Companionship, mutual respect, love, trust. I see all of those things as I look up into his eyes. The way he stays there, the soft little nickers as I walk to him. The way he stretches his neck when I find the places that need scratching. The question on his face when I ask him to try something new. The way he is willing to try new things with me without getting frightened. My heart expands as I look at him, I lean forward until our foreheads touch. I feel his breath, I sense his heartbeat, and for a moment we are as one. One heart, one breath, and one mind. Then the wind blows, a horse in the pasture nickers, the chain on the gate rattles, and our spell is broken. The activity in the barn brings us out of our trance. Our bubble pops and I step away, give him one more scratch and I take him back out to his herd. He walks away to begin his day, and I leave him there to begin mine. Oh, what a beautiful way to start the day!
I walked into the indoor arena, the little bay Morgan gelding is patiently waiting as his owner, Joan tacks him up and gets him ready for me to ride. I get my saddle, Joanie and I gently settle it on his back and we finish getting him ready together. This little horse’s name is Chance, and he came our way through a summer camp for kids. He was donated and its pretty shocking that such a nicely put together horse was donated to a riding camp. He was eventually sold to us because he had a bit of a bucking problem and at times would buck with the campers. It didn’t sound like it was a huge problem, but enough of a problem that he “failed” as a camp horse.
We felt lucky to get him, he came here and actually fit right into our lesson program for my advanced riders. There were times he would get a little nervous, or a worried look in his eyes, but my girls were advanced enough to help him through those times. He never did buck with lessons, or out trail riding. When I eliminated the lesson program, Chance needed a new owner and I wanted to go back to basics with him, because the worried look was more noticeable, or else I was more sensitive to his needs. I was slowing down and becoming more in tune to my horses without the stress of constantly giving lessons with them. I was finding out they had a lot to teach me, especially Chance.
Joanie offered to help me with his retraining process. We started working with him, letting him set the pace and we discovered he had a hard time just being a horse with us. The two of us started him from the ground, moved to saddling and ground driving. During his re-training, Joanie lost her beloved horse, Kona. I think Chance played an important role in helping her heart heal, and in the process she fell for him and offered to be his next owner.
Time passed, Joanie and Chance were doing well together until about a year ago. During a lesson, Chance bucked and Joanie came off. It wasn’t pretty, she ended up in the ER with stiches and Chance had a sore back.
Fast forward to this summer. We’ve started him over again and now it was time to put him under saddle. We still see the worried look in his eye, but he’s starting to trust us. Our theory is that he may have been pushed in his training in a way that didn’t make sense to him when he was started under saddle originally. We think he shut down in his past life because he didn’t understand his training, Our theory is that he couldn’t take it anymore, then he started bucking. When he bucked he got moved on to the next owner. We of course aren’t sure this is true, its just a feeling we have about him.
Riding him had been going okay and I was pretty excited that we were making headway. Joanie bridled him for me and handed me his reins. I felt up to him through the reins and he felt solidly blocked, so I walked him around, until I heard him sigh, then walked over to the mounting block and swung my leg over. As I settled on his back I felt a zing, my heart rate accelerated as I gathered up his reins and felt nothing, absolutely nothing from him. He was a block of wood beneath me. I couldn’t ask for a release through the reins, and I didn’t even feel his ribcage expand with his breath. I asked him to open up a little bit and he said, “No!”.
His energy was so blocked that I thought to myself that I should walk him forward a bit to get things moving inside of him. I asked him to walk forward and he did, but there was no head movement, his ribs didn’t swing from side to side, and his gait was very choppy. I picked up the left rein and asked him to turn to the left. When I made contact with his mouth he locked his jaw against me and pulled to the right, hard! I softened my arm, but kept the contact with his mouth. I then shortened the left rein until his head and neck bent to the left. He pulled against me so hard that my arm started to ache and my stomach muscles burned, all I felt was a pull against me with all his might and his jaw locked down tight, no softening, no release, and no try, absolutely nothing. We walked several circles like this, I asked him, ” Chance soften, come to me, let me in, I’m right here”. I sent light down my arm, it bounced right back to me and he said, “NO, I can’t! “
I replied with, “trust me”,
He said, “no”,
I said, “trust me, let me in”,
He said, “no. I can’t.”
I said, “I’m going to move you out faster, maybe that will help.”
He said, “try, but I can’t let go.”
I said”, ok, here we go”.
I helped him up into the trot, the brace got bigger, he pulled harder. I tried to soften my body, his rhythm was wrong. It made no sense, all his effort was concentrated on pulling against me, he lost himself in the pull. It made him jumpy, everything was scaring him, the shadows on the ground, the hay bales, the mounting block. Everything was scaring him, because he was leaning so hard on my arm
I said, “please, Chance trust me and let go”.
He said, “I can’t”.
I said, “please I am here , I won’t leave you, I won’t let you go.”
He said, “I can’t, It’s bad, I can’t. ”
I said, “lets move up, you have to breathe follow me, breathe with me.”
He said, “I’m scared.”
I said, “I’m with you, trust me.”
He said, “I’m scared.”
I said, “I”m here. I won’t leave you.”
He said, “it’s going to get bad.”
I said, “I will try to go with you. I’m here, I won’t leave you. Try to canter, it will help you breathe.”
He then let go, he cantered. He became more fearful, He jumped away from shadows, he tried to shy away from the bales, the mounting block, the door opening. He was scared. I was calm. A calmness settled over me, I felt his fear, but I knew I could handle it. I’m not sure how I knew, but I knew to my core that we would go through it together and I wouldn’t come off.
