Rancho Doblado, California
We leave Estes Park, beautiful morning,
clear skies. The moon was still up with a wisp of a cloud through it. Yesterday
we worked hard getting the turn out behind the house ready and brought the
horses home. It’s going to be nice to be able to hit the road directly from the
house. The fence out back is “hot” so you have to be sure nothing from the
ground is touching it, because that’s what it does, it grounds it and stops the
fence from working. Boy is it nice having the horses home with us, the trailer
hooked up and we’re ready to roll. My bed room window looks right out to the
horses, how cool is that!
We come through the canyon, gorgeous as
ever. Everything is so green. You can really see spring is here. The white has
been replaced with green sage and the St. Vrain river once crusted with ice and
snow runs freely through the canyon. Big horn sheep along the highway, climbing
the shear rock walls. David Wilcox, on the CD, snow here and there hanging on to
the trees and rocks while the mountains are covered in the white stuff.
11:46.A.M, we stop for lunch, fuel,
check the horses, they look good, weather’s good. Spirits good as well. Headed
for Moab, Utah.
12:30 P.M leaving colorful Colorado. We
are now listening to the two new songs Mark has written. We put them on the
rough CD he made, the new songs are beautiful and I’m not just saying that… well
I guess I did just say that. I look out across the high desert overcome once
again by the beauty of this land, my heart is full as we bounce down the highway
with Smokey and Bridger in tow. 66% degrees, heading south west. “Here’s to the
dreamers, may our open hearts find rest” – Nanci Griffith.
Moab, Utah, I’ve never seen anything
like it. The rocks are mind expanding while the sky makes the bluest of back
Dead Horse Point, this is where the
cowboys would run wild horses… they would push them to the top of the mesa where
they would than run a makeshift fence across the narrow opening. That would keep
the horses in. Then the cowboys would pick the horses they thought would be best
suited to their needs and break’em. They then would turn the others loose and
come back the following year to gather them up again. One year however - so the
story goes - someone forgot to open the gate and the horses that got left behind
died from no water.
We just passed an old broke down car
stuck into the earth with huge arrows jutting out of it. Good sense of humor out
here in the desert.
You just can’t believe the beauty we
just went through, Bryce Canyon, this land is such a gift .We just saw some wild
horses. We’re going to come home this way. I hope we’ll be able to stop.
We’ll stop in Flagstaff, Arizona,
tonight, rest ourselves and our beloved ponies. We also have a clinic here on
the way home. This ranch is right in the middle of the forest, A 1 Ranch. This
is a full four weeks of clinics, out on the road.
We‘re thinking that this demo we’ll
start with my work first. Mark thinks it might set the students up better, and
that’s what we’re looking for. We want our riders to feel success right off the
bat. So we’ll start with breath work, neutral spine positing, body awareness,
how we present ourselves to our horses and our life work, go right into our
Aikidio based exercises, Balance, Breath, Feel, Timing and Blending. Sounds good
Flagstaff 4:20A.M. We leave Arizona for
Alpine, California. Mark had the horses loaded and we’re off by 4:30A.M. Full
moon this morning, clear skies, clear roads ahead. This will be a two week
clinic. Rancho Doblado, here we come.
It’s always a pleasure doing a clinic
here at Rancho Doblado, where our hosts, Beth Anne, and Shawn maintain an
atmosphere conducive for learning. They’re serious about their horse work and
have fun doing it. Their always looking for better ways and allow the folks
around them to find their own way, with softness and understanding That means
so much to all of us. This was a two week clinic. Again we start the week with a
demo. As you know, its interactive so if you want, you participate. Mark always
says if you don’t,” it will be a very short demo” ( .He’s a funny guy.) Feel,
Timing Blending, Breath, Balance, Postural awareness, you can’t really have one
without the other.
