12:00P.M. We leave Estes Park,
sunny 47 degrees for Aspen, Colorado. Things are quiet, we get fuel, go to the
barn to gather up our ponies, hook up trailer, get our supplies loaded (food and
clothes) then weíll be off.
A Mountain Dew has exploded in the
ice box of the trailer, so Mark cleans that, while I get the back of the trailer
ready for our ponies. First I clean the back of the trailer, fresh shavings,
load a bale of hay. We like to have things just right for are hard working
ponies, theyíre so good to us. Mark hooks-up the trailer and weíre off.
12:45P.M. driving down through the
St.Vrain canyon. I donít think Iíll ever get tired of this drive. You would
hardly believe that a week ago yesterday in this canyon and everywhere was 4-5
feet of snow. Thereís not a bit of it now. Soft blue-gray clouds and green
everywhere. We listen to Markís rough CD, he just finished two new songs for it,
I wish they were on this rough demo we have now, the new songs really seem to
tie it all together. I canít wait till you hear it. I guess Aspen is 4 hours
from here. Weíre on highway 36, just passed a shirtless guy on horsebackÖ 57
degrees. Golden, Colorado. Coors brewery and Buffalo Billís grave and museum.
Did you know Coors is really built over a spring, so it is made from spring
Georgetown, big horn sheep on my
right, 2:32P.M., 31 degrees and snowing. Vail Colorado, David Wilcox on the CD,
sun glasses come off. Sometimes the silence screams when youíre driving. Itís
now really snowing. We pull into Glenwood Canyon, itís beautiful.
Iíve never been to Aspen Iíve
always heard how pretty it is, and it is. We unload Smokey and Bridger get them
feed. And get ready for our demo. Itís about 4:30ish.P.M. Mark thanks every one
for coming, weíre a little late due to weather. I donít think weíve been late
before. These are some die-hard ridersÖ I mean its cold. We start things out
with our demo, again it seems to go well, we are inside of course. Again folks
are looking for better ways to work with their beloved horses and again it looks
like weíll find them together.
The demo takes about 3 hours and
as you know itís interactive so everyone is involved. This was a small group of
riders who have ridden with Mark before. However this is their first time doing
our demo work. Feel, Timing, Balance, Breath, BlendingÖ all this into our
riding, abdominal awareness, postural awareness. Getting softness and being
soft. Being soft with each other, with everything we do. Thatís what Iím
shooting for these days. Softness in everything I do. Some days are better than
others. In this clinic I really felt like I grew up a little more. I always feel
a little wiser when weíre done, again thatís what Iím looking forÖ to be better,
to be a better me, more aware so I might not just help my horse but everything
around me, everyone around me. Thatís what our Aikido is about. Thereís no point
to any of it if you donít put it in to action. Because it takes a life time of
practice. Horsemanship through life. Softness through life.
As always itís overwhelming to put
down everything I see or feel. There is always so much, and am sure I miss half
of it, more than that, probably... I do feel however, there is something in each
moment and I want to be present for it, so I find myself working hard to stay
out of my way so that I may see more, be more.
Mark has worked with this rider
before. She is a good rider, always looking for more and getting it. She rides a
big gray Thoroughbred horse. Mark says heís always impressed with what goes on
with her and her horse, and always feels a little more challenged each time they
meet. This is my first meeting with her and I have been looking forward to it,
She is a jumper and that is what
she and her gray horse love to do. So perfecting this is what weíre after. Feel
, Timing, Blending, Balance, Breath, Center, shared center, any of this sound
like it might help? Well it does, and the softer you get, the more it works. The
more she let go and let these thing work, the more powerful this partnership
became. We started working in the arenaÖ itís a huge indoor (weíre in Aspen 4
feet of snow out side there is also a heater in the place) itís big like a
football field. Anyway she rides in and we start working on simple lead changes,
itís warm up work, just to see where theyíre at. Things look good a little
sticky on the left lead and her left side, but she is on it, and it quickly
A while back she suffered a stroke
that left her left side a bit compromised, not so you would noticed now, itís
pretty subtle. But itís there. We did some good work that seemed to help open up
her left side. She felt the difference, we saw the difference and her horse
showed the difference. The partnership they shared was and is awesome, and that
is a word I donít use often.
We did pelvic balance work, I
adjusted her pelvis, worked on her being more in, neutral spine position, along
with the pelvic clock. Abdominal awareness... She actually felt her left side
drop more into place .She asked me why none of her Docís thought of this or
looked for it. I donít know, I really donít, maybe because itís so easy. Humans
have a tendency to want to make things more complex then they sometimes need to
be. I think itís a need we have to feel more important. One thing I do know is
it gets in our way! It will get in our way with our horses and it will get in
our way in life.
