kim and bridgerLiving Horsemanship


Considering the Horse - Diaries 05/2003



We leave Estes Park at 2:30pm on our way to Chicago heading northeast, 94 degrees.  We are on our way to the East Coast for three weeks of clinicing.  We just went through a rain storm so the truck and trailer got a well deserved wash. 

Yesterday, I'm getting things ready for our trip. I washed the inside of the trailer with Betadine getting things ready for our beautiful horses. That entailed scrubbing the sides of the trailer and washing them down, cleaning the mangers and putting little salt blocks in them and putting down fresh shavings. Nothing is too good for our four legged beauties.

Driving through the plains the sky to the horizon is deep blue and the sun splashes across the wheat colored grass as far as the eye can see.  Every so often you'll see a green pasture with cattle grazing.  We listen to Mark's CD, "Song of the Prairie".  It's the rough mix now and it's beautiful.  I can't wait for you all to hear it.  Mark plays most of the instruments on it.  I do some back-up singing along with some other friends.  Mark said it's come out just the way he wanted it.  How great is that!?!   My heart soars with the beauty of the land and this gift of life, corn fields as high as an elephant's eye.

6:00 p.m.  Nebraska, things are good, the road is smooth so I can write.  The land is still wheat colored with big rounds of hay bales.

Now it's 11:13am and we're in Illinois.  Sometimes things get repetitious on the road.  Often one town sort of bleeds into another, one gas station to another.  It's always exciting for me when the gas stations have big long sticks with squeegees on them so I can clean the truck windows.  Flying J's I find are the best, you can dump the holding tank on the trailer, get fuel, do a little shopping and you're back on the road again - one stop. 

At this particular time we're traveling down the highway and Mark says to me -- Hey, here comes ZZ Top. What? What do you mean?  Yes, sure enough here comes ZZ Top in a huge, gold, tour bus with big front windows.  Standing in the window is Dusty Rhodes and his driver.  Well, it happened so fast I didn't get a chance to get my window down and give the ZZ Top sign - you know, "smooth on down the highway" gesture. So I ask Mark to speed up, we need to catch up with them.  I need to give them a sign and he says, Why?  Because, we're truckers on the road.  They're on their way to a gig and we're on our way to a gig.

So we're in the slow lane when they went past us, but the lane they are in begins to slow and then they pulled over into our lane.  We moved over into the middle lane because the traffic has worked out that way.  Without even trying, the mission is accomplished!  We get right up next to them and I'm ready.  I stick my hand out the window, I kiss my two fingers, and I give them the ZZ Top sign, "We're so cool we know who you are" sign and Dusty gives it back to us.  They both gave it back to us, Dusty and the driver.  And then they give us thumbs-up sign. I'm laughing and I'm saying to Mark, They know who we are, they know we're cool.  They know we have horse-power.  I wish I could have passed them Mark's new CD from the window.  I know they'd love it.  What a hoot!!  There is just no telling who you'll meet on the road.

The first leg of our clinic takes place just outside of Chicago.  It was a four day clinic and it rained the last three days.  We were in an indoor arena which is good when you have weather, but its always is a little hard for Mark and myself because we like being outside.  Somehow it seems more tiring when you are indoors too much of the time.  It was a long trek to get here and our horses were a little tired, too – but at least they had a wonderful two or three acre turn-out. 

I'm riding the "Girl" in this clinic.  She's a little quarter-horse that Mark raised.  No one's been riding her for about a year or so and I was anxious to get things going with her.  I started working with her during the summer.  Her real name is "Dancer" but I call her the "Girl" or "Sister".  Bridger is fine and enjoying his time off.  He had gotten a little fungus from one of his saddle-pads and we wanted to let this irritation heal completely so he has a well deserved little vacation.  In the meantime, working with the "Girl" has been great.  We get a lot of things accomplished together.  She is always ready and willing for anything I ask.  Mark says that's not always the case with her.  He says she really likes me and he can tell by the way we work together. How lucky can a cowgirl get to have the best horses to keep me looking good?  I'm going to tell you a little story about the "Girl" and me at this clinic.

As I said, it was a long trek here, and when we started work this day the horses were a little tired.  I could feel the "Girl" falling asleep underneath me, so I'd wake her up and we'd go off and do a little trotting around the arena, just something to keep our blood circulating.  I was tired, too, and so was Mark, but we're working folk and we ride working horses.  So, it was getting toward the end of the day and I was working with a gal at one end of the arena when with no warning the "Girl" just laid down, I mean NO WARNING.   So I stepped off.  Now, all the auditors are all laughing and I started to laugh but I was working so I asked the "Girl" to get up and she just laid there.  She was exhausted!  By this time, Mark has turned around and he just sees the "Girl" lying down, he didn't see her go down, so I asked her back up again and this time she gets up.  I undid her cinch and she worked by my side for the rest of the day.  I couldn't put her up.  Like I say, we're working girls.  I could appreciate and understand her being tired and I said that to her by me not getting on her for the rest of day, but she had to stay with me.  We're working.  No big deal, we just had to complete the tasks in front of us.