We never experienced a rider in the
clinic not participating in the demo until now. It was interesting to me that
for the rest of the week she was the rider that struggled the most in the
clinic. There just didn’t seem to be a lot of understanding from her to her
horse. Feel, Timing, Blending, Balance, Breath. I can’t help but feel that her
lack of participation contributed to this. Now I know this work makes a
difference. I saw it first hand with my own eyes. It seems odd to me that one
would spend so much money to experience and perhaps learn new ways, and not
utilize all your options. “You get out what you put in” That’s another thing
Another observation was a gal with her
Arab gelding. She rode into the arena, stiff and white as a ghost, in a very
small voice she says “Can you help me?” What would you like help with Mark says.
“Everything” she says back. Mark, having patience and kindness, goes about
helping her try to sort things out for her self and her horse. This was not
easy. After a while he sends her over to me.
I ask, “what is wrong?” She just looks
at me… I’m learning patience as well… so I wait. At last she says I get nervous
in front of people. “Yes”, I say, “we all do”, I understand that it’s very
nerve-racking riding in front of people. Especially when it’s a group of your
peers. I couldn’t help feeling that there was more, so I wait. We’re starting to
work on the mat, just focus on breath, she is so tight, all of a sudden she
says, I got thrown from my horse a few weeks ago, and hurt my neck, now am
I say, did you tell Mark? No, she says.
I say, you must tell him. When we’re done, the first chance you get you must say
something to him. That way he will know how to help you.
Human behavior is always interesting to
me. How we get in our own way, and how that gets in the way of our horses. It
becomes more clear every day to me that these horses are looking to us for
support. We must offer them something positive. We owe it to them. It is a
privilege to own a horse. With that comes great responsibilities. If you’re not
up for it, move on. If you are, great rewards await you and your four legged
partner. Ride the horse you have today - this moment, not yesterday, last week
or last month. If you don’t pull yourself together you have nothing to offer.
What’s worse is your offering negative energy and disaster is sure to follow.
Replace that with a plan of positive energy. A horse doesn’t think in negatives,
so if you’re constantly thinking “I hope he doesn’t buck” over and over and over
again, guess what? These things are not easy for me to say, it has been a long
road for me as well, to get to the place where I feel good again, not
remembering the last spill, broken ribs or broken head every time I got on my
horse, or any horse for that matter. If I can do it, so can you. It takes work,
though. But eventually the fear memory will subside, and in it’s place,
confidence, Feel, Timing, Breath, Blending, directing the energy, going with.
It’s there, we just need to relax, breathe and use the tools we are given until
that becomes our new muscle memory.
In this case our rider gets it, her
horse gets it, and they are on their way. Our rider is more relaxed and by the
end of the week they are loping around the arena. Breathing and picking up the
Speaking of directing energy, this was
something to see. As I have said before special things take place at Rancho
Doblado, and this day was no exception. I have seen a lot of round pen work,
good work. Work with ropes, flags, kicking dirt, tossing halters, you name it.
For the most part all very effective, however, we’re after a little more, maybe
even a lot more. But we’ll use less to get much more. I know we always hear,
“less is more”. It’s true in acting and it’s true in horse work. Horsemanship
through life, you and your horse - one word. Youandyourhorse.
Today we start with this rider in the
round pen. She wants to start with some ground work, lunging, turns and halts.
She is working a beautiful black quarter horse mare. This is a reining horse,
and seemed to have had a lot of pressure put on her to perform without much
understanding of her tasks. It seemed to me that the mare was not very happy to
perform. She went through the motions, ears pinned back, sort of snarling at her
owner as she went round and round in the round pen, and that’s what the owner
said “look at her snarl, I don’t thinks she likes me”. Now I don’t think horses
think in those kind of terms. That’s a little too human for me. I do think
there are horses that are better suited to us personality wise or energy wise. I
don’t think that was the case with these two. What I do think, is the mare felt
forced to do her work. That it was routine for her, with not much understanding
or fun involved. More like she was just going through the motions of something
she had done hundreds of times.
Mark asked if he could work the horse.
Of course, she says. And to me this is where the fun starts. Mark takes the
lead line and with a flick of his wrist energy goes down the line and that horse
looks up at him and her whole look changed. I know what you all are thinking.
