We leave Copperopolis,
California at around 7:30pm feeling satiated and ready to drive! We're off to
Alpine, California, Rancho Doblado. As we were leaving Copperopolis and driving
through the dark big valley, a huge owl crossed our path. His wing span must
have been about 6 feet. He was chasing his prey and Mark and I felt like our
passing may have been inopportune for our owl but good fortune for his dinner.
I'm sure the hunt will continue. We're driving straight through, we might stop
for a little nap but we want to keep moving. This has been a long leg of
clinicing and four-legged and two-legged are
anxious to get home.
We pulled into Rancho Doblado
around 9am the following day. We'll get 'the Girl' and Smokey situated, the
trailer plugged in and I get myself settled. Everyone at Rancho Doblado is off
to work cattle. We are in desperate need of a nap. We made preparations for
bringing our new horse home. He's a big grey quarter horse off a ranch in
Oklahoma by the name of Mouse. He's been at Rancho Doblado for about a year.
Primarily, he's been Shawn's horse and he's been used for roping and working
cattle which is exactly what Mark wants.
That being said, Mouse also
comes with his own special and unique history which, as time goes by, we'll
discover. Right now, he's a good looking, well put-together horse that Shawn
calls a chick-magnet. He's got a dorsal stripe and tiger stripes on his legs.
The guard hairs in his mane and tail are flaxen and his ears are outlined with
black hair. I guess he is kind of chick-magnet. Mark and I take our naps while
the rest of the gang go to work some cows.
The plan is to nap for a
couple of hours, have lunch, load the horses and then get ready to head for
home. The plan is put into action, I meet Mark at the trailer and Beth Anne and
Shawn and we go in and have lunch. Again, it's a kitchen I'm familiar with and
Beth Anne gives me free range, pun intended. I also go get Mark's new CD from
the truck, Beth Anne and Shawn haven't heard it in its more completed state. We
sit down to listen and visit and share a meal with our very dear friends. Is
there anything we need to know about Mouse? When were his teeth last done?
Beth Anne says Mouse is pretty up-to-date on everything, however, he does get a
little 'goosey' sometimes. We're good to go!
We load our ponies and off we
go----. We'll be driving straight through. We want to get home in time for
Aikido the following day. We've decided that we're bringing Mouse home to the
house instead of home to the barn where he can get acquainted with the rest of
the herd. Also, he'll be handy for Mark and I to work over the next few days.
If all goes well, we plan to take Mouse on our last clinic of the year to
Texas. As you know, Mark's been wanting a bigger horse and Mouse seems like
he'll be able to step right in and get the job done.
We're in Utah right now, it's
beautiful, 5:35am, it's dawn. We stop at Crescent Junction, my favorite rest
stop. It looks out over the high desert of Utah. It is absolutely glorious!
We hang up a hay bag for our ponies. It seems like 'the Girl' and Smokey are
welcoming Mouse. Every so often, they give him a look as if to say, "Where did
you come from?" and Mouse just looks back with his soft brown eyes as if to say,
"I hope I'm here to stay."
There is a clearing and I
practice my Kata. This is feel, timing, blending, balance, breath, centering
oneself, the postural awareness to see it all through. My spirit felt free
practicing there among nature's great monuments, the wind blowing through my
hair and the sun coming up into the blue sky. I felt like I was a part of
Oh-too-soon, we're back on
the road. We're in Colorado now, the colorful state. The Colorado River weaves
in and out with the cottonwood trees turning colors of gold, green and amber
with the green blue of the river and a big swipe of blue sky -- it's good to be
in Colorado again. Home is just a heart beat away.
We pull into Estes Park
around 3pm, just in time to unload the horses, get Mouse acquainted with the
rest of the herd, take a nap and off to Aikido. We have a few days off to rest
and work with Mouse, then off to Texas for our last clinic of the year.
When we're out on the road
Mark and I do a lot of talking, obviously, a lot of listening to music, a lot of
writing, a lot of reflecting. On this trip we wrote a new song inspired by my
friend's passing. So in these next few days we'll record the song called "Howlin'
Like The Wind" and discover Mouse's uniqueness. All of this we do.
Off to Texas to wind-up the
year. We leave Estes Park around 10:30 in the morning. Mouse, 'the Girl', and
Smokey. This will be two clinics, a three day break in between which will
entail working with a family on their private ranch in Running Springs, Texas.
