly, he is an example of someone who learned from others who learned from Tom and Ray.  He worked with the colts from Muleshoe Ranch in Gail, Texas.  He emphasized petting the horse as you do ground work by using a brush to stroke and touch the horse.  A coiled rope or a flag can also be used.  He had a buckskin horse that kept going crazy in his group, so he worked the hind foot with a rope to break the pattern of bucking.

JOE WOLTER worked with Ray out of high school at the Soldiers Meadow Ranch.  He also worked with Tom Dorrance doing clinics. He also works with jumpers and dressage horses.  His group worked with the horses from Flying R Ranch in Zillah, Washington.  He helped one of the participants with a horse that pulled back when asked to go forward.  The point was to teach her that it was her idea to release pressure.  When riding a horse like this do not drive and direct at the same time.  They will go better if you shift from one side to the other to unstick the hind feet.  The stickiness begins with fear. 

BUCK BRANNAMAN is cofounder of the Legacy of Legends, along with Carolyn Hunt.  The two have worked to continue the vision of teaching the next generation’s horsemanship through feel.  He is an example of how Ray’s clinics changed his horsemanship and life, and he has followed in Ray’s footsteps to help other people with their horses.  He worked with the colts from Froelich Quarter Horses from Selfridge, North Dakota.  His daughter, Reata, was in his group as well as Ricky Quinn.  Both had challenging horses that demonstrated fear through “sticky” feet.  Working the hindquarters and bringing the front quarters through in one move is the goal of separating the front end from the hind end.  When this is done with good feel and good timing, there is forward motion with smoother transitions.

WAYNE ROBINSON grew up in Australia riding colts as a teenager and came to the U.S. to work colts with Ray Hunt.
 His group worked with stud colts from Bosque Performance Horses in Walnut Springs, Texas.  His group included Luke Nubert who worked the colt’s hind foot to break up the resistance of moving forward.  The arrangement of the panels included a holding area, where colts were gentled and then allowed to play in the open area, while Luke was in the round pen, mounted and ready to assist.  The horse was haltered and lead by the handler, while Luke worked the tied hind foot (at the fetlock) from his dally point on the saddle.  When the colt understood that he was to yield his hindquarters when asked, then the colt moved forward and could be lead around the pen and learn to bend.  

Spectators purchased tickets, which fund the scholarship program, to watch the interpretation of what these young trainees have learned in the three months with a mentor who emulates the philosophy of Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt.  Generous sponsors also help fund this program, which Buck Brannaman’s explains: “The idea is for the next generation of horsemen coming up to be able to ride with good hands and to continue Ray’s and Tom’s vision for the horse.  Both men believed there was a better way to deal with the horse. 

In the smaller venue at the Will Rogers Arena, spectators could get closer to the action. One group at a time worked in a single round pen, set up in the arena that allowed room to ride outside the pen. The main idea was to set up a learning environment for the horse, unhindered by too much going on at one time.  The groups worked with a small herd of 2-year-olds handled enough to be haltered and led, but had spent their life in the pasture. This setup gave the observers a larger view, while the clinicians mounted on horseback gave a description of what was going on with each horse paired with a participant. 

The ground work techniques of moving the hindquarters away and bring the front end through were used in preparing the horse for the saddle pad and saddle.  As the horse was led, attention was given to the movement of the feet, with the release of pressure being the point of learning.  The unspoken contract is to give up the notion of dominance and, instead, relate to the horse as a partner.  Shaping the will of a horse must include movement and control of their feet to get them seeking and thinking, which leads to understanding.  All of this process, over time, becomes their safe place, just like the herd in the pasture. 

The outside of the horse tells you what is going on inside their mind, so getting them to saddling involved all the time allotted on the first day. With the saddle pad they could locate spots that were sensitive to where the saddle would be, preparing them for what came next.  Expression of the eye, position of the ears, tightness in the jaw, position of the head, hollowing of the back, stiffness of the feet, particularly the back feet, all were clues to how the handlers were being received. Sometimes the horses got upset by bucking, kicking, or whirling away in the opposite direction.  Still, the goal was to get the colt/filly in a learning frame of mind by putting your hands up to keep them off you, staying calm when they lost their way, and using the lead tope to direct their feet while they were trying to understand what was asked.  Sometimes just waiting for the horse to settle after they got the wrong answer was needed. 

Buck emphasized throughout the three days that it has to be the horse’s idea. Seeking the horse’s needs and making them your own needs was one of Tom’s motivational points.  It could apply to the horse being comfortable with the saddle or moving the horse forward.

Lateral work was introduced and was used to prepare for the vertical flexing.  So much of the work was started with the hindquarters moving over.  Stepping back with the outside hind foot allows crossing of the inside hind foot, which then shifts the weight back so the front end can come through became the balance point for the horse.  When done in sync with the lateral flexion of the head, a lateral bend is created upon release. The riding on day two was started in this way by throwing the rope over the horse’s head to work on bending each side. 

On day three you could see all the work coming together to produce a foundation of riding the horse forward, backward, left, right, a roll back, and a stop.  From the horse’s point of view, life is survival and now they have boundaries.  With horse and human meeting each other half way, a partnership is achieved.

A live horse auction and a silent auction  of tack and other items concluded the clinic on the last day. All proceeds were donated for the scholarship program.

The participants as well as the clinicians were available to ask questions.  Buck had clinic time at the end of each day and you could see how this foundational work resulted in a more responsive, more collected horse. This lateral flexion becomes vertical flexion, and the horse can be ridden on a loose rein. It’s a wonderful sight of horse and rider moving together.

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