Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope everyone has a great holiday and is blessed with the company of their loved ones.

Enjoy the Journey

Nick Donohue

Saturday, December 20, 2008

More Snow In Portland

Ground work - Freeing up your hind and front quarters

This will be my next video in our little series that we are doing, but due to weather conditions, we can't tape it right now so I thought I would do an article on it first, hopefully, this week we will be able to get the camera going again.

By now, your horse should being giving its head laterally, willingly and softly, both with the feet standing still and with them moving around the front quarters. If you do not have this going for you yet, you should stay with the first two exercises until it is. We will assume that all is going well with the first two and it is time to move on to hind-quarters front-quarters. You will need a rope halter with a 12 foot lead on it to complete this exercise with efficiency, I hand tie all my leads and halters, but recommend for those who do not have experience with these to purchase a Brannaman halter made by double diamond with a tree line lead. You can purchase these at

Now to get started, you will stand directly in front of your horse a few feet away, you will hold the lead rope in your left hand about 5 feet from the halter and hold the tail of your lead rope in your right hand with a few feet between your hand and the tail of the lead rope. You might need this few feet to drive your horse with, so it is important that the tail coming out of your driving hand (right now your right hand) is not too short. When you are set and prepared, you then raise your left hand, pointing to the left and approach your horse walking in a line slightly to the left. If the horse responds to this and moves off tracking left, you will release and allow the the horse to lead around you, if they do not respond to this, first offer a little life in the leading hand (right now this is your left hand) by bumping it lightly with a little rhythm, if the horses feet do not break free, then use your driving hand (this is currently your right hand) by swinging the rope overhand towards your horses right side, if the horse does not respond to this firm up by tapping the horse on the shoulder with the rope. When doing this, though be sure to firm up enough to get a response, do not continue tapping your horse and have nothing happen, do enough to be effective, not only in the moment but in the future. If you simply tap, tap, tap your horse and don't get to the feet, you are going to get your horse irritated. Get to the feet, always remember that. Now while doing the above mentioned things you will also be approaching your horse by walking towards them. As your horse moves off and around you it should look something like this picture.

Notice the bend in the horse's body, notice the handler is not pulling the horse around them, he is simply leading the horse with slack in the lead rope.

Now that you can send your horse around you, you will need to learn to un-track his hindquarters to either stop his or direct his the other way. To do this and simply stop your horse you will take your leading hand (at this point this is your right hand) directly across your body towards the horse's hips, this should cause the horse's hips to swing out, stepping its inside hind foot up under its body and crossing over the outside hind foot. Wait, doesn't that sound familiar from exercise # 2? Go back and look over that video before attempting this.

If you wish to change directions, before you take the rope to this horse's hips and walk towards them, you will want to change hands, so that your leading hand will now be your left hand and your driving hand will now be your right hand. It should look like these pictures.

Once the horse is un-tracking the hindquarters (if you are not familiar with this, please watch video 1 and 2 on flexing and moving the hindquarters) you are ready to change directions. Do this by pointing off to your left, if need be pause your feet for only a moment, while the horse comes across with his fronts. If the horse does not come through with his fronts you will offer a little life in the lead rope by lightly bumping it, and finally if the horse still does not come through with his fronts, firm up and swing the lead rope overhand at the horses left shoulder, making contact if necessary to cause the fronts to sweep across so the horse will lead off the other direction. Then you will continue to walk towards the horse as he leads around you. It should look something like this picute:

Now a few things to look for as you get this exercise going for yourself:
1) Is your horse walking out? He should walk with life, and energy; if your horse is moving without life and is dull, this along with everything else that we will be doing will be very difficult. Fortunately though, you can use this exercise to both increase and decrease the life in your horse. If you are looking to increase the life in your horse, first offer it by bumping on the lead in time with the inside front foot, you are trying to increase the stride that the horse takes, do not hold firm, offer a bump with rhythm to get this. If the horse does not make a change use the tail of your rope in your driving hand to encourage forward. If the horse trots, that is okay, simply encourage him to slow down by reducing the life in your body, if he does not respond then un-track his hindquarters and send him off the other direction. Do not let him continue to trot for a long time, maybe 1/4 to 1/2 of the circle at most, then change his direction to slow him down. Later we will teach you how to drift the hindquarters, which also can be a way to slow the horse down from the trot without changing directions. Also, if the horse has too much life and won't walk, you will simply do as many direction changes as necessary until the horse walks, approach it thinking, "I am not going to make him walk, I will make it uncomfortable for him to trot, by continually changing his direction until he decides to walk and I allow him to." If you try to make him, it will never happen Let him walk. Remember that, it is something that can change the way your horse responds to you.
2) As your horse leads around you, he should be bent to the inside of the circle, with his ribs bending out and away from you and his head bent in towards the circle. He should not be looking out to the outside of the circle, pushing the ribs and/or shoulders in on the circle towards you. If he is doing this, bump on the lead rope and drive the shoulder away from you.
Best of luck with this exercise and as always if you have any trouble, please feel free to send us a question.
Enjoy the Journey
Nick & Jessie