I felt him hit the top of his fear, energy was bouncing around in him, then he kicked up a clod of dirt, I saw it fly by us like slow motion, I thought to myself, “here we go”! Lainey walked in, he jumped away from her, the clod of dirt hit the mounting block with a loud bang, I leaned forward to gather more rein, I knew he was going to blow, but he needed to. I felt a calmness over take me, he started to buck, I let him, then he continued to buck, I asked him to stop, he couldn’t, I asked him to move forward, then with all the strength I had left I lifted his head up and turned him to the left until his head was on my knee.
I said, “don’t buck, lets run!” I kicked him forward into a canter, he cantered and cantered and cantered. I felt the tension leave his body as we shot around the arena, I felt his fear drain away. He started to relax, I asked him to trot, he followed my lead. I asked him if he was ok, he softened in response. I picked up the rein, and said hello, he said hello back to me through the reins, I felt him chew the bit, his jaw softened.
I said, “can you follow me now?”
He said, “I’ll try.”
I picked up the left rein he followed it. I picked up the right rein, he followed it. I asked him to walk he dropped down from the trot. I asked him to canter again, he popped right into it. I settled my body into the trot rhythm. He followed. It was beautiful, I felt tears in my eyes, and goosebumps break out on my body, he was relaxed and just trotting with me!
I turned to the left, he followed, I turned to the right, he followed. All by feel. The reins were open, we had communication. I felt his ribs swing in rhythm of his walk . He quit jumping at shadows. I asked him to trust me and he said ok.
I asked, “can you give me your feet?”
He said, “yes”.
I said, “wow!”
He said, “I know. We were there together,”
I said, “yes, we did it.”
“I wasn’t scared,” he said.
“I know,” I said, “thank you.”
He then showed me he was happy.
I said, “thank you for showing me”.
He then opened up some more. I eventually got off and handed his reins to Joanie. Joanie and I talked quietly about what happened, what she saw and felt, and what I saw and felt.
The bottom line is that I can’t explain what happened, or how I stayed on. I’ve never ridden a bucking horse for that long and stayed with him. I’ve never gone to that dark, scary place, I’ve been too afraid I wouldn’t survive and come out the other side.
I don’t think I want to ever go there again, but I’m glad I did and I’m glad Chance was willing to show me what he needed. Sometimes we do have to go to the dark place to help them find release.
As the day progressed, I pondered what happened. I thought for sure I would be sore, tired, and scared. But the weird thing is that I felt stronger, energized and more sure of myself as both a horsewoman and frankly more confidant as a person.
Did Chance have the dark place inside of him, or did I, or did both of us? I will never really know the answer to that. But I can tell you I have ridden him a few times since that day, so has Joanie, and there is a change in him, he is open and soft. There also is a change in me, I’m open, softer, and taking more time with enjoying the world around me.
Yes, we went to the dark place together, but it helped us find a path to better understanding and a better ability to feel secure in what we know about each other. I have a feeling Chance helped me as much, or maybe even more than I helped him.
I woke up this morning with a lightness in my heart that I haven’t felt for a very long time. I was scheduled to spend my morning working with two horses, then working with a rider and her brand new horse. “What a great way to start the weekend”, I thought to myself as I stumbled into the kitchen to let the dogs out, feed them and make my first cup of coffee.
I finish my morning routine, make up my water bottle and head to the back door. Lainey watches every move I make and as I open the sliding door, she stops next to me, looks up and asks if she can join me. My heart swells with happiness as I step aside and let her go out the door with me. She dances around my feet as we cross the deck and head to the barn. When she gets excited like this she actually bounces around me like a little rabbit, the look on her face is pure bliss, and her little pink tongue peeks out of her mouth as she smiles up at me.
I head into the barn, make up Chance and Buzz’s morning feed and head out to the pasture to get them, with Lainey right next to me every step of the way. It feels like the old days when she had the endurance to help me in everything I do out here, from feeding, to fixing fences, to training.
I let Buzz out after he finishes eating, and bring Chance into the barn. He’s the first horse on my schedule and I quickly groom him, get him tacked up, then swing my leg over to begin our under saddle work. I notice Lainey dancing right next to us, then take her spot on our right side. I take a deep breath, let myself feel down to Chance, and we begin. Connecting through the reins and my seat we start with helping him relax his mouth, loosen his jaw and follow the feel I send down the reins. He gets a little guarded when I connect and will often push down against my hands, but I stay with him, close my hands more when he increases the pressure, and relax as he relaxes his pressure. Every time I look down, Lainey is right there with us, staying with us step by step. I smile down at her, she looks up and me and smiles right back. She knows this routine, and she’s here to help. She anticipates the horse and my needs and gives us the right kind of energy to get the job done. She’s a calming influence when we need calm support, and she gets downright bossy when the horse or I act up. She’s my partner in more ways than one, and on days like this when she feels this good, I feel like it’s a special blessing. I know she’s in the later years of her life and while I am sad when I think about it, I’m extremely thankful for days like today. It doesn’t take Chance and myself too long to get on the same page and start communicating well with each other. He is beginning to trust the bit, and the hands on the other end of the reins, and I’m learning how to communicate better to him without having an internal brace myself. Chance and I navigate a stop together that feels connected and relaxed and I dismount, tie him up, untack him and turn him out.