The first part of this clinic we'll be assisted by one of Mark's long-time
students Kathleen. She's an excellent rider and teacher in her own right and we
look forward to her input for the first clinic. It seems fitting that we would
end the year here. This is where we started
the year, in Bastrop, Texas,
just outside of Austin, so several of these riders we worked with at the
beginning of the year.
It's always fun to come back
to familiar places. Our hosts, Amy and Dicky, are a hoot and a half, gracious
and loving. The clinics here encompass a lot. We have a demo that's done by an
equine dentist who in our opinion is one of the best in the country. We had a
bit demo and, of course, our demo in saddle fit and bio-mechanics of the equine
Like I said, while we were
home we would discover some of the uniqueness of Mouse, and we did. Mouse is
quite bracey. He looks like he's been cowboyed around quite a bit in the past.
He came to the friends we bought him from, as well. He's got a brand on his
right shoulder, looks like some sort of roping scar on his left hind below the
fetlock, and a huge chunk cut out of his tongue on the left side and it looks
like the tongue had a something wrapped tight around it. It's one of the
wildest scars I've ever seen. We figure it was probably done by some drastic
bit and unforgiving hands. It also seems that he was worked with some sort of
The one day that Mark and I
went out for a ride, Mouse didn't know anything about being soft. He has a lot
of forward on him, a nice big stride, but he just pushes through all of it.
Mark would ask him to get soft and he was happy to do so. We'd take three or
four steps, then let him move out and then Mark would ask again. It was a
short ride, only about a half hour or so but each day, prior to our landing in
Texas, we would work Mouse. The next day, I took him out. We went for a ride
by ourselves. As I was saddling Mouse, I came around to the right side to let
my cinch down, he's a lot bigger than 'the Girl' and Mouse flinched. I didn't
know if this is what Beth Anne meant about him being a little 'goosey'. It
didn't matter though. You just keep going as if nothing happened, but you make
note of these things. I also realized that was the same side that he had his
brand. Maybe they cowboyed him up for that, too. We had a nice ride. I picked
up where Mark had left off the day before and Mouse was really looking for
softness. He could feel that this was a better way to travel. We transitioned
up into a faster gait and his head came right up. I asked him for a little
softness and again he was happy to comply. It just sort'a seemed that Mouse was
waiting for the other shoe to drop. Mark said the same thing. So day by day,
we remained consistent with Mouse and here he is with us in Texas a little bit
softer and a little more confident that he's here to stay.
It was great to have Mouse
with us because the folks in the clinic could watch Mark work Mouse just the
same way they were working their horses. I think this was an important lesson.
So often folks in the clinic and auditors don't get to see the clinicians work
their horses really and sometimes I think they think to themselves, oh yeah,
that's your horse, it's perfect and you don't have to work the same way we do,
which is not true. We have to work exactly the same way you do, like we all
do. So, as the clinic went on, we could see Mark and Mouse making progress. We
could see Mouse struggle and how Mark helped him through, by continuing to offer
him softness, to be consistent and persistent.
This was also true for
Kathleen. We brought Smokey for Kathleen to ride while she was with us.
Kathleen has been used to riding her horse Ashcroft. Here, Kathleen was riding
Smokey. This was a wonderful opportunity for Kathleen and Smokey, both. We
learn so much when we ride other horses. Kathleen said she and Ashcroft were
like an old married couple. Smokey caused her to think, examine and re-examine
her cues. What was too much, what was too little. We had a lot of fun working
together. Kathleen has a lot to offer her students and her horses. She's an
excellent rider. Each day things got a little better for them, as well. Each
day, they got a little softer. You could see Smokey saying, "That's it,
Kathleen." You could almost see Smokey going back to Mouse and 'the girl'
saying, "My human is really doing well, today. She's making a lot of changes.
She's really getting softer."
In this clinic we had another
young equestrian. Another young girl looking to become the rider she dreams of
being. She is fourteen and this is her first horse, a four-year old chestnut
Arab quarter horse. She's been taking riding lessons for the last three or four
years and has leased horses over that time. She has gathered enough experience
to feel confident about picking out her own horse and both Mark and I commended
her on her choice. These two are very well suited. Again, everyone in the
clinic, and auditors alike were, and are, inspired by this young rider. She was
like a sponge absorbing everything around her. We worked together on the ground
doing some body work, getting her familiar with her neutral spine position, also
with the pelvic clock and how it works, the twelve, three, six and nine. How it
works with the natural impulsion of our horse and the natural impulsion of our
own body. How we share centers with our horse, how we breathe and direct the
energy that the horse offers us.