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Technical Difficulties

While I figure out my technical difficulties with posting video clips, I thought I would share this link. It is a YouTube link a friend from Arizona sent. I had no idea camels could be trained to do this.



Friday, December 5, 2008

Upcoming blog series!!!

It is important to ride your whole horse, many times people forget about about the back end of the horse and only ride front end, the problem with doing this is the hindquarters have the power and getting control of them will help you gain control of your horse. I am going to write a few entries on this, with a few different exercises to try both from the ground and the saddle. Thanks to my beautiful wife Jessie, I got a new Video camera for my birthday yesterday. I am planing on using this to demonstrate these exercises and walk you through them step by step. I should have my first video entry of this early up next week, so be watching out for these!

Enjoy the Journey

Monday, December 1, 2008

Buying Quality Gear Online

One thing I have learned over the past few years, is nothing beats quality gear, but it is hard to find, weather you look in your local tack store or brave online shopping. This being said, I thought I would offer some links to sites that offer quality horsemanship gear, from saddles all the way down to flags and halters. We have bought things from all of these sites and have only received top quality gear from them. - I get all my bosals from here, I recommend them with the soft core, these are nice bosals. California Classics also carries a wide range of gear such as the highest quality mane hair mecates and hand sewn wild rags. - Jessie recently purchased a new pair of chinks from them, and loves them(they are the cream ones she is wearing in the pictures). - This is a great Magazine and I would highly recommend a subscription - You want a quality saddle, get it here. - Sarah, makes great parachute mecates, Jessie bought one this summer and loves it, we recommend the 12 strand mecate now to all of our students for their snaffle bit rigs. Sarah puts a lot of time and energy into hand braiding these mecates and they are at a very reasonable price. She also carries the Buck Brannaman horsemanship flags.

Remember while quality gear can be a bit expensive, for most people, they will only ever have to buy one, so have why not buy something you can have pride in and that your horse can be proud to wear.

Enjoy the Journey


Congratulations Mary

Congratulations to Mary on her purchase of her new Horse Teeka.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Must Have DVD's

Here is a list of DVDs, that I would recommend for anyone interested in learning more about horsemanship and bettering their skills with horses.

1) Groundwork - Buck Brannaman

2) The Snaffle Bit - Buck Brannaman

3) The Hackamore - Buck Brannaman

4) The Two Rein and the Bridle - Buck Brannaman

5) From the Ground Up - Buck Brannaman

6) The First Ride - Buck Brannaman

7) Colt Starting - Buck Brannaman

8) Trailer Loading and Problem Solving - Buck Brannaman

9) Turn Loose - Ray Hunt

10) Ray Hunt Appreciation Clinic - Ray Hunt

12) Colt Starting - Ray Hunt

12) The Fort Worth Benefit - Ray Hunt

13) Greetings - Tom Dorrance

13) Feel, Timing, and Balance - Tom Dorrance

14) The First Week, Bryan Nuebert, Joe Wolter, JimNeubert

If you are interested in Learning about Vaquero/Buckaroo Traditions and History I would recommend the following:

1) Tapadero, California Vaquero

2) The Remuda, Buckaroo

3) Houlihan, Northern Range Cowboy

If you are interested in learning about Ranch Roping I would recommend the following:

1) Ranch Roping Series, Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced - Buck Brannaman

2) There's roping to do - Bill Dorrance, Joe Wolter

If you are interested in learning about Rawhide Cowboy Gear

1) Four Strands of Rawhide - Bill Dorrance

2) Introduction to Rawhide Braiding "The Cowboys Craft" - Bryan Neubert

3) Advanced Rawhide Braiding - Bryan Neubert

You can purchase the Buck Brannaman Videos @

You can purchase the Ray Hunt Videos @

You can purchase the Tom Dorrance Videos @

You can Purchase the Bill Dorrance Videos @

You can Purchase the Bryan Neubert Videos @

You can Purchase the Documentary videos on the buckaroo/vaquero @

Enjoy the Journey

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, we hope you have a wonderful day with good company, and of course a great meal.