I go to the other side of the arena to where Karen is standing with Jethro, we get him tacked up. Lainey joins us in our warm up and we walk over to the mounting block where I swing my leg over Jethro’s back, we then stand there together until I feel Jethro’s heartbeat slow down and he takes a nice deep breath. I gently inhale and slowly exhale into the walk and we move off together. Jethro is feeling a little discombobulated today. He usually feels like riding a bubble that is floating above the ground, but today it feels like the bubble has holes in it and his energy is bouncing out through the holes in a haphazard way. I look down and to my right and Lainey is right there next to us, again she is silently matching us step for step and giving us quiet, steady energy. I settle deeper into the saddle with Jethro, concentrate on staying balanced and grounded as we move around the arena.
The indoor arena is feeling cramped to him, he feels unsettled and unsure of his balance. I guide him out of the indoor and to the outdoor to see if that helps. He wants to take off and it’s hard at first to keep him at a walk. I ease him up to the trot, but that makes him scramble a little bit, so we ease down to the walk, but that also feels unbalanced. His owner, Karen, comes out and Lainey goes to her and leaves Jethro and me to figure it out. I let my mind sink deeper into him, I discover he is just having trouble with his shivers, and needs help. So we move a little bit more, and I try to stay out of his way, giving him his head more than I usually do because I want him to try to find his own balance, then I pick up the reins a little, connect and show him a more balanced frame. He likes that and moves in it a little bit, but then he falls apart again and wants to break out into a faster gait. I let him move up to the canter, but that isn’t right for him, so he tries a little buck. I ask him to come back to the walk, we balance ourselves again and I ask him to turn just on his haunches, he does that well, and I can feel the ease in which he does it. We move around the arena again on a looser rein and he holds his balance. I am able to neck rein him as we do gentle figure eights. His legs move in a better cadence and it feels easier to him. We then stop again and I ask for a turn on forehand, it’s hard for him, but he tries! Yay, he gives me a big try so we move off again on the loose reins and he stretches again and yawns a little. It feels like his balanced movement is coming back and the way his body is moving makes sense. I pick up the reins again and ask for another turn on the forehand. He is able to do it easier, we stand there for a moment, then I pick up the reins again, connect and ask him to soften. He follows the sense of softness right back to my hands and I quickly dismount as I’m telling him what a good boy he is.
We stand there a moment in our quietness. Then I pick up the reins again and ask for another yield of his hind end from the ground this time. He floats over to the side effortless and we both feel that it is good. I look up, Lainey is approaching with a smile on her face. We head into the barn with a bubble of connection around us, and I think to myself that I will treasure this morning in my heart for as long as I live.
As we enter the barn I see Kate standing next to her new horse, Sampson. There is joy and anticipation shining from her face as she stands next to him. The smile from my face reaches my heart as I ponder what an honor it is for me to be able to be there at the beginning of their journey together. Life doesn’t get much better than this. A morning spent with good friends, good horses, and a mighty fine little dog. Happy Friday Everyone!
I’ve been reading a fictional book about horses. Are you surprised? It’s a book set in the future and it’s about bringing the world back into balance, and the horses are who help the humans get into balance. A common thread that is woven into the book is being aware. Aware of yourself, the people in your lives, and the nature that surrounds you. Being aware of what is around you, and staying grounded is what the main character in the book is working on. So I experimented with it today. Here is my story:
My friend, Kim, asked me if I would like to take a quick trail ride this morning. She offered to hook up her horse and trailer and be the driver. Of course I jumped on that suggestion immediately! Any time I don’t have to be trail boss is heaven for me!
We quickly loaded our horses after chores and headed out to Crow Hassen. This is our first trail ride of the season, so we both were a little excited and I felt Sassy’s heartbeat speed up quite a bit as I swung my leg over her back and asked her to head down the trail. She was nervous and swinging her head from side to side to take in all the sights. I helped her feel back to me and follow my suggestions to stay on the trail, keep her head straight, and allow me to take care of her by keeping myself centered, balanced, and connected through my legs, seat, and reins.
As Sassy started to come back to me and relax in the fact that I would take care of the situation, I started playing with pushing my awareness out, softening my eyes so I could take information in from my peripheral vision, and let my subconscious sift through everything. Breathing became easier, and I found myself being aware of a gentle breeze on my face, a butterfly on my right side at the same time a bird flew up in front of us on the trail. Sassy started to relax and she settled into a nice steady walk. I even started to sense her feeling back to me with observations, instead of questions.
When we passed a walker on the trail, I held him in my mind a little longer and let that thought travel down to Sassy but kept my main focus on where we were going. We passed a work truck with two men and a park ranger, I sifted that down to her and we kept going. As we turned the corner and put them behind us, Sassy wanted to turn her head again, but I pulled up their picture of how they felt to us as we passed them and held it again in my mind, and Sassy responded with a sigh, softened her jaw, and connected back to me through the reins. At that moment Kim mentioned that she felt calmer with me today on the trails. I smiled and told her of my experiment. We didn’t have much to say about it, probably because she is used to me and my little experiment’s. It is eye opening at how easily we can affect those around us with our thoughts, intention, and awareness. I started out on the trail ride with a goal to support and calm myself and Sassy, but ended up affecting Kim as well. Thanks Kim for an amazing trail ride and for putting up with me and my experiments!
For those that are interested in the book I’m reading, it’s the sequel in “The Horses Know Series” by Lynn Mann. The name of the book is “Horses Forever”.
It has been very hot here in Minnesota this week, I mean very hot, the temps are close to 100 degrees and at the end of the day I’m pretty tired and sweaty. Today I think it all caught up with me and after morning chores and lunch, I crashed and slept for almost two hours. As I came to my senses the word, delight, was sitting right there in my brain and I couldn’t let it go. Then I started to think about the word, delight. What does it really mean? How come when I think about it I smile, both inside my body and on the outside? When I hold that word in my mind I feel my eyes crinkle up and my mouth starts to lift in a smile. It’s hard to be tense when I hold onto the word delight. So here I am, at my computer and writing in my blog because I need to share this word with you all.
