Monday, August 25, 2008

Lundbom- Part 2

The first month I had Shaunti, I took him to a natural horsemanship clinic. I tried to make sure that everyone knew that the skinny, course haired freak I lead into the arena that first day was a new purchase. Some looked skeptical about my claim, as I probably would have. Shaunti and I both wore our emotion on our sleeves. We both trembled at times, him at the touch of a stick, me with nervous energy. When I threw a rope over his back for the first time, he literally sat down. We had blow ups and breakthroughs but we walked away from that clinic with the tools that would help us forge a relationship of trust in the months that followed. All of our work lead up to that moment last Monday, when I found myself watching my horse fling himself out of a trailer, and on to the ground at my feet. At that terrifying moment, my first thought was that I had failed him. That I had just ruined all of our hard work by putting my own desires ahead of his welfare. I though that we had fallen.

When we started our journey together, I didn't have the confidence to so much as lead a horse. After that clinic, I looked at every moment with him as a job interview. The position I wanted was that of his CEO. I needed to be the God of his universe to whom he could place his trust and welfare! I knew the importance of setting him up for success, in small steps. I worked hard to build his confidence in me. I felt that I was personally responsible for Shaunti's mental welfare and that his trust was precious and volatile, to be handled with care. Every moment that I handled him, and every situation I put him in was a test of my discretion.

All three times that he blew out of that trailer and every time he hurt himself, I felt responsible. But what I saw in Shaunti, once he had picked himself up off the ground, was not fear or panic! He stood quietly, with his head held low and his eyes at half mast. He did not look to me. There was no one there to blame but himself. I hadn't placed him in any danger, he had. A cowboy once told me, "A horse will kill himself to save his own life." Any horseman knows how true that statement is. I did my part by keeping him safe but his confidence in himself had failed. We had not fallen. He had.

He stepped away soundly. You had to wait a while for that, didn't you? I wanted you all to know how much that fall really meant to us, in our journey together. That moment was pivotal. He not only walked away unscathed, he remained sound throughout our trip and never once took a bad step. Barb and I went riding that night. I didn't baby him. I didn't try to make it all okay. I did not support or encourage him. We simply went for a ride. And it was one of the BEST rides I have ever had.

Lundbom Lake and the park around it is so unbelievably beautiful. The light, the wind, the land, all seemed to flow together, in harmony. I was happy. It was payday. I had a good friend riding beside me and a good horse under me. We rode up hills blanketed in tall yellow grass and through small valleys filled with standing Birches, their white bark, a striking contrast against the earthy green of its leaves. The sound of the wind through their branches rose and fell like an ocean tide, with an ebb and flow that carried across the grass in waves. The wind had such substance as it rushed through the valleys that it played with our hair and left none of our senses untouched. We followed the fences and enjoyed the view, with no particular destination in mind. By the time we rode into camp that night, we had both found our centre and a peace of mind that would carry with us through each of the following rides.

The next morning we rode out for a long ride caring a packed lunch. The map was more a source of confusion that any kind of guide and as Barb had trouble reading it, I was left as the navigator. I managed to find the main trail, a wide road named Coco Bonk that led us Northwards to smaller trails with names like Wounded Knee, Deja Vu and Backdoor. We made our way to a Tent Lake, where we stopped for lunch. I believe it was at that point that I made the wrong turn. Its hard to say but we ended up riding through the famous Douglas Lake Ranch, their fields speckled in bull holes and black steers. Barb and I usually talk a lot but for some reason we both said little, preferring to take in the view and soak up the sun in comfortable silence. Our mood spoke to the tranquil beauty of the land around us. There was nothing harsh or loud about its gentle slopes, still lakes or muted colors. It was quiet, in the truest sense of the word.

We rode for six hours that day. I cant remember when I least felt so spiritually fulfilled. Shaunti was amazing. He is by far the best trail horse I have ever ridden. He seems to have an uncanny ability to always know where his feet are and really picks his ground. He is wicked fast too. Cara, Barbs mare, is a fast walker and one of the fastest horses I have ever seen at a gallop (off the racetrack) but even she couldn't match the pace Shaunti set at a walk. Her trot, lope and gallop are a different story but Shaunti can walk out like none other.