Nick & Jessie

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Documentaries on the History of Vaquero and Buckaroo

If you are interested in Learning about Vaquero/Buckaroo Traditions and History I would highly recommend the following videos. They are informative and interesting to watch, both covering the history of these traditions while highlighting some modern day Vaqueros and Buckaroos.

1) Tapadero, California Vaquero
2) The Remuda, Buckaroo
3) Houlihan, Northern Range Cowboy

Sunday, November 23, 2008

New to Horsemanship, some must have DVDS to get you started

If you have recently been lucky enough to stubble onto this world of horsemanship, but are not sure were to start, I would highly recommend buying the following DVDs to get you started:

1) Groundwork - Buck Brannaman

2) Snaffle Bit - Buck Brannaman

There are alot of other DVD's as well that would be great for you as you advance, but it can be a little overwelming at first, so I would start with these two DVD's and go from there as you progress. Another supplement to these that is handy is the groundwork book by Buck Brannaman that goes along with the DVD. It is small and handy so you can keep it at the barn as a reference when you go to work your horse.

If you would like to buy these you can purchase them from one of the following sites.

Enjoy the Journey

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Recommended Reading

Here are some books that we recommend having and reading:

1) The Far Away Horses, Buck Brannaman - This is an Auto Biography of Bucks, it is very interesting story of a great horseman. It gives a lot of insight into why Buck approaches horses the way he does, and why he helps all of us with ours.

2) Believe, Buck Brannaman - This is a book with short stories of Bucks Students and their experiences with Buck, how his horsemanship helped them, with their horses and their lives. Buck comments on each story from what his point of view as well.

3) True Unity, Tom Dorrance - This book should need no Introduction, if you don't already own it or have not read it, you need to. If you have, you should read it again, We get something out of it every time we open it.

4) Think Harmony with Horses, Ray Hunt - Just like the book above, if you don't already own it, or have not read it, you need to. If you have, you should read it again.

5) True Horsemanship Through Feel, Bill Dorrance, - This is a tough read, but I would highly recommend it as well.

6) Groundwork, Buck Brannaman - This handy little pocket sized red book, is your how to guide for ground work. Whatever your experience you should own a copy of this as well.

Well, I hope you enjoy your reading and most importantly "Enjoy the Journey"

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thinking while we Ride

Something that I have noticed over the past few years while riding and working with others and their horses is how often people are not thinking while they are riding. They tend ride as passengers for a majority of their ride, until they want to do something, stop, change gaits, turn, or move laterally. When it is time to take one of these actions, without the proper preparation they ask their horse to complete a maneuver. They are usually met with some resistance from the horse, even if it is only short term, while the horse prepares itself and then responds to the request. Then they wonder why the horse is bracing against them, stiff, or just plain non responsive, and more times than not, they blame the horse, this can be avoided if the riders will simply THINK while they ride.

For example, if you are going to stop, plan ahead, make sure the horse is with you mentally and is soft, then change your body position and allow the horse to respond. If you have already created a non-responsive horse, then you may have to firm up some while you teach your horse to respond rather than ignore your cues. It is really important when doing this that you first offer the best deal possible, if you don't offer lightness, you never will get lightness, then firm up, get the desired response and then get out. Give your horse a moment or two to think about what happened and then ride on, repeating, remembering to always offer to good deal and then to get the job done. It shouldn't take to much time and your horse will be responding to your lighter cues. Remember not to overdo this though working on one maneuver over and over again, don't train on your horse, ride them with quality, changing up the routine and remember to THINK while you ride.

Here are some things you might want to think about while your riding. Am I mentally engaged in my ride, is my horse mentally engaged, am I feeling of my horse, can I feel of my horse, is my horse feeling of me, do I know where his feet are before I ask for a transition, am I in time with my horses feet when I ask for a transition, or am I getting in his way. Is my horse responding when I ask him to prepare and complete a transition, how is he responding, with understanding, with confusion, with softness, with life, with resistance, with dullness, is he responding at all, is he checking out, is he reacting rather than responding. These things are very important to know, and they can change from moment to moment if the rider is not aware of them, or is simply not thinking.