I looked up the meaning of delight, just went right to my phone and typed it. Delight-verb please (someone) greatly “an experience guaranteed to delight both young and old”. Noun- great pleasure. “the little girls squealed with delight”.
Delight is a great word, I don’t think we use it enough. Did you know that God delights in us? Yep! It’s right there in the Bible. Every time I come across it in reference to God and me, I get awestruck that God would say that he delights in us. I mean really? He takes great pleasure in me? Wow I can’t remember anyone, anytime in my life saying that they delight in me.
Psalm 149:9 says, “For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.” and then one of my favorites; Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Really? He will rejoice over me with singing? Awesome!
There are some delightful synonyms for delight, such as contentment, hilarity, jollity, rapture, joy, glee, pleasure, and satisfaction. I think we need more delight in this world. We see it all the time, but often we pass it by because we are in a hurry or we are feeling the opposite of delight such as dismay, disgust, pain, or displeasure. In todays world we have way too much un-delight, so maybe what we may need to do is look for the delightful things and hold them in our hearts. Such as; a baby smiling with his whole body, a horse nickering to you right before she takes off at a trot to meet you at the gate, your dog wagging his whole body just because you walked in the door, and a smile from a stranger.
What if we started telling people that they delight us? What would happen? Wouldn’t it feel really good if someone told you that you delighted them? That they delighted in your happiness, or thought the cake you baked them tasted delightful?
My challenge to the world is to try to use the word delight at least once a day, lets see if we can spread happiness, joy, and light into the world. I think that would be a nice experiment, and it can’t hurt anything… right?
I felt a little nudge on left hand, then a little whine, and I knew it was time to get up. Gunner wakes me gently every morning literally like clockwork. I am not allowed to sleep past 6:45. I don’t know why its that time each day, but no matter how many times I tell him I don’t need to get up until 7:00, he keeps waking me up early. I tried to ignore him this morning, but Bella, his faithful backup, touches my hand gently, then gives it a good lick. I slam my hand under the pillow and hide it, but it’s no use. I’m up and they know it!
I reach for my glasses and stumble out of bed, use the bathroom, and then lurch into the kitchen and let the dogs out. I make my way back to the coffee maker to make my morning brew, and I stop. Just outside my window the birds are singing their hearts out, the breeze caresses my face and I smile. I breathe it all in, the sounds, the scents, and the breeze. It fills my lungs with purity, the world looks untouched by the chaos in our human world.
I sit down to journal and have my quiet time with God. I pick up my pen and the words start coming, they don’t stop until I have almost two pages and I write:
What Would Jesus Do???????
Would he weep over the injustice? Would he wipe away our tears?
Would he stand on the mountain top with tears running down his face at the lack of compassion we have for each other?
Would he take us by the hand and heal our hearts? Would he show us how to feel mercy? To feel compassion and to allow forgiveness into our hearts?
Would he show us love-even the worst of us? Would he listen to us with love in his heart?
Would he cry over our sins? Would he smile when he sees us try? Would he delight in us when we smile and when we love? Will the angels sing when we show love and compassion?
Will he lead us into the light and out of the darkness?
Will he heal our world if we let him in? If we let his light shine through us? Will he take the scales from our eyes so we can see each other fully? Will he wipe our tears when we sorrow?
Will he send The Holy Spirit to guide us?
Did he die so we might live? Did he love us more than we can love ourselves? Does he know the number of hairs on our heads? Did he knit us together in our mother’s womb?
Yes! Yes, Jesus has done all of these and will do more if we let him. He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks, waiting for us to let him in and heal our mind, body, and souls.
We never can do what Jesus does, but we can try. We CAN heal the world, it’s not just what Jesus would do, it’s what we all can do TOGETHER!
And that was it, the urge to write quieted, I settled into my coffee, inhaled its wonderful scent, picked up my knitting and let Gods light fill me with hope for our world. We can make a difference, one day at a time, one person at a time, and one moment at a time.
I feel him looking at me as I walk to another horse to deliver his breakfast. I turn to him and meet his eyes. There is a gleam there it’s welcoming, and full of light. I’m drawn to him. I walk over to his stall, hesitate, and then slowly lower my hand to the spot between his eyes. I stand there a moment and lower my head to his. “Hey little man,” I whisper, “today we can ride.” I step away so I can open his stall door and take him out to his pasture after his morning meal.
A few hours later, chores are finished, I’ve spent time giving a lesson and riding Sassy and now it’s time to go get Buzz. I feel an excited flutter in my stomach as I head to the barn to get a halter for him. I head up to his pasture and let my mind settle on him. I let my intention and energy go out ahead of me as I walk out towards him. I see him from a distance, he’s at the bale with his herd. My stomach flutters again, my pace increases and I find myself excited for this moment.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to ride him and I feel like a little girl again. I hop over the little creek and come up the incline towards his bale, he lifts his head and I see the look in his eye. The open warmth, the twinkle and in an instant I’m pulled back in time. I see Dunny, the first horse I ever gave my heart to in front of me, the anticipation and love I feel in that moment is pure, young, and hopeful. I’m 9 years old again and he’s right there, I can almost touch him. Then I blink and the illusion of Dunny is gone, but in front of me stands Buzz. The twinkle in his eye is still there, and he feels as adventurous as I do.
My heart sings as I gently halter him. We walk up to the barn, I feel his energy through the lead rope, his footsteps match mine and we are one as we walk back to the barn. My stomach is still fluttering as I saddle him up and as I offer the bridle he leans forward and takes the bit from my hand.
