Got up bright and early to head over to the Buck Brannaman clinic at the WA State Horse Park in Cle Elum this morning. I'm glad I didn't get in to ride this year because Maiden would not have been ready to be in an arena with all those horses with her needing space issues. All she's ever done is pin her ears and make nasty faces but then I've never ridden with that many people in an arena before. Of course it was a gigantic arena that I was coveting and wishing I had daily access too. With wonderful footing. Jealous sigh.
We found a place in the shade to sit down next to a woman with two teen girls. I put my chair down and she looked sideways at me and I said, "I'm sorry, were you saving this for someone?" and she said, "No, no, go ahead. If it weren't ok I would definitely say something," and I felt compelled to high five her for that (because I love it when people are blunt and up front) and I just had a feeling right then we would be friends. As it turns out we chattered away the whole morning and drove my husband nuts because of it. Not that he understood what Buck was talking about but he said Buck could read a grocery list and his voice was so soothing he could listen to it all day.
We went to lunch in Roslyn and sat with a woman from Cle Elum and her elderly father who had just moved in with her from AZ after her mom died, then got back to the clinic in time to sit with my old friend, A. and her teen daughter. A. has never actually ridden a horse but her daughter is a great little rider so we chattered away the whole afternoon. Despite that I did hear an awful lot of what Buck said and it was all very familiar. Some things he said were almost word for word what Trainer K says or close to it but with a mid-West twang.
Something that hit me near the end of the afternoon was that people come from all over to spend three days at a clinic with him. And for many of them this was probably the best three days of education they'd have access to all year. And I suddenly felt unbelievable grateful and fortunate for the fact that I get to see Trainer K. pretty much every day. Even when I'm not directly taking lessons from her I'm learning from her. It just really hit me this afternoon how incredibly lucky I am to have daily education from Trainer K. It's not that I ever really took it for granted but this afternoon it really hit me how lucky I am.
We stayed for the BBQ meet & greet afterward and I had some questions for Buck but he didn't end up attending. I did enjoy talking to the hosts though and they had really good food and a nice little band playing. But I was so tired we didn't stay long. I had also wanted to give Buck a copy of my manuscript if he ever had down time and wanted to read it since I want to use a quote from him at the beginning, but since he wasn't there I figured no big deal I wouldn't give it to him.
But then I started talking to Nathan, one of his assistants and I could totally relate to him. He left his job to work with Buck and make horses his life and the way he talked about leaving the security of his old career and following this passion was exactly like my big leap into my "mid-life crisis" of leaving behind the safety of my accounting job and going back to school for equine massage and taking a very low-paying but incredibly fun and rewarding job with little kids at pony camp. It was one of those talks where you just feel like saying to the other person, "Amen, Brother!" to everything they say. So, it flew out of my mouth, "I wrote this novel - do you want to read it?" and he said, "You mean Buck? I can't promise he'll read it," and I said, "No, you, I mean you. Do you want to read it? I was going to give it to Buck but I want to give it to you," and he said, "Well, I mean I could read it. I don't know if Buck ..." but I hopefully made it clear it was meant for me to give to him. It's kind of silly sounding but all the sudden I knew he was the one I was supposed to give it to. I want to continue to read stuff by Buck, listen to his talks and hopefully attend his clinic next year with Maiden, but I want to keep in touch with Nathan and hear how his journey with Buck goes and how his learning goes. Basically, I left wanting to be Nathan's friend. Maybe we will never be in touch again but I will hopefully get word occasionally on how his adventure is going.
Speaking of my novel when we were driving over the mountains yesterday I realized how I'm going to end this particular novel and I'm going to write a sequel. I imagine I should give some thought to trying to publish them but right now I'm having too much fun writing them. More on that later - it's really exciting to me that I figured out the ending of this first one and already have the sequel laid out in my head.
The hard part of the day was near the end of the afternoon session. Earlier in the day my new friend, R. and I were commenting that one woman looked really off balance and that made us nervous. But when her horse was walking she appeared to have a pretty good seat and seemed to be ok. But in the afternoon ride she didn't look as balanced. But I didn't think much of it because we figured she was on a horse suited for her. But (and unfortunately I looked up and saw everything) I heard Buck yell into his microphone "SIT BACK! SIT BACK!" which was really loud because he had a microphone and I knew that yell and I knew that tone because I'd heard it from trainers at our barn a couple times when a horse has spooked and bolted. But unfortunately, the girl didn't sit back, she was leaning way forward which was throwing her off balance and because of her weight was throwing the horse off balance. Finally after a quarter turn around the arena while I was thinking "Sit back!" myself and willing her in my head to sit back and stop leaning forward, she flew forward off the horse and landed on her head and flipped over which was bad enough but her horse was pulled off balance and stomped right over her. Aaagh!
It was a nasty fall and after a moment it hit me that she wasn't wearing a helmet. Buck was immediately off his horse and by her side as were some of the spectators on that side of the arena. I heard a woman near me tell someone "I have emergency training I'm going to help!" and ran over there. People were gathered around her and she wasn't getting up, then an ambulance arrived and they cleared the horses and riders out so it could come into the arena. A. asked if stuff like that brought back PTSD stuff for me of the time I broke my neck and I said no, but it did bring back some uncomfortable feelings from my fall in January when I broke my sacrum/back. I just didn't want the poor woman to die right there like that in a clinic that was supposed to be fun. Thankfully, although she was fully unconscious for a good five minutes, she started to wake up. Later at the dinner her friend announced to the attendees that the woman had woken up and although she was disoriented and in shock she was awake and could move her fingers and toes. That was good news. Of course she's terrified and disoriented but she's awake and not in a coma and hopefully as we speak she is asleep at Harboview on lots of pain meds and her family is with her and it will just get better from here.
I was really glad that Buck decided to continue the clinic for the last hour because a lot of us were really shaken up. He talked a lot about safety and ways to be safe and what to know to be safe. He did use the term "lawn dart" which Trainer K. has used frequently when talking about leaning forward on your horse like that. Thankfully, there was a lot of talk at the dinner about it too which helped people process what happened. One thing that A. brought up that hadn't occurred to me was that the woman was so obese that she may not have had the physical strength or ability to sit up straight when the horse started galloping because when a horse gallops there is a forward momentum and you need to pull yourself up at your core. I feel very fortunate that Girlfriend being my first horse and pretty much wanting to bolt every time anyone got on her back, I learned quickly to instinctually sit back as soon as a horse bolts. In fact it helped on Girl because as soon as I'd sit back and heavy on my seat she'd slow down (because she was trained to stop with full weight in the seat). Anyway, nobody wanted to place blame, but there was lots of "this is why you shouldn't lean forward and what can happen" talk going on.
Other than that trauma it was an excellent day and I left with such a huge amount of gratitude that I am learning from a truly great trainer on a daily basis - something not many people get to do because few people can just hop in a bus and travel with Buck Brannaman. But I've got Trainer K. at home who is one of those rare brilliant "horse whisperers" only in her case only her students know it. And I kind of like it that way. I think her brilliance should be acknowledged but I also like having her to ourselves and not spread out all over the world where I can't see her everyday since I'm rooted at home with my family.