This little horse was new to
our young rider. In fact, the first day of the clinic was to be the second time
she had ever ridden the little horse. Both human and equine were relatively
clean slates, so we wanted to be careful how we introduced the horse to new
ways. Our little horse was pretty bracey so we wanted to start with asking her
to be soft. That starts with asking our rider to be soft. We would ask the
rider to take a little contact with the reins and see if our little horse would
yield a bit. As our horse started to understand what we were asking, we would
release, then we would ask again. We would
start to find softness, our
horse was finding balance with her new young rider and a way to travel that made
sense to her. Again, we would release so the horse would have a clear
understanding of what it was we were asking. The first day we worked just in
When Mark asked our young
rider what it was she was looking for she said very confidently she was looking
for smooth transitions, she was looking to round her horse up, to travel in a
more thoughtful manner and not race to and through her transitions. Those were
very clear thoughts and an excellent place to start. Ultimately, she wants to
jump her little horse and was hoping to do so by the end of the clinic. As both
Mark and I said, and Kathleen, too, you plan to have your horse for the rest of
your life, we don't need to rush. Well, our little rider got it. What's so
cool about working with our young equestrians is that they just get it.
Each day she and her little
horse would work to their goal of softness. Each day the little horse rounded
up more for her little rider. At the end of each of her lessons, she'd come
over and want to work with me on the ground, re-enforcing her neutral spine
position, thinking about her three and nine, working on her breath to put this
in her muscle memory. She would ask: how do things get into the muscle memory?
How can I help myself and my horse even more? I thought about what she was
asking. I wondered to myself, can you get too zen with a fourteen year old?
Should I answer with what I think or just let time and discovery happen. I
decided to throw caution to the wind, I said, "What I do is at night, when I'm
lying in bed, I visualize what it is that I want to accomplish. How I want my
breath to work, like a bellow, how I want my spine to articulate to the stars.
How I want my fingers and wrists and elbows to stay soft and move in the same
rhythm that my horse moves. How I see myself on my horse moving as one,
together, sharing centers, sharing breath, sharing energy, my legs
soft, my ankles soft, my feet
just brushing my stirrups."
As I'm speaking, I had my
eyes closed. At that moment I opened them and I see in our young rider, pure
glee popping from her eyes. She says, yes, yes, yes!! I do that!! I see
myself riding my horse!! It was so cute. So we picked up from there together.
I asked her, how does she see her transitions? How does she feel her
transitions? Is there one step from her trot to her cantor, are there three
steps, are there no steps, from the walk to the trot as well? Exactly, how do
you see it? How do you see yourself get on your horse, how do you see yourself
dismount? Let's be specific. Each night, before you got to bed, see your
lesson for tomorrow. After all, we're not riding for today, we're riding for
tomorrow. "Yes, yes", again she exclaimed, "and I'll feel myself breathe, I'll
feel my spine get tall. I'll feel my horse’s spine lift and extend." I
answered, "Yes, that's it. We'll make this our experiment and see how the days
As each day passed, our
little horse and rider were finding their way. As it turned out, we felt that
we would be pushing the horse a little too much to take on jumping at this
point. We would wait for next year. No problem! She had plenty to work on,
there was no rush. What a treat these two were.
This whole clinic was that
way. Riders that were in no rush, riders that wanted to do the best for their
horse, riders that wanted to do the best for their partnerships, riders that
wanted the best out of their horsemanship.
In between this clinic, Mark
and I were to spend three days on a private ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas.
This was with one of our favorite riders and his family. Small by Texas
standards, large by mine, they have about a hundred acre ranch. It's
beautiful! We were to work five horses in that time if things went the way we
planned. This is a rider we have also worked with before, earlier in the year.
This is a gentlemen who is always looking to better his horsemanship, who sets
his ego aside and gets things done. He is anxious to bring all of this to his
family. The family that rides together, stays together!
The first day we just worked
with him and his horses. He wanted to get better at ground driving and leading
his horses. Like I say, he just wants to get better at everything. How and
what he sees in his horses, how and what he sees in himself. He wants feel,
timing, blending, balance, breath and the postural awareness to see it through.
He wants to be soft and we say it's in the journey. We bring these things to
the journey and watch as we move through. You can't give this to someone else.
You have to desire it inside yourself.
