Horsing Around

I harrowed seventy acres of alfalfa the other day; when I was finished the field looked magnificent, however now I have seventy acres of rocks to pick up, tumble weeds to burn, and pocket gophers to trap. Who says farming isn’t glamorous?

The spring wind here is pretty relentless; it got so windy here it blew the magnet curios off the refrigerator door. I have been training horses regardless. I try to ignore the fact that it’s blowing like hell, so my horse doesn’t dwell on it either. The three I have been riding have been eating high protein alfalfa all winter; they are over fed and under worked which manifests itself as an edgy, high octane performance on the trail. I have taken to feeding straight grass hay, combined with exorcise to get them lined out, so they don’t go air born when a tumble weed rolls by.

Buddy Love, my seven year old appendix bred buckskin is green broke. I started him last year and he’s trying which is all I ask from any horse. I was getting a hold of his feet the other day in the round pen and when I asked him to lope on a left lead. He kept dropping his head like he wanted to buck, then he would balk, trying anything to resist my influence. I got down and nonchalantly tied his head around and proceeded to make him pivot circles. After about twelve revolutions I climbed back on and with his full concentration loped out on the left lead then circled onto the right, dropped down to a trot and back into the lope again on both leads. He preformed admirably so I put him up on that note.

My three yearlings watched the exhibition from the rail where they were tied. They are learning to stand still. I put each of them though a series of simple maneuvers at the end of the lead rope, they are gradually working up to a point where I can put a loop of rope over their hind quarters and lace it thought the halter, that way I can bring up the rear, while simultaneously leading the head. Every horse I train from birth to retirement is taught the fundamentals of pressure with a release for the slightest inertia in the right direction. The end result is an eloquent performance of subtle pressure and release, where the communication is all non verbal, yet speaks volumes. The end result is another good horse day. A wise man once said: “The best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse.” Who said that?


Painfully Rewarding

Warmer weather and dry roads have spawned a rash of mountain biking in these parts. I pulled mine out of the tack room, blew off the dust and filled the tires before pushing my physical envelope into the heart attack zone. After a vertical drop of about seven hundred feet, the dirt road that leads along the river to McPhee dam stretches about 15 miles, but who’s counting.

Descending the canyon rim to the river corridor is hairy; I carry so much speed I wear out a pair of break shoes. The river greets me like an old friend, her turbulent waters commanding the overture of spring. I pump and glide past swollen tributaries of obstreperous white water that tumbles down from the glade. Ageless slabs of monolithic rock rise up around me towering over my head in soft hues of rose, blush, and taupe as they skirt the assure sky.

Familiar pools, eddies, and riffle water hold the allure of big trout, fishing memories of the one that got away, float down stream as I wheel on by. I have the whole place to myself, not a human in sight. After hours of peddling, I think facetiously, this sucks. This would be great if there wasn’t so damn many people down here! The road way is littered with tracks from hundreds of elk that wintered here, only now do they follow the receding snow line toward summer pastures in the high country. Reaching the dam I pause on the bridge over the river to suck down some well deserved ice tea. The spillway roars with 800 cu ft of water per second. The swift swell is laden with moss. Like gossamer souls they wander. After a brief pause I turn around and head for home. At the Ferrous Canyon tributary I encounter my first human; he’s dressed in waders, fly pole in hand.

“Mister if you can catch fish in this river, you can catch fish anywhere,” I say coasting to a stop.
He laughs. “Is the water any clearer up towards the dam?”
“No there’s too much water and debris coming down— wade at your own peril.”
When we part company, I peddle off thinking; this fella isn’t from around here.

Climbing the steep grade to the top of the rim almost kills me. I have to stop half way up and finish my bottle of tea. The final stretch back to the ranch is painfully rewarding. I climb off the bike in the circle drive and almost topple over; my legs feel like tree stumps, my prostate is numb, I’m panting like a coon dog, and all I can think about is doing it again tomorrow.