I look at his eyes, they search mine and our souls touch. We stand together for awhile. Eventually I lead him to the mounting block and swing up, my mind reaches towards him, I feel his energy come up through the reins and it’s right there waiting for me. Everything else falls away as our energy blends together and we move off as one.
She’s just a dog they say. But they don’t understand. She’s been by my side the past 13 years.
She has walked next to me in all sorts of weather as I fed horses, she has trotted next to my skidsteer as I have taken bales out of hay out. She has disciplined horses that she thinks are out of line and watches the situation closely every time I work with a horse. She checks in with me constantly, she’s by my side as I sleep at night. In the morning she’s happy to see me. She only eats if I sit next to her at dinner time, she looks at me when she’s in a different part of the room. She’s my sidekick, my friend, my constant companion.
We take walks together, she’s gone to the hospital to visit Danielle, she has ridden in airplanes with me and traveled to both Georgia and Oklahoma as my navigator. She rides shotgun in my truck, and she rides on my horse with me.
She’s so much more than just a dog. My heart aches as she’s getting older. I see the slower steps, the lack of response to sound, and how she uses her nose to find me more than she uses her eyes. But she still goes to the barn with me, she walks next to me, and gives me comfort. She is unselfish in her love. She shows me that love is patient and love is kind.
God must have really thought I was special to put her in my life. She’s much more than a dog, she’s a gift, a gift of love straight from Gods heart to mine. I hope God has a long life planned for her because, well, I just don’t know what I would do without her. She’s not just a dog, she’s my friend.
I looked down at Lainey and said, “do you want to go for a walk?” Of course I didn’t get a reply since she’s going deaf, but I still speak to her, its a habit that is ingrained in me.
I clapped my hands which did get her attention and sat down on the couch which is her signal to jump up next to me. I clipped her leash to her collar and she pranced beside me as we walked to the truck. I bent over, scooped her up, put her on the seat next me and we headed down the road. It wasn’t very long before we arrived at Elm Creek, and walked down the trail.
I noticed Lainey was scooting a bit, and seemed a little out of sorts. When someone or something approached us she wanted to stop, smell the air, and try to see what she could see. Her sight also is going which has made her skittish. My heart sank when I noticed it. She has changed from a dog with a strong presence to a timid little dog. I felt tears well up in my eyes, and my heart broke just a little bit as I watched her struggle.
We continued on our way, with her hesitating and feeling unsure and me determined to help. Winter was losing its hold on the woods and I noticed that the Maple trees were tapped. There were buds starting to show up on the trees and birds were singing. I started losing myself in the sensations of nature, the wind gently blowing, the sun touching my face with warmth, and my little dog next to me.
We found a little walking trail off the paved trail and took it. I looked down at Lainey and noticed she was relaxing. She was panting a little and sniffing the air with curiosity. I felt her energy change and she stepped out with more confidence, there were times she even led me a little. I found my heart relaxing and started to enjoy our walk. Our energy joined together through the leash and we walked forward as one. The feeling of connection is one I know well with her, it’s like slipping on your favorite jeans, you know the ones that fit just right, have your butt imprints in them and the ones you will never throw away. We know each other, and she doesn’t have to hear or see me to know I will always be there for her. We can step out into the world together and count on each other. She is that special dog for me that could never be replaced, the one that knows me better than I know myself and accepts me for who I am. We continue to take weekly walks together and I am so happy to say that each time we go out I see more of the confident dog with the big personality coming out.
I’ve decided to walk more often, and Boomer joined me this week for a walk. Boomer has a different personality than Lainey. He is absolutely certain that the whole world loves every single thing about him. He has no doubt the world is made just for him and no matter what it loves him and he deserves that love. When I asked him if he wanted to go for a ride he was beside himself, his tail was wagging at 100 miles an hour and his smile was huge! He started jumping around so much I could barely put the leash on, and when we were finally connected he started to cry with joy.
I opened up the truck door and he slowly lifted his body up into the back seat, but once in, he could hardly wait for me to shut the door and get going! We headed off to a different part of Elm Creek Park.
Boomer started out with lots of energy, and I had to remind him a little bit of how to walk next to a human. He responded quickly and stayed checked in with me. Every single time we passed anyone his tail would wag, he would smile and say, “hi”. Some people responded with a hello back, some not so much. He even got a couple compliments on how pretty he was.
We were really enjoying the walk, I had never been to this part of the park and it was fun to explore a new area. Spring had progressed a lot in the past few weeks, the birds are migrating back to Minnesota, and the frogs have started to sing. Boomer was taking it all in with me, and staying connected through the leash. He didn’t pull, he stayed right next to me and enjoyed the adventure. We still crossed paths with people, and we both continued to say hi, but our focus was on each other and the earth around us.
We saw a beautiful lake that seemed to appear out of nowhere, and there were a couple spots I think I recognized as the old horse trail. Boomer continued to wag his tail and when I took him off the paved path he enjoyed sniffing around and leading me for awhile. His energy is very calm, confident, and happy and it’s a pleasure to tap into that when we are together. At home he gets obsessed over his ball and toys, out here its just the two of us and I think that both of our hearts were able settle down and allow for relaxation.
Today I asked Gunner if he would like to go and held up the leash, he sat up immediately and could barely hold still enough for me to clip it to his collar. He quickly pulled me towards the door, and almost off my feet before I could gather myself enough to get control again. I had forgotten what a puppy he still is!
