Fun thread...Buck Brannaman Clinic...which saddle?

I’m super excited to be getting to take my horse to the Buck Brannaman clinic in about a month, because a few spots opened. My horse is not super-green, but he’s still on the unpredictable side in new places, and first days of showing are always a little exciting (he’s a saddlebred, and the snorty giraffe comes to visit) so we’ll be doing foundations, and seeing how we get on. I have audited several of his clinics in the past, learned a lot, but this is sort of the next step.

We are a multidisciplinary pair, but I don’t feel like we have anything super suitable saddle-wise for the clinic. If I had a wade or other “normal” western saddle, it wouldn’t be a problem, but out of my ridiculously large saddle collection (I have a problem)…that’s the one type that I do not have.

My western saddle is a Circle Y equitation saddle, purchased originally for another horse. It doesn’t have a ton of silver on it, but it has some. It’s super comfortable for him, reasonably comfortable for me, and provides enough stick if said horse decides to be at all “exciting”. But it’s…a show saddle. Just feels a bit wrong.

I have a Passier dressage saddle, which I do use for some ring work. It’s a great saddle, but on the “less secure” side, and since we aren’t really dressage riders (we are learning western equitation and doma vaquera) it doesn’t seem like the right choice.

I have a regular hunt seat saddle. Ok as far as security, but again, not super deep or useful in an “emergency situation”. I’ve shown in it and grew up riding hunters. Not really much to say about it but it is traditional.

I have a Spanish saddle. This would be the most “comfortable” option for us, but it is unusual, and you know what they say about unusual tack…wear it if you WANT to draw attention to yourself and I think my snorty giraffe may call enough attention to us day 1 unless he miraculously does not do what he did at the last horse show which is possible, but not horribly probable.

I also have a few and sundry other saddles, a wintec d-lite, a saddleseat saddle, most of which I don’t ride in and have been used for other horses in the past.

So, I know which way I’m leaning, but which one would you take?

Take the saddle you AND your horse are most comfortable in.
I doubt very much Mr Brannaman - or anyone else in the clinic - will care what tack you choose.
For reference:
I took my very-much-gaited TWH to a Dressage clinic with a BNT.
He cared not a whit for my horse’s obvious lack of trot & we had a very successful clinic experience.
There was also a WP rider in the clinic - full Western tack & they also were treated the same as anyone in traditional Dressage tack.


Use the one you and your horse are most comfortable in. If it’s a foundation clinic, I doubt you’ll be doing any thing that is too demanding.

Make sure you have the Buck Brannaman hat, the Buck Brannaman chinks, and the Buck Brannaman rope coiled just so. Not saying you are, but I never saw such a group of posers as when I went to my one and only Buck clinic.


LOL I think a lot of people do buy the whole shebang. I’m sure some are posers. But I guess it’s no different than people wearing polo shirts, belts and breeches at a hunter clinic. There’s nothing that says you have to wear a polo shirt, but yet everyone does. It’s the hunter uniform. Dressage riders typically wear full seats and dress boots, even though non-dress boots are perfectly fine. And the Californio Vaquero style is a Spanish-influenced hat, chinks, and a rope for roping cattle. It’s not original to Buck - came from the original vaqueros who were spaniards.

I will feel equally awkward no matter what I wear because I am a (wo)man with no true discipline allegiances. If I wear tall boots and breeches, I feel a little less awkward than when I wear cowboy boots (I HATE country music, don’t normally ride western, and grew up in hunter & eventer-land), but I would feel like a poser wearing true Spanish gear at this point because we’re just beginning our Doma Vaquera journey. I do like the flat-top hats because they are simply more flattering for my face, but I don’t own a pair of chinks.

At home, I embrace this, at shows it’s easy because I just wear whatever “gear” is appropriate for our class, but in a clinic with multiple disciplines I feel like a weirdo who wears a helmet no matter what I have on, and I do like my full seat jeans and paddock boots, and vests are flattering for some middle aged-chub :smiley: Thankfully I’m now reaching an age where I care less about that than if my horse acts a fool.

There was a gal last time who wore the most amazing flag-printed…everything…including pants. Not my style, but I did have to appreciate that she was committed. She appeared to maybe be a barrel racer normally or a gamer of some ilk. And yes, I saw my fair share of the big long mustaches…I find those mildly entertaining. But hey, different strokes for different folks!


Use the saddle and attire that you usually do, including helmet. And stop worrying yourself about standing out too much, it’s OK to be different.


I guess that’s the problem. There isn’t a usual for us (other than our attire).

I choose a saddle based on whether I want to carry my western saddle (it can be heavy), feel like riding in my dressage saddle, or feel like putting our Spanish saddle on. I’ll ride in my hunt seat saddle if I really don’t feel like lugging gear out as it’s the lightest of all of them. I don’t really know (other than weight) if I have strong opinions.

My horse doesn’t care about anything other than when his forelock touches his ears. That’s his only real foible. So long as we avoid that nightmare, we’re good.