You can only present
As the days went by, our
horseman was getting pretty handy with his ground driving, feeling more
confident in his horsemanship and what he has to offer. He and I went for a
trail ride around the ranch and put into practice some of what we were working
on outside of the roundpen. Again, we're asking for softness, we're directing
the energy that's given. We're staying focused. We're moving with and not
against our horse. We're finding a rhythm that is unique in each ride, in each
day, on each horse. Horsemanship through life, feel, timing, blending, balance,
This was a lovely time
sitting on the back porch looking out over their ranch, ruminating over the day,
thoughts of bettering our timing, feeling our feel, using our abdominals for
balance, blending it all and breathing through it. How lucky we were to have
this time together, horse and human, to share thoughts of life. We want to
thank Neill and the girls, big girls and small girls for making us feel so
welcome. We thank the girls for the art work. Mark and I were both flattered
that they would take the time to draw the beautiful horses for us and the
absolutely fantastic dinner that was put together. It felt like we were in the
old move "Giant". We all sat at the big picnic table and had the most delicious
dinner. Only paled by the incredible carrot cake and the laughter that came
from around the table. We wish everyone at the Wolff Ranch much success,
four-legged and two-legged alike and look forward to seeing you in the new year.
Back to Austin to finish up
three more days of clinicing.
For some riders this worked
out to be a six day clinic and that was nice for the two days that they had off,
both rider and horse could reflect on what they had been working on. A rider
that had just been doing ground driving with her horse was now ready to get on
and she did so, quite successfully. Breath, breathe, see your success. It's
all there for each of us.
We had another interesting
rider with us these last three days. She is an excellent rider in her own right
and trainer. She works reining horses and she came in with a really nice
horse. This horse had a lot of speed, a lot of forward, a lot of good
movement. They are a talented team looking for a better partnership. Of
course, this is horsemanship through life. This is awareness. This is asking
to direct energy and redirect energy. It's about being soft, again, always.
It's about communication. It's about balance, it's about connecting centers.
It's lifting and extending. There are no braces, there must be no brace for
energy to flow freely. It's all a circle, continual motion. This rider was
looking for ways that would resonate for her and her horse, awareness that she
could make her own and bring to the horses and riders she works with. I think
she and her horse accomplished some of the things that they were looking for.
We wish for them continued awareness and look forward, as always, to seeing them
We want to thank our hosts
Amy and Dicky, the beautiful dogs. Thank you for the venison summer sausage,
again letting me feel free in the kitchen, my wonderful bedroom with the TV in
it. Mark and I always love to laugh with you guys and watch old westerns with
Dicky. Thank you for allowing us to play our guitars. You know how much it
means to us. We wish you the best always, live well, laugh often and
Your yiddisha cowgirl!
We load our ponies at the
early hour of 3am, headed for home! It's hard to believe that the year is
coming to an end. Mark and I have decided to continue our work together. We
both said it actually felt as though we were just getting started. We have a
lot of ideas of what we want to do in the next year, more awareness of ourselves
and what we have to offer, continued work in our Aikido, bringing that to our
horse-work, continued work in our Pilates and bringing that, as well, to our
horse-work. Feel, Timing, Blending, Balance, Breath and the postural awareness
to see it through. It's a lifetime of work, horsemanship through life.
I want to thank all of you
for helping me on my journey. Each one of you along the way has brought
something special to me, a world possibly not born until we met, and for that my
gratitude is never ending.
I want to take a second to
thank some cowboys and cowgirls for their support, Chub Horton, Bobby Yoast,
Frank James Wiley, Jr., Harry Whitney, Peggy Cummings, Gretchen Wyler, Dr.
Ellen, Jodi, Dr. Dave and Nancy, Beth Anne, Kathleen, Anita, Dallas, my parents
for their never ending support and always and forever to Mark Rashid for
believing in me and giving me the opportunity to continue to work in a way that
I envisioned, to meld our visions together, and to feel together that we have
something to offer to the world of our beloved horses.
It seems only fitting at this
time that I would be driving and giving Mark some deserved rest. We're going
over the plains of Kansas and it is the most incredible sunset! The sky is
scarlet and violet with the soft wheat color of the plains! In a way I feel
like Dorothy in the” Wizard of Oz”. I keep reminding myself as I remind you
every thing we need is in us all ready we just need to be still be aware……. I
listen to "Song Of The Prairie" and dream of days gone by and days yet to be.
I want to leave you now with
a quote from a little brown book my mother received before I was born.
"Determine that the thing can and shall be done and then we shall find the
way." Abraham Lincoln. And then, from Bruce Lee, "If nothing within stays
rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still,
be like a mirror. Respond like an echo." Remember always to breathe, the
breath is life. Live!
Happy Trails to you all