We quickly got to the truck and he nimbly jumped into the back seat and we headed to a part of Elm Creek I know well. We were going to explore the horse trail and walk to the bridge. I opened the truck door, Gunner jumped out and before I knew it I was being pulled to a dead animal. My first thought was, “how did he know that was there”, and my second thought was, “I better get control here, or this won’t be a fun walk!”
Gunners energy jumps all over that place. His mind doesn’t settle on anything. He thinks the world is here to explore and anything that moves must be chased. I finally got him under control and asked him to sit. He did that very well, and then my next thought was that I should be using treats with him to help his brain stay on me a little more.
We hit the trail and immediately he starts to pull, his nose twitching like crazy, his tongue hanging out, ears swiveling everywhere and his path is as erratic as a drunk sailor! I tighten my grip on the leash so it’s not sliding through my hands and he hits the end of it which stops him in his tracks, then the leash relaxes, he walks fast again, hits the end and so on and so on and so on. All I can think is “can he even feel the release when he gets it?” I shorten up the leash more so he hits the end of it as soon as he steps ahead of me. The leash pulses with him hitting the end, then the release. Every time there is a release I say good boy. People pass us on bikes and he tries to lunge, but I have the leash short, so instead of lunging he just pulls my arm enough that I’m afraid it’s going to pop out of socket! But we continue.
I’m trying to absorb the nature around me and notice the beauty as the tugging and releasing continues for quite awhile, but before too long I start to notice there are times he is walking next to me, and I feel his energy through the leash. I say good boy, and wham, he hits the end again. But we are getting some release, and he’s learning through the release!
Our walk continues and we finally reached the bridge and proceed to explore it, and a bridge a little further upstream. Gunner quit with the pulling and settled down next to me. We could finally feel each other through the leash, he moved with me instead of against me and I could feel his energy. I like his energy. It’s very open and he tries to soak in everything around him. He does get a little distracted, but with a gentle whisper of a tug on the leash he checks in with me. Walking with him on the trails is an adventure into the wilderness. He senses the movement in the bushes as the birds take flight and calls it to my attention, he watches the leaf as it blows across the path, he hears movement in the bushes and I see his ears and head swivel towards it. It’s amazing that if you allow yourself to connect to him, all the stories he will help you see.
My three dogs, they have a story to tell, and ways to help me see the world.
Lainey showed me trust and comfortable companionship.
Boomer showed me that we all deserve love.
Gunner showed me that life is an adventure.
It’s very easy in todays world to get caught up in all the negativity. I hope you all get a chance to take a walk with a dog and open up your heart to see the world as they see it. You just might find something pretty special in a dogs tale.
As I woke up I felt a slight knot in my stomach, I couldn’t place why I felt it, until my eyes were fully opened and I realized I wasn’t at home. “This is my first day of skiing on a real life mountain.” I thought to myself, and then felt the butterflies take off in my stomach into full spasm mode. I took a few deep breaths and prayed to God under my breath, “Pleae help me to get through this day in one piece, and help me learn enough to have confidence in what I am about to do.”
I put on my glasses, rolled out of bed and headed to the kitchen of our beautiful condo. We are staying at Park City, literally right across the street from the chair lift that will wisk us away to the Park City Ski Slopes, but today we are going to travel to Sundance Resort to start our skiing adventure. There I will meet a ski instructor and hopefully learn that I need not be so afraid.
Eventually everyone gets up and dressed and we gather up all our ski equipment to head to Sundance. It will be about an hour drive, and my stomach will probably feel every mile. My stomach hurts, breathing is a little hard, and I fluctuate between being scared to death, to having faith that I will be ok. It’s so strange how a person can feel this way. One minute pretty ok with things, and the next, pretty much not okay with things.
I try to enjoy the countryside. The terrain is rugged, and the landscape looks arid, it reminds me a bit of the Oklahoma Panhandle. The soil looks red in places and I see a lot of sage brush and small cedar trees. But then I look up; the mountains rise towards the sky, one side brown, red and green with dirt, pine trees, and rock, while the other side is frosted with snow. I can’t tear my eyes away from the peaks, they are beautiful and the sky is as blue as it can be. The sunlight is dazzling and the snow reflects the light in such a way that there is a halo.
I’m dreading our arrival, and anticipating it with excitment at the same time. I try to place this feeling and the closest I come to it is how I felt on my way to all my track meets. Excited, nervous, scared of failure, and hoping for success. My body is tingly and my stomach flutters as we pull into the parking spot. Mary, John, Rob, and I get out of the truck. The three of them are talking to each other and I am unable to talk. My hands are shaking a little bit and I’m concentrating on breathing, which has become hard to do. I literally am shaking as I put my ski pants on, then the ski boots, which seem to be some sort of torture device. How can something be that hard to get on? Then once you get them on you walk like nothing I can really describe. Your legs are bent at an impossible angle, you have to take very short steps, and every footstep is felt through your entire body, especially your knees! I never did get comfortable with walking around in them.
We pick up our lift tickets, and I walk (hobble is more like it), to the shuttle that will take us to the ski school. By the time we get to the ski school and I say bye to my group and watch them ski off to the lifts to begin their day, I’m a hot mess. Of course I have to go to the restroom which puts me more into a panaic mode. What if they start without me? I check my watch and see that I have 30 minutes, so I get directions to the closest restroom and eventually make it back to my skis, get my gear together and walk over to the meeting place.