Well of course it did, he’s a horse trainer-guy. What am learning is this… it’s
not magic, yes it takes practice, and lots of it, and ok, he’s done it once or
twice before. What it is, is INTENT - the purpose, aim, design, the energy
behind what you’re doing or looking for that gets things done. With a turn of
the wrist, up or down that horse was responding with purpose like you can’t
believe. Ears up and alert, I mean this mare was in to it. Mark got to where he
was just thinking trot, and she would move right up, same with the lope and her
halt. This was so much fun and it was so exciting to see, what is possible.
This, to me, is what horse work is about
. It’s about asking for more and seeing what you’ll get, seeing where you and
your horse are, seeing where we can go. It’s about intent. If we don’t ask,
we’ll never grow to where it is we want to be. It’s about a feel - it’s about
thinking things through. It’s about having something to offer. If it doesn’t
feel right we can change it. You bet, and no harm done. I believe horses are
very forgiving when honest mistakes are made. One thing I do know is, it is
never boring, or it shouldn’t be. If you’re bored you can bet that your horse is
not too interested. Can you blame
We spent our day off with Shawn and Beth
Anne at their ranch. They also work cattle there. So that’s what we’re going to
do. Both Mark and I wanted to work Smokey and Bridger with the cows. When we get
home to Colorado during the first part of summer, there is a cattle drive from
the McGregor Ranch to their summer pasture in Piper Meadows, about fifteen
miles. It’s a semi-annual trip and I am really looking forward to it. So the
thought of being able to work the cows… Shawn and Beth Anne being able to take
the day off… It was just too good to pass up. We’re going to work in the arena.
We will start with sorting the cattle. This is how it goes……………
We get a small heard of cows in the
arena with us. The biggest thing I can see with working cows is staying soft.
Again, Feel, Timing, Blending, Breath and Balance. The softer you stay, the more
the cows and your horse seem to work with you. With this particular exercise you
cut a cow out of the herd, and take it to the other end of the arena. Some
ground polls split the arena in half and we leave an opening as if it were a
gate, and move one cow at a time through that opening until the entire herd is
at the other end. Then you move the whole herd back and start over. It’s so much
fun. You take turns doing this one rider and horse at a time.
Smokey had an unpleasant experience the
last time he and Mark were moving cattle, so Mark wanted to work through some of
that. They did, and Smokey did great! This was Bridger’s first time, so of
course I wanted things to go well for him… And they did! He was just like I
dreamed he’d be.
The next game was so interesting to me.
Shawn took his rope and made a half circle in the ground. I guess it’s actually
a little more than a half circle, with the opening about the size of a gate. The
idea is to move the cattle into the circle, through the opening (the gate, if
you will). You just sort of inch the entire herd in and keep them there. You
don’t want to spill the herd so you can’t push too hard or to little. So you
see, again, it’s Feel, Timing, Blending, Breath and Balance. What is so cool to
me is how the herd will keep together. Of course you must stay soft with
yourself and your horse. Then it seems like everything just sort falls into
place. Shawn went first to show us how it’s done. Our job, Mark, Beth Anne and
me, is to keep the cows from getting away if they should happen to scatter. It’s
so funny that just the out line of the rope will act as a fence. The cows just
huddle together. You must be soft for all of this to work. You must have Timing,
you must have Breath, you must not push too hard or too little, or it will all
fall apart! “Feel, Timing, Blending, Breath, and Balance.” Horsemanship through
It was a wonderful day off, spent with
good friends. We ended the day with a quiet ride around the ranch… something
that we had not had the opportunity to do before. It was a beautiful day full of
softness for our horses, and each other.
We want to thank our hosts Beth Anne and
Shawn their two young cowboys Wyatt and Tyler, their little four legged friends
Legolas and Aragora. Shawn for the great BBQ and for allowing us to entertain
the troops. It means so much to us to be able to play our guitars and have some
good laughs with a nice big fire going in the fireplace. Beth Anne for letting
me once again feel at home in the kitchen. You know how to make this “cowgirl”
Morning comes too soon, and once again
we load our beloved ponies, feeling grateful for the support that they continue
to give us. They’re seemingly never too tired to make us look good and be able
to do our work. Smokey and Bridger you’re the best!