Back to the arena, her rise from
the saddle is looking softer the left lead is right there, here come the jumps.
Mark would break down the beats, the breath, and they flew over these jumps. The
softness was over the jump, she got to where would change leads in mid air, not
like a flying lead change, but deciding what foot she wanted to land on while
coming over the jump. The jump was just the breath to softness. You hardly heard
the feet hit the ground. She would actually lift her horse up with her center,
they would do it together. It was very exciting, to watch...
I canít wait to see what these two
weíll be up to when next we meetÖÖÖÖÖÖ.
Another situation that gave me
pause was between two horses, really. I donít know if I can capture what seemed
to me to be complete compassion from one horse to another. It was the last day
of our four day clinic. The last day is always interesting to me because this is
the day when so much comes together and Mark expects you to be making a lot of
your own decisions. Of course he will intervene if need be, and often that is
the case. However we try to leave you with tools to work with and ideas to put
into action. Breath and awareness, softness, feel, timing, blending, balance .
This gal came riding in on her big
warmblood horse. As I said, this is our fourth day and this gal really wanted to
get her flying lead changes that she had been working on the day before. There
was no reason to believe that this day would be any different from the work she
accomplished the day before. Two days before we worked toward this with warm up
work, simple changes in an arena full of activity.
When I say activity, I mean it.
Lotís of horse work going on and kids taking lessons at one end of the arena.
Each day there were many challenges while we did our work. Thatís the way it
goes sometimes. You stay focused, do your work, look at these things as an
opportunity. This last day, however, was different than most. There were few
people, our rider, Mark, myself, one of our auditors and our host. Everyone else
wanted to get on the road due the poor weather, which I guess was why things
today seemed very still.
We started our work. Our rider was
warming up when another rider rode inÖ no big deal. She too, was riding some
kind of warmblood, a great big horse. Anyway, as soon as we started doing our
work on lead changes, this other rider started doing lead changes as well. It
seemed every where our rider was in the arena, so was she. It was uncannyÖ Our
rider continued to stay focused though now her horse was starting to have
concerns. The other rider now was doing a lead change every other step and her
horse was giving out this loud heaving sound that was rattling the rafters. His
rider just kept the pressure on.
Our rider was trying to keep her
focus, but having concerns about why her horse wasnít getting his changes. The
sound the other horse was making was so unnerving I turned to Mark and asked
Ďwhatís that noise?í This totally distressed, breathing sound coming out of this
horse, it was a deep thunderous heave each time his feet hit the ground. His
rider asked for more, or maybe she wasnít asking. Maybe it was just relentless
pressure on pressure. Our rider canít understand why her horse isnít coming
through for her. Suddenly her horse just started to fall apart. Mark asked her
to stop and she rode over to us. She was upset that her horse wasnít getting his
changes and so focused on what she wanted that she didnít see what was
happening. This seemed amazing to me.
She felt the other rider in her
way, but didnít really understand what was happening with her horse. Each time
the other horseís feet hit the ground, our riders horse let out big breaths. He
was so upset for this other horse. Maybe he felt this would happen to him, maybe
he felt that our riderís goal was to achieve this... I donít know. What I do
know is that it took awhile for our riderís horse to calm down. Standing still
actually turned out to be a good exercise for our horseÖ to be able to be still
and understand that his rider was offering him softness. We were all offering
softness to our horses. We all just stood to one side of the arena while this
gal continued to work her horse. Mark kept saying that our riderís job was to
offer support to her horse. The rest of our riderís lesson was spent with her
feeling and giving softness to her horse. It was a good lesson. Her horse got to
understand and feel that no harm would come to him. She was protecting him.
Maybe Iím making too much of this.
Maybe Iím making it bigger than it is. One thingís for sure, though, I know Iíll
never forget how I felt and what I felt between these two horsesÖ and what I
I wondered why this other gal kept
on her horse the way she did. Why, when there was this huge arena, she chose to
ride all over our rider? Why one does lead change upon lead change? Mark said it
was because she couldÖ And I believe that.
Even when things are upsetting,
still we can learn from them if we allow ourselves to.
We want to thank our hosts
Kathleen and Mark and their very cute dog, for allowing us to play our guitars.
Our early morning stops at the bakery. I want to thank my roomies Tracy and
Alice, for always letting me shower first. The late night horse talk and good
We leave beautiful snow covered
Aspen for Estes Park. I leave a little wiser. Once again
Feeling, Timing, Blending,
Balance, BreathÖ donít forget to breathe.
Weíll be home in time for dinner
and thatís nice. The sky looks like a water color of pink scarlet and orange.
Our ponies are happy for the short drive as well, heck, anything under ten hours
seems like a stones throw .
Next stop California or Bust!