With my heart pounding loud enough for the entire mountain to hear it, I walk up to the nearest group of instructors (they all are wearing black and red jackets) and ask if I am in the right place. They all were nice, and they answered yes to my question loud enough for me to hear it over my pounding heart. The mountain rises right in front of me, and all I can think is “No, way! If I go up there I will never get down again!” The instructors must have been able to hear my heart pounding, or maybe it’s the look on my face, but they reassure me with smiles, and start asking me questions such as who I am, how much I’ve skied, and reassure me that I’m in good hands.
Eventually 10:00 rolls around and I, along with one other student are introduced to our ski instructor, his name is Lee and his smile is kind. He asks us how much skiing we’ve done, and because we both are pretty new at this he decides to start us over as brand new beginners. I was so relieved to hear that! Quickly he has us gliding around on one ski, then we switch to the other, then he teaches us how to side step up the mountain a little bit, he turns around and skis backwards down the slope and has us follow him, and before I realize it I’m skiing! Then I’m stopping softly right in front of him at the bottom of the slope. Then we side step up again a bit further and do it again. Then he has us follow him and we turn! Then we turn again and stop. At this point I realize that I’m skiing down a mountain slope and it was pretty easy. He got us skiing and we didn’t even realize it because we were so intent on the task at hand we forgot everything else. I was even smiling.
Lee turned to us and said it was time to go up the mountain on the lift. My heart exploded again into that hard fast rhythm, but there was some excitement there too. We get on the lift and head up the mountain. It is beautiful up here, and Lee gives us instructions on how to get off. When we get to the top, I follow his instructions and am able to gently glide off the lift! Yay, I didn’t knock anyone down or fall down myself! Lee skied backwards and just had us follow him. We eventually broke up our group, I went with Lee and the other person went with a different instructor. Lee got to the point he would ski a head of me and I would follow his tracks, then, as soon as I got comfortable, he would add a new skill. I laughed out loud and told him he sounded like me when I teach my students, wait until they get comfortable, then push them a little outside of the comfort zone. He laughed with me and we started talking about how horsemanship and riding is a lot like skiing. Both sports use our cores, breathing is very important, keeping your eyes and your chest facing the goal, keep your center low, stay on task and ski (or ride) the part you are on right now, don’t focus on the whole part, but just where you are in the moment. I learned a lot from Lee, and I hope some day I can return to Sundance and take another lesson with him. He is a good teacher, he kept me focused, gave me rest when I needed it by telling me stories. I got to hear how he had a moose follow him down the slope, and the first time he met Robert Redford. After my lesson I met up with John, Mary, and Rob. We had a great lunch then I skied with them for two more runs! I would get a little scared, but now I had Lee in my head and his voice would come in loud and clear, “don’t panic, get low, and turn until you stop. Ski where you are, keep your eyes down the hill, the backside of the turn is where the g force is hardest and use that outside ski to bring you around.” I didn’t realize how much he really taught me until the next day of skiing………….
We had a day of rest between ski trips and when I woke up Monday morning the butterflies had returned to my stomach. The four of us quickly got organized, dressed, and headed across the street to ski Park City. We headed over to the ski lift and started up the slope, we rode up, and rode up, and then kept on riding up the mountain. The higher up we went, the harder it was for me to breathe and the louder my heart was beating. We rose up so high we were in the clouds, visibilty became very limited and I felt a few tears leak out of my eyes. Even as I write this I can feel my heartrate increase and the shakes return to my body. I started to understand how a cat feels while stuck in a tree. I wasn’t sure there would be a way for me to get down again! By the time we got to the top, I was in a frenzy, I was crying a little bit, my legs were shaking, and I was convinced that this wasn’t going to end well for me.
Rob, Mary, and John saw my distress and I thank God for their incredible patience. It’s very humbling to be the person who is struggling, but the three of them worked hard at making sure I was able to get a hold of myself and ski over to the next lift. Yes! The next lift, we weren’t up high enough….can you belive that?
We get to the second lift and picked us all up together, I do love the feeling of the chairlift as it scoops you up from behind and as you settle back into the chair it whisks you away. We had another long ride up the mountain, and then all four of us struggled off the lift, I almost fell down but John, seeing my mess, pushed me from behind so I didn’t bite the dust. We skied over to the map and found several green runs, we picked the one called Claim Jumper and start heading down. At first it seemed really scary, over to the right is a drop-off, so John tells me to stay to the left. He, Mary, and Rob head off and I hone in on Robs tracks, I hear Lee in my head to follow the tracks, to keep my chest and eyes down the mountain and ski the place where I am. Rob is making nice easy turns so his tracks are easy. Then, Mary crosses in front of me and I start following her tracks, she skis in the middle of the slope, I find there is less ice here. She’s fun to follow because she makes more frequent turns which makes me feel a little more in control. John is going too fast for me, so I don’t follow him down this run. I just go between Mary and Robs tracks. After about 30 minutes we make it down our first run. It was fun, but I’m still shaky and looking for a little rest. We all stop at the lift, and decide to do it again. We are quickly swept away by the chair lift, and whoosh, up we go. When we need to get off I exit before I should and, oops, the chair disappears out from under me and down I go, bam, ugh. I am stuck under the lift and I can’t move. The lift operator has to stop the lift, come over and get me out of my skis so I can humbly crawl away. Yep, that was me, if you were behind me on the lift I am so sorry……..
We head down the mountain again, this time I try to follow John as well as Mary and Rob. I’m starting to breath, I still hear Lee in my mind reminding me of ways to get down, I even play with my edges as he told me to when I want to slow down. I’m able to find my own rhythm and at times it just feels like it’s me, the mountain, and my breath. Turning is getting easier, I try pointing my skis down the hill more and pick up speed. The speed is a bit of a rush, and things get a little easier, but then there is too much speed and I lose control. “Sorry Mary,” I holler as I bomb past her a little too close. I take a breath, get low and start turning until I stop. “Whew, sorry Mary, I lost control there.” I say as she stops next to me. Mary tells me it’s okay and we continue down.