Again, we had good horses and we had some repeat riders from different clinics early on in the year.  Two of these repeat riders were two young equestrian sisters.  I've written about them and their horses before.  When these girls came into the arena with their horses they were so transformed it was hard to believe that these were the same horses from before.  In fact, if you didn't know it, you'd say they WERE different horses, the same horse different.  They made some wonderful changes since we last saw them.  If you remember, when we first met these girls their horses were dancing on the moon.  Now, however, they walked into the arena, quiet, calm and ready to work.  How exciting that was to see!

Again, these young girls were an inspiration to everyone in the clinic.  In fact, they brought their own standards to set up a little jumping course for themselves if all went well throughout the clinic, and it did.  The older sister said to Mark, well, I don't want to jump anything over five feet.  In the long run, I don't think it will be good for my horse.  Mark and I just looked at each other.  Not over five feet, huh?  And away we went. 

We started working with breath and visualizing the jump and timing with the breath.  She said to me, Kim, I think I'm going to need to shorten my stirrups for this.  I don't think so I say, but whatever makes you feel more comfortable.  Remember, you're not jumping from your legs, you're connecting centers and breathing over the jumps.  She shortened her stirrups and then said it doesn't feel right, so she let them back down again and we moved forward.  Balance comes from your center, not from your feet, and this young rider was a perfect example.  Her sister, too, seemed like she was riding a different horse.  She rides bareback and takes her horse over the jumps without saddle and is quite successful.  These girls rode with us two days at the beginning of summer in Wisconsin.  In four months they understood and implemented the tools that they had learned or what worked for them and their horses.

Sometimes, I wonder about us humans, where our misses are, where we stand in the way of our successes or we don't recognize our successes.

I know part of it has to do with the girls being younger.  There's not that much yet to get in their way, I suppose.  With that being said, I guess that's the challenge or the work at hand for us.  How do we present ourselves each day to our horse with a clean slate, without the baggage of yesterday or yesteryear or whatever.  There comes the sentence again, "ride the horse we have today", keep things simple and clean.  It's not what you’re teaching but what your horse is learning.  It's not what we're teaching, it's what we're learning.  Bring your successes to your horse, let go of what doesn't work, don't second guess yourself, just build from there.  Chances are your first instincts are the ones to go with.  If you feel stuck, just stop, put your horse up and think and think and think.  Not too complicate but to simplify.  The answers are there, you just need to be still long enough to find them.  We wish these young riders continued success with their horse work and school work.  The girls were a fine example to all of us and they continue to inspire good riding and clear thoughts.  We want to thank our hostess and everyone involved in making this clinic a success.

We're off to Vermont!

We leave Chicago at 2:30am Tuesday morning, September 2nd.  I put in Mark's new CD "Song of the Prairie".  We're in Indiana, 3:14am.  Even if I didn't know Mark, I'd love this CD.  7:30am, Ohio!   We just went by Edison's birthplace, Ohio turnpike, Rock and Roll, Hall of Fame.  Lake Erie on our left, one of the Great Lakes, beautiful trees and green everywhere.  It's 11:55am, Pennsylvania welcomes us.  East on 90 just got fuel, checked our ponies and we're off --.  We'll stop soon, water our ponies, maybe I'll make some tea.  Maps can be so confusing sometimes.  12:38pm, Welcome to New York!  2:06pm - we just rubbed down our ponies, fed and watered.  I walked "the Girl" and Smoky.  The Alleghenies!  There are mosquitoes everywhere and Smoky is allergic to them, so we have an antihistamine to give him.  It's dried so we sprinkle it on some of his feed and if we do it and get it to him real fast he doesn't suspect a thing.  This has been a long haul for us, getting to the East Coast.  We've been looking forward to it. 

During the first part of the summer, we had a visit from one of our friends, Susan Harris.  She's a fine horsewoman in her own right and happened to be in Colorado doing a clinic when she called seeing if Mark was in town.  As luck would have it, we were, and the next day she was going to come for a visit, which she did.  We were out sitting on the deck, talking, sharing horse stories and we told her that we were going to Vermont and then to Fredrick, MD.  On our way to Fredrick we had a day off so we wanted to stop in Gettysburg. When we told her that, Susan got all excited and said you must stay at Artillery Ridge.  She asked if we were traveling with our horses.  We never leave home without them.  She said excellent, because when you get to Gettysburg, if you stay at Artillery Ridge they have camp grounds and trailer hook-ups so you can have a nice turn-out for your horses and electricity and water for yourselves.  She had stayed there awhile back and had a wonderful experience.  Mark is somewhat of a Civil War buff and the thought of riding our own horses across the battlefields of Gettysburg was something that we didn't even know we could do and would be a thrill of a lifetime.

I have been brushing up on my history by doing a lot of reading about the Civil War, trying to understand a little more of our American History and am really looking forward to this as well.  In fact the more I read, the more I can't wait!

10pm, Massachusettes, almost there!