I haven’t ridden for long periods of time in my Spanish saddle yet, so I have no idea how comfortable it might be after a few hours. Nor have I tested it in a “high energy” environment for my horse, so I’m not sure how sticky it will be. My dressage saddle is not sticky for a good spook and spin, so it’s probably off the table. He doesn’t do that often, but when he does it’s pretty dramatic, and I’d rather not waste money hitting the dirt as I don’t bounce easily and would probably have to sit out the rest of the clinic which would be a bummer. He’s only gotten me off once, but it is a supremely hard maneuver to sit for my long-upper-bodied self, and since I know we’ll have to do some loose-rein work, well, it’s a possibility that I do have to take into account.

Exactly. I imagine he has seen it all. You are there to learn/ improve you both not to look like everyone else.

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I would use the show saddle, if that’s your primary saddle. Buck isn’t going to care, BUT, the silver might help him pick you out of a crowd. I audited a clinic a couple years ago and noticed that there were a couple riders who he just kind of ignored; not sure if they faded into the background, or he thought they were beyond help or what. So rather than worrying about image, I can see with the way these clinics run, that you might get more instruction if you don’t blend in too much with the other riders.

The clinic I went to was in very rural Washington state, and it seemed that everyone was wearing exactly what they would wear any other day, but maybe a nicer button-down shirt.

That’s definitely a good thought! I imagine we’ll stick out quite a bit with a big saddlebred anyway so any thoughts I might have of blending in might be for naught :rofl: My horse definitely makes his presence known wherever he goes. He is hard to miss.

In your shoes I’d take the show saddle b/c sounds like the most comfortable one for you both for all day work, plus that security is probably going to come in handy. If the Spanish saddle is also that secure I’d take it. First priority, fit/comfort, second priority, security. Bring your top 2/3 choices with you and you can switch out if you decide.

Buck does not care what gear you have as long as it’s decent quality and fits you/horse well. He will notice how you are with your horse and how open you are to what he has to offer.

The only gear the real clinicians care about is the halter and lead and there is a reason for that. (If you’ve been to his clinics before I imagine you have seen that) Buck could care less where you buy it; some of the lower level guys make some money by selling gear they recommend b/c clinics aren’t always extremely profitable for someone trying to get a start. There is wheat and chaff in the clinician game but I don’t think Buck is out to peddle merch at this point. Some of the clinic sponsors do.

I have noticed that some people attending the clinics LOVE to dress up to suit what they think he wants to see and it’s obvious to everyone, especially him. I’ve been at clinics where the riders ranged from older folks with money dripping off of every inch of their entire brand new western outfit to teenagers with english saddles and t-shirts. He sees your horse, you and how you work together and not much else. Hopefully, anyway. I’ve seen him in clinics where he’s on point and then I’ve been to a slow small one where he spent most of the time in the corner working on his own horse while his apprentice worked with most of the riders. I don’t think he has a lot of cares about what people think. I hope you have a good group and a good time! I’d love to read about how it goes!


I have audited a few of his clinics.

In your spot, I’d use the Circle Y, primarily because it (sounds like) it will be the most comfortable for man and beast.

My primary reservation about riding in one of those big clinics is the way they want horses to focus for 3 hours at a stretch in a crowded ring. So I’d choose the saddle that made me most comfortable for my horse to pack around for 3 hours.


Oh, and if you want my .02 about rope halters-- which ones work best and why-- (which I learned from Brannaman and some of his acolytes), let me know.

ETA: Someone else who mentioned bringing more than one saddle gave me another good ide: Bring a second saddle for the second day. Again, I’m a sissy who doesn’t usually sit on her horses for 3 hours at a stretch, so if I were going to do this 2 days in row, I’d think about switching up the saddles for the horse’s comfort. Again, I’m clearly not a rancher riding fence 10 hours a day. I was the hunter girl who was taught to “not use her horse as an easy chair” and get off between the two-minute classes she was in a horse show.

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Yes. Bringing both saddles is a good idea. And it’s going to be really good for my horse (although I think the problem might be me - I’m a 30 minute rider typically :rofl:) mostly because in-company work is a struggle for him. We’ll work ourselves up to some longer hours during this month before the clinic so we don’t get sore.

My hope is that we can use this as a learning experience for him too, not just the exercises, many of which we have already done at home. He gets very excited when other horses are in the ring, and though he has gotten better since I’ve owned him, we haven’t really had the opportunity to ride in this amount of company. He’s going to have to deal with a lot, but he needs that.

Last clinic I saw several people mount and dismount when they felt their horses needed a break. We are doing foundations, because I thought it would be good to take his temperature on the ground before proceeding to saddle up. Buck comes here every year so knock on wood we can do Horsemanship 1 next year if we survive this year!

