Today was an exciting day for me. April and I worked a buffalo for the first time. It was a good opportunity to work on our communication as a team while doing something new. Allison Trimble of Coastal Equine has the ability to show people how to effectively communicate with their horse by breaking a maneuver down into simple steps and learning to see things from the horse’s point of view. Allison explained that horses don’t keep a record of wrongs…they live in the moment. They ultimately try to please so it’s our job to effectively and quietly guide the horse through the maneuvers. However, if we continue to snatch their face, clamp on the reins and don’t give them the freedom and opportunity to do the maneuver without guidance they’ll become sour. When doing a maneuver such as working a buffalo it’s important to keep your horse between the reins. Use more leg and less rein. To control the maneuver, I learned I needed to move my hands up the neck (without pressing against it) as well as moving them farther apart and keeping them at equal distance. Less is more. Allison explained that buffalo work a bit differently than cows. A buffalo will learn to conserve energy and read you. They’re smart. They have a lot more stamina and won’t sour like a cow. I was a bit nervous as we stepped up to the buffalo. He looked fearless, had horns, and didn’t look too worried about April. Though I was apprehensive he was quiet, moved slowly, and gave me a chance to figure out where I needed to be. I have a tendency to move my hands quickly, snatch April’s face and go into overdrive. I cannot expect my horse to be quiet if I’m moving my hands and legs quickly. It’s not a race! Ronnie (the buffalo) gave us time to stop and think. We learned just where to push him to get a response. Allison explained that you approach your cow/buffalo in a pie shape— either to his head or his hindquarter—to move him in the direction you wish to go, just slightly behind the horns or the hip. Most importantly, you need to watch the cow, not your horse. Your horse is watching the cow so if you’re not paying attention, when the cow goes your horse is going to move and possibly without you.It’s also important to come to a complete stop before changing direction. I really need to work on this. When turning the cow it’s important to step back and turn rather than trying to leap forward getting too close to the cow. I also need to focus on staying a proper distance from the cow. I have a tendency to move April too close. It crowds the buffalo, not giving him or your horse a chance to maneuver. Watch and wait; don’t be in a hurry.Allison commented on some things I need to work on. These included moving my hands forward. She reminded me that each horse and rider are different and in different places. I also appreciated this comment from Allison: “I was thinking how obvious it was that your weight loss has improved your riding.” I’ve been working hard the last few months to improve my health and shed some extra pounds—it’s wonderful to think it has also improved my riding!Lastly, I need to SLOW DOWN and breathe. Taking my time and remaining quiet is my new focus. It’s just so much darn fun I get excited! I’m sure April felt the enthusiasm as she seemed to enjoy it as well. It’s great to improve my skills while having fun.I’m looking forward to working more with Allison on cows. She’s a good teacher as she gives great examples and only focuses on the immediate issue, not all the other things that may not be perfect. One thing at a time. She encourages and is a real advocate for reading the horse and understanding what he’s thinking. Having fun, being safe and doing it properly is what it’s all about. Setting a goal and sticking with it pushes you to improve and work hard at being the best you can be.
This stuff makes getting up every day meaningful. I’m so fortunate to work in the industry I love and have my horse be a big part of my life. A big thank you to Allison for helping me make this dream come true! For more information on Allison Trimble and Coastal Equine visit www.coastalequine.com.
Photos by Allison Trimble
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