Vaya Con Dios to our wonderful friends.
We look forward to seeing you soon.
Shadow Hills Or Bust (“ Peacock Hills”
to those in the know).
This clinic - or shall I say venue -
held special meaning for me because this was where I first rode with Mark. This
is where I feel my horsemanship found new meaning and understanding. I guess
it’s more about all of the work I’d been doing up to that point. It found a safe
place to come alive, a fertile ground so-to speak Things have not been the same
for me or my horses since.
This was to be a four day clinic. We had
a day of rain, so we stayed an extra day to make-up worked we’d missed. Once
again there were some good riders, good horses, looking for different ways of
doing things. Looking for softness, Feel, Timing, Blending, Breath, and Balance.
I wanted to write about this particular
horse and rider because we worked with them earlier in the year. In fact, I
wrote about them then and I will write about them now .
The changes that took place over the few
months since we last met were inspiring. To see rider and horse work together,
become better partners, support each other in ways where both grow through their
fears and are better for it. It just goes to show you what one can do when we
find confidence in ourselves and helpful tools to work with.
When we last rode together a few months
back, everything seemed to frighten this rider. Of course, then those same
things seemed to frighten her horse. Today, they rode right into the arena and
went right to work… No fooling around. There was no leading the horse into the
arena, then lunging, then maybe if the stars were lined up we would ride. No,
not today. They rode right on in with their new found confidence, trust and
Today we got to work on softness through
transitions from the walk to trot. Finding some softness through the top line of
her beautiful little Arab. Over the days we had together we got to build on all
of this, and with each day, more confidence was there. That’s what we built on.
It is amazing what happens when we free ourselves up!
We also got to focus on more postural
awareness from the rider, and how that translates to the horse - how breathing
together with postural awareness supports our center. When we lift ourselves,
how that can lift our horses and how we can share centers. Of course this is
just the beginning. Our rider was creating new muscle memory for herself and
her horse. It just goes to show me once again, what we can do when we ask more
from ourselves… We get more from our horses.
What was so cool was that she and her
horse are taking the time they need to get things done. They are not measuring
themselves by any standards other than what feels right to them, and building on
On the day it rained, she was the one
that showed up to work her horse…And so we did. She and Mark worked on leading
and standing still. There are always things to work on “rain or shine.” You get
out what you put in.
There were a lot of nice things that
happened at this clinic. One rider working with her young mare. This mare is
about three years old. Her owner had started her with such softness and
understanding. What a joy it is to see these kind of relationships develop
between horse and rider. The owner never pushed beyond what was comfortable for
her four legged- partner. When I say “what’s comfortable”… That will always be
individual to each horse and rider. Sometimes it will be necessary to push a
little harder to help our ourselves and our horse growing. Together with Mark’s
help they made the transition to the bit with no problem. That’s the deal. None
of this stuff should be a big deal… It doesn’t have to be, if we think things
through for ourselves and for our horses. Common sense is always a good thing to
tap into. Being still, being soft. Feel, Timing, Blending, Breath, and balance.
She was a good rider. Together we worked
on Breath, Feel, Timing, Blending, better postural awareness. All of this
translate to your horse, translates to your ride, ultimately to your
relationship with your horse. Most of us intend to have our horses throughout
their life, so why do we get in such a hurry? I just don’t know. Well I guess I
do. It comes down to human behavior. So when I see riders taking their time, it
always stands out as being so right!
We want to thank our hosts Chris and
Barbara, Royanne and Mark. The arena was wonderful and it even held up during
the worst rain storm in 5000 years (or something like that). Thank you for my
wonderful bedroom with my very own king size bed and that giant stuffed animal
pony flopped across it. Thank you Royanne and Mark for the nice B.B.Q, a good
time was had by all! Thank you to the beautiful Peacocks, that adorn the ranch,
hence giving it it’s name: “ Peacock Hills Ranch”. Happy Home building to Chris
and Barbara, and Happy Trails to all………
Flagstaff Arizona, here we come!