On the last day, the rain that we had managed to ride between, finally caught up with us. We simple rode to sunshine, staying off the trail, preferring to follow fences and narrow coyote tracks through the bush and up the hills to catch a view of the lake below. Leaving was bittersweet and not without incident. Shaunti had issues in the trailer but he survived and I didn't take it personally. Time, is all he needs. We rode the range together, him and I. I trusted in him as he did in me. I owe a debt of gratitude to my friend Barb for pushing us to go and for taking me, she is truly one in a million. Sometimes, I feel so blessed in my life with having such great friends and family, that I get overwhelmed with anxiety that I may loose a piece of it. I have to remind myself that I will loose horses, friends and loved ones along the way but hopefully, what I wont loose, is the memory of the time I spent with them. I will carry the images of those yellow hills, framed between the ears of my dear old gelding, forever. I named my horse Shaunti in hopes that one day his name would reflect the nature of his spirit. Shaunit is a Punjabi word, meaning "peace".


  1. I just caught up on your trip. You caught me at a bad time (PMSing, emotional nightmare!) so of course I had to grab the Kleenex while reading your posts! ;) You are such a great writer and I was on the edge of my seat. Barb was such a good supporter for you throughout. I am glad Shaunti is okay and that you had a fabulous ride, I loved the pictures, I felt like I was there. I would love to ride at a place like that! It sounds like you have come a long way with this very special horse of yours.

  2. The trip to Lundbom was so unbelievable it is something I will never forget.
    You understand Shaunti so well, he trusts you so much something that is hard to gain in a horse. Shaunti is so lucky to have you and he knows it. Thanks for coming with me it will be a lifetime memory.

  3. I just found your blog and found myself glued to the screen. Wow. Wow. You know, some people think that natural horsemanship is just the latest gimmick, but, dang!, there are more and more stories of horses and riders doing a better job of connecting by using these methods. I'll be back.

  4. Great story - and the scenery! Wow - we don't have anything like that around here. You are lucky to have such a good relationship with your horse. I'm glad that he wasn't hurt much. I suffer from similar anxiety issues as you - so I was on the ege of my chair wondering what happened!

  5. One of the hardest lessons for us "horsey" moms can be learning to let go, and realize that we are not entirely responsible for all of our horses actions, or any of the things that can happen to the trailer incident.

    Now that you and Shaunti have experienced-and lived through!-a potentially hazardous situation, your relationship will continue to grow in ways that you never imagined.

    It sounds like your rides were peaceful and serene. I could almost put myself there, by reading your words...excellent writing!

    PS- Strippers can do amazing things can't they??? LOL!!!!

  6. Pony Girl- thank you! Barb has bullied me into doing all sorts of things but I always end up thanking her in the end. We have come a long way. When I get frustrated I have to remember that.

    SMR-I know how gimmicky it all can be but some things work like a hot damn! Others, not so much so. The one big problem I have is that everything is about leadership and usuing a horses natural body language, which is great, but when someone is handling him (I board out) other than me, it can give him mixed signals. They have trouble catching him because to him, they are pushing him away.

    Laura- Sometimes I feel like all I ever do is try to keep my horse from killing himself! I see the world through "horsey" eyes and see the potential threat in everything. It is bad!

    Knutson- I guess we will see how it all worked out when I go to haul him next! We all (or most of us) do our best to protect our horses but these things are going to happen, it is the nature of the beast!

    Btw- the stripper thing! I was commenting on another blog about how talented strippers are! They really are amazing dancers and can do cool stuff on a pole! LOL Dont ask why I was at the lady strippers! it really is a LONG story!!!

  7. Okay I am just now all caught up - took a sick day today. Walked away from that show the other weekend with a cold and it moved into my chest last night.

    Love the pictures and your descriptions of what you saw! Your writing really flowed in this one. I am glad this trip has only boosted your confidence with Shaunti - I can hear it in your words - you are a stronger cowgirl because of it. Congrats on your fun time and the growth that took place!

    Now I am going to go take a hot bath...always enjoy reading your blog!