Oh and I’d love to know :slight_smile:

I have two, one that is a stiffer 4 knot that I use to tune up my quarter horse who can be pushy, and the one I use on my saddlebred is a softer two knot because he tends to be softer and overreact. The four knot was just way too loud for him. I may take both just in case he decides to tune me out a bit on the grounds when the other horses are more interesting than I am.

IME the lead rope is more important than the halter. Start with your stiff 4 knot but bring the soft, as you said. It’s hard to describe the “play” in the right lead rope but once you feel it you can’t unfeel it. It’s heavy but pliable and will do the moves you will want to make easily. I have been lucky enough to personally know someone that built halters/leads for these trainers and we were able to get the odds/ends/practice building/ugly halters with leads attached. I swear I would show up bareback if I had to but not without one of those halters/leads. I’m not trying to be all voodoo about it but until you feel it and it’s hard to explain. I would say to reach out to maybe your sponsor to see how you can have one of the recommended halters with lead attached (if you don’t already on that stiff halter depending on where you got it). For that matter, if you want to borrow one of mine PM me and I’ll send it to you so you can see what I mean, if you don’t mind 20 year old halter/leads. I’m that serious about it. lol It’s yacht cotton rope, as I recall, and our halter builder person had a hard time finding the exact stuff. He used to get samples and we would play with them trying to get the feel from the different ones. I can’t express how right it is for that groundwork, it’s just where you want it to be when you want it to be. Also, from what you’ve said, bring gloves for at least the first day until you know how he’s going to be and how many times the lead is going to be squirting through your hands. I’m excited for you-I always love clinics just b/c they are such good focused time with your horse, keep your thinking cap on and roll with things. We’ve also had a NSH so can relate to Up Telescope, as we called it!


You’re awesome thank you! Both of mine have leads attached - but it is interesting - I like the softer one’s feel more than the other one. It is yacht rope and much more similar to my yacht rope mecate.

Gloves are a brilliant idea! Definitely may need them if he decides to be spicy.

I’m excited and nervous - this is definitely a bucket list clinic!

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Personally I think the Circle Y sounds like the best option. Keep the rest of your tack neat but workman-like.

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I was at a cow clinic and there was a girl there in a dressage saddle. No one cared.

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Forget about fashion statements. Buck and most of the other BNTs have seen everything. Take the saddle that your body has enough muscle memory that you don’t have to think about what your body is doing. If you focus on things you think your horse might do, like spook and dump you, he’ll figure that out from your body language. Focus on what you are doing because, I assume, you are there to learn.

I’ve had to retire my horse from riding because of severe lameness in his left front. I’ve have nerve damage in my right arm. It didn’t take him long to figure out that if he hauled me hard to the left I can’t haul him back to the right. He nose-dives for grass on the walk out and back to the barn. He is fine, polite, and quiet as long as I focus on what we are doing. If I let my mind wander he is munching grass because I missed his cues.

Here in southern Maine there are plenty of riders in English saddles. Buck came every other year. One person from our barn audited his clinics in the early 2000s because no one knew who he was. Obviously that changed especially after the movie came out.

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My horse does not make a habit of spooking. It’s just that when he does, it’s dramatic. He drops and squats about two to three feet, and then does a 180. I was quite present with him when he pulled this maneuver when someone stood up behind a half wall and barely stuck that, finding ourselves halfway across the arena in the other direction before I could process what happened. I was walking on a loose rein talking with my trainer the last time both completely relaxed the last time and did not stick that one. And even my trainer said, “yeah, I couldn’t have sat that one either”. It’s pretty impressive. I’ve been riding for 34 years and typically sit bucks, rears, and spooks just fine. Just not on this particular beast who happens to be particularly athletic. He does make me question my sanity on the regular.

Since this will be a quite busy arena with spectators who may commit the crime of standing up unexpectedly, I’d like some stick. And yes, that’s humor, my horse should be able to handle such things but alas, periodically he forgets that he is not a green 4 year old anymore or a wild horse with predators around, and pulls the move.

Anyway - yes, of course I’m there to learn and am completely unconcerned with fashion which is why I entitled it a fun thread as opposed to a serious question.

I too have seen people in dressage saddles, but I don’t think mine would be super comfy for all day riding in. In hindsight I think the Circle Y will be my best option since it has the suede seat and seems to be the most comfortable for my horse (and me) for longer rides. I was a bit worried about the silver since the tradition is that your horse has to earn his silver, but I suppose I’ll be forgiven.

Interestingly, this horse isn’t bothered at all by the flag. My normally bombproof non-spooking horse though? Absolutely terrified of the flag (decided to start groundwork with him yesterday since I had never done it with him, but he’s had a year off). Who knew!

Buck won’t care what tack you use except your bit and noseband so as others said, whatever works best for you and your horse.

I’ve ridden for him a few times and audited more over the years and am also riding in a few weeks on my (also spooky) homebred. I’ve decided to ride in my jump saddle at least the first day for that reason instead of the dressage.
Which clinic are you going to? Maybe we will see each other!