The rest of the day continues just like that. I go out of my comfort zone, then go back in. I try letting my tips angle down for more speed, then back off. I feel the mountain air, I hear the sound of the skis as they glide across the snow. I feel the edges of the skis and how they can change my speed and direction. A rhythm develops, I feel connected to the mountain, my skis, and my body. Breathing becomes part of the the rhythm. I’m on the edge of softness, the skis become my horse, and we move as one, I smile, I’m hooked. I understand how you can find God here and it is good.
The afternoon progresses. We have lunch, do a few more runs, then realize the mountain lifts close in an hour. It’s time to think about heading down. Rob and John head over to the map, and talk to an instructor. Rob lets him know that I am a beginner and we only do green runs. We need to find the best way to get down the mountain and into town again. The instructor tells John and Rob that we will take two green runs down, but to get to the bottom we have to take a short but very easy blue run (for those of you that don’t ski green runs are the easiest, blue is harder).
We start down the mountain, the first green run is easy, we’ve been on it already, then we went to the next green run and it was really nice. We all are in rythm and enjoying ourselves, but then the green run splits off to the left, and the blue run that will take us down it to the right. We go right, and it’s okay at first, but then we see a sign ahead, it says “No easy way down this way.” Now at this time we could turn left and go down a green run, or turn right. The instructor said to go right, so we do. I’m telling you right now, we should have paid attention to the sign!
At first it was okay. A little scary, but I could snow plow and stay under control, but it’s not too long before the little easy path we were on opened up to a hill that was straight down and long! I started side stepping down, but it was icy and I started to slip. It’s amazing how quickly you can go from having a good day to having a very bad day. My heart beat accelerated, my limbs started to shake, and I must admit, at this point I started to cry. I was using all of my power to keep myself from sliding down the slope, my arms and legs were shaking from the exertion. John, Mary, and Rob were all stopped in front of me, searching for a way down. I had given up on searching for anything, I was clinging for dear life on the side of the slope, at an impossible angle. I knew I couldn’t hold on much longer, my legs were burning and my knee was on fire. I hollered and told John that I was going to take my skis off and go down on my butt. I’m not sure how I got my skis off, but I did, and sat down with my skis and poles cradled in my arms and proceeded to slide down the mountain as best as I could. There were times I went pretty fast and had to dig my heels into the snow to keep control, and other times I paddled my feet and hitched myself down, and other times I went sideways like a crab. I don’t know how John, Mary, and Rob stayed upright, but they did as they eased themselves very carefully down the slope. Going the way down like I did took all the energy I had left. My legs, stomach, and knees were on fire, and don’t even get me started on how my backside was feeling. There were times the snow bunched up underneath me, and other times I slid over sideways out of control and then get stopped by a hard knob of either ice or a something else under the snow.
Finally, after getting to the bottom of this part of the mountain, the run turned into a cat track, which caused a bottle neck. A few skiers were congregating while waiting their turn. A woman was there that was struggling like me, we got to talking while trying to figure out how to proceed and she informed me that we could have taken the town lift down! We could have avoided this entire ordeal!
She started to ski down and I continued on the cat track on my butt, I wasn’t going to try to get up on my skis here, it was too icy, and too tight. There was a pretty steep drop off to my right. John was jut in front of me and I watched him struggle, the exhaustion in me was so great, that I wasn’t sure if I could continue, but I somehow reached down deep and pushed myself forward, with my backside and my legs protesting loudly! The cat trail turned tight to the left and we were behind some houses, there was a woman there and she asked me if I was okay, tears welled up in my eyes as I answered yes, and then I asked if it gets any easier. She came out of her yard and walked over to me, she smiled and said, “I can give you a ride down in my van if you would like me to.” The tears in my eyes spilled over, I wanted to lay my head down and let her take care of me in the worst way, but there was a side of me that said no, you must do this. I lifted my head up, with tears streaming down my cheeks, my body shaking all over, and I shook my head no. I whispered, “I have to finish this, I can’t stop now.” I then asked her, “does it get any easier?” She smiled, I noticed how kind her eyes were as they crinkled up into her smile. She said, “yes, right around the next bend, you will be able to stand, put your skis on and ski down the rest of the hill.” I felt energy surge through me, and I smiled through my tears. “Thank you,” I said, “Thank you so much.” She went back to the yard and I continued a little further on my butt, then stood and limped around the corner where I put my skis on, looked up at John and smiled a little bit. I waited my turn since there was a line to cut across to the mountain. When it was time for me to go, I heard Lee in my head again. “ski this part, you can do it, feel your center, and look where you are going.” I turned my skis straight ahead, skied across the hill, made a controlled right hand turn and proceeded to ski down the hill. I saw John in front of me stop and turn, he had a huge smile on his face, I skied towards him and felt the wind on my face, the mountain under me, and for a moment I was one with my skis again. I stopped at the bottom, Mary was standing there and ready to help me, she ended up having to hold me up on my shaky legs until I could get myself under control. Then we slowly made our way back to the condo, with me painfully hobbling behind on legs made out of jelly.
As I write this I realize I learned a great deal on this trip, such as; it’s okay to learn at your own pace, patience is a gift that we can give to each other, when someone shows you patience, you not only feel humbled, but you feel cared for. And finally, it’s okay to find a different way to get down a mountain.
PS. When you see a sign that says no easy way down. You might want to change your course. 🤠