Now that you are aware of these things and thinking, you can change them. This will not be an easy task as you will need to change your riding habits and be discliplined about these changes. It is easy to keep doing things the same, but the reward will be endless if you can make these changes. Remember, be aware of your riding, try to develop feel and timing, notice when your horse responds softly, without resistance, and with life, also take note when your horse responds with resistance. If you can learn to Think while you ride, you can develop feel and timing which will allow you to refine your horsemanship and have a soft and responsive horse.

Enjoy the Journey

Nick Donohue

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Here are some photos from Ricky Quinn Horsemanship and Cow Working Clinic in Philomath. Thanks again Denise for brining Ricky to town and thanks also to the Philomath Rodeo Grounds for letting them use the facility.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Starting Kumi, August 08

Here are some pics of me starting Kumi for Trish this past August. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

About Us

I was introduced to Vaquero/Buckaroo Horsemanship when I met Dan Knuth in Chandler, Arizona. Intrigued by what I learned in the first month, you could say I became somewhat of an addict! If I was not at work, I was at the ranch practicing what I had learned, watching Dan give other people lessons or just simply spending time around horses. I continued to watch Dan as much as possible and practice everything that I learned or saw. It wasn't long before Dan noticed my desire and commitment to become a horseman. He was kind enough to take me under his wing as an apprentice and spend countless hours helping me with starting colts and refining my horsemanship skills. I spent countless hours riding with him, learning to start colts and work with troubled horses using these methods, and even working with Dan’s students from time to time.

Jessie was introduced to Natural Horsemanship as a young teenager, at age 14 she purchased a green-broke 9 year old Arabian, whose history, much like many horses who cross our paths, was far from good. She knew she needed to find another way to get with Skylark and get safe, which is when she was introduced to the Parrelli method of training which ultimately led her to find the Vaquero/Buckaroo style of horsemanship.

After graduating from high school in Oregon, Jessie moved to Arizona, where she met and began working with and Dan Knuth. There, she continued to study Vaquero/Buckaroo horsemanship, following the methods of such amazing horsemen as Buck Brannaman, Ray Hunt, and later on Ricky Quinn Jr.

While in Arizona, Jessie earned her BFA in dance from Arizona State University. Through her education, she increased her knowledge of the human body and how it moves, which enhances her ability to teach students how to use their own bodies to communicate effectively with horses, both in and out of the saddle. No matter what your level or experience may be, Jessie will use what she has learned from the great horsemen, as well as her own experiences with many different horses and people, to help you communicate more effectively with your horse, creating the everlasting bond that every horseman desires.

After Dan retired Jessie and I continued seeking out help and knowledge from a few accomplished horseman of today, continuing to attend and ride in clinics of Buck Brannaman any chance that we can, most recently in Bend and Spannaway Wa in 2008. We have also had the opportunity to meet and ride with Ricky Quin Jr, an accomplished horseman who recently left his life on the ranch and set out on the road offering horsemanship clinics across the country. Jessie and I had the opportunity to spend a month on the road with Ricky, riding in his horsemanship, cow working and ranch roping clinics as well as starting colts with him on the road. This coming April 30 through May 3rd, we will be hosting a Foundation and Colt Starting Clinic with Ricky Quinn in the Portland Area! Don't miss it, it will be a great horsemanship experience.

For the past two years, Jessie and I have been working with troubled horses, starting colts and giving horsemanship lessons in Hillsboro, Or, just outside of Portland at Arcadia Farms. It is a small facility that is dedicated to the Buckaroo/Vaquero traditions and style of horsemanship. It is a great place for liked minded people to ride or for anyone interested in learning this style of horsemanship.

Through these experiences and this way of life my life has changed dramatically for the better because of the horse and what he has to offer us. These methods and traditions are not only about how to handle a horse, but they offer life lessons and life changing experiences. The journey is not the short easy one, of today's instant gratification society, but rather it is hard, rugged and long, with peaks of prosperity and valleys of despair. It truly takes grit, try, desire and the ability to change for the better, not only what you do, but maybe who you are to truly prosper. But the rewards are are endless both in life and horses.

Donohue Horsemanship

Jessie and I strive to offer quality horsemanship training, colt starting and lessons for those interested in the traditional Buckaroo/Vaquero methods of training. Specializing in the foundation skills, we teach our students to communicate through horses to develope a willing partnership with their horses. It is our goals to follow the traditions and styles of the Vaquero and Buckaroo horsemen the past and today and to pass on these traditions and ideas about handing horses in a way that is fair and just to the horse. We are about good horsemanship, no gimmicks, no song and dance, just quality horsemanship. If you would like to learn more about us, you can visit our website at or visit this blog as we will be posting frequently.