Day Six High and Wild Adventure

BY KELSEY SIMPSON

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As the week is coming to a close it is hard to remember everything that went on here on the High & Wild Adventure. From the moment we stepped foot on the ground at the lodge we have continually been picking up facets of information throughout our day. It didn’t matter if we were in the corral, working with horses, or eating breakfast, there was always more information to absorb.

Today a handful of us went on a longer trail ride with Glenn through another mountain range even making it to the top of one. With a long ride and steep hills to climb on foot it presented quite the challenge. But we finally made it to the top of the ridge just in time for lunch. We tied our horses near an old dilapidated corral and settled in to enjoy our packed lunches.

After lunch we continued to head along the top of the ridge. The sun was hot with little breeze but we felt relief when we wandered down the mountain through the shady moss covered forest.

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Climbing over and under felled trees and avoiding hole, it was a wonder there were so many game trails and horse trails. We eventually made it out of the tree and into a clearing with muskeg and a bunch of windfall trees. Thinking about Glenn’s advice the first day about walking through different vegetation, I carefully tried to leap from clump of moss to clump of moss. Unfortunately some were deceiving large and just sank under my pressure, drenching my shoes and socks and painting them with a coat of black mud.

Eventually we crossed through wet marsh land to get to the other side of the valley to head home. The horses obviously knew that we were headed home and were eager get there.

We saw an incredible amount of elk along with very unique landscapes from minimal trees, to complete forest, to marsh land, and then open pasture. It was truly a beautiful and long ride.

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With the week finishing up and some of us headed home tomorrow, the impact of the trip hit us. Glenn’s goal was to take us on adventures and experiences in a safe and fun way that we would or could never do on our own which he certainly accomplished. If you told everyone what we would do at the beginning of the week, they would say I would never do that or could never. This trip has been an all around expanding of our skills, knowledge and experiences not only in terms of our horsemanship but also in our entire lives. I think we have accomplished more here in a week then most will experience in a lifetime.

Whether we wanted to or not, we all found ourselves outside of our comfort zone doing things we could have never before thought we could do. It instills quite the confidence in you to realize that. Most of us will go home and tell our friends and loved ones about this special place here and the special people, and of course the horses, but it is quite hard to put it all into words. Our High and Wild Adventure here was certainly that but again so much more, more than we could have ever thought. People who were afraid of the horses at the beginning of the week, found themselves getting acquainted and eased around them. They found themselves riding wild horses and along some of the most beautiful and difficult trails of their lives.

Glenn said right off that bat that this wasn’t going to be a dude ranch, this is a holiday learning adventure. You get from it what you put in, this isn’t a fake ride, this was “real life” as one participant said. Every day and every moment leading up to riding helped to prepare the horses and more importantly us without us evening knowing it.

This place, this trip and the people we have met along the way will be an experience we will carry with us forever. The stories and great times will surely be told over and over again, with our friend not quite sure what we are talking about. This week of good times and great people and awesome horses is what High and Wild Adventures is all about and I believe it has lived up to its name.

 

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Find out more about Glenn Stewart at his website and his Facebook page. Also check out his educational video on his Youtube Channel.

Day 5: Feel it in your soul

 

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BY KELSEY SIMPSON

While taking in the scenery that surrounded us at lunch, we were discussing how incredible it was and Donna Blem said something profound.

“When I breathe in deeply, I can feel it in my soul.”

This perfectly described the day and the emotions I think we were all feeling as we traveled through the mountains. There is no way to describe the feeling you get being here. Every turn of your head reveals a new vista to take in, all beautiful, all peaceful, all magnificent. It would not be possible to ever take any of this for granted.

Even though the morning started off like the previous ones, today was a unique and challenging day. The group was tasked with taking 20 horses down to another camp approximately four hours away.

Our small outing a few nights ago was an hour there and an hour back, so riding for four straight hours was something we were all a little unsure of. But we graciously accepted the challenge, and set about getting ourselves and the horses ready for the day’s adventure.

After catching and saddling up our horses, and going through the series of Glenn’s “pre-ride check list” on the ground for ourselves, we were ready to begin the next stage.

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Horses and humans gathered around the outside of the round pen to watch Glenn work with the horse he was taking along. The bright-eyed, blue roan watched Glenn intensely, and within a short amount of time measurably calmed down and was very accepting of Glenn’s actions. Glenn quickly worked through the key elements of his horsemanship program to check out all aspects of his horse, preparing him for the ride, and being sure that any reaction the horse might have to a given stimulus was exposed as best as possible now, before we left. He again explained tips and techniques to use on our own horses to build the relationship and confidence to help us on the trail.

Something as “simple” as his asking for lateral flexion (our emergency stop maneuver), something not yet ingrained in this young horse, seemed natural and easy. Something those of us with older, seasoned horses were finding difficult to obtain.

We all then mounted up and went through all of our check lists again. When Glenn was satisfied with our abilities, we were ready to head out.

Unlike the previous ride, we needed to take extra horses and that meant Glenn and his apprentices had to pony another horse behind them.   They were young, fresh horse that needed to get used to the trail none of us were sure what to expect.

We started off on the same path we took the day before, and everyone seemed comfortable. The long line of horses and riders bobbed and weaved around the beaten trail that was going to take us to our destination that was approximately four hours away.

However, as we later found out, it can take much longer when you are traveling in a large group, dealing with the terrain, and taking breaks to see the sights. But, it didn’t seem to matter to any of the riders.

Going up and down the sides of the mountains, following the bends in the river, and seeing wildlife appear randomly throughout the ride out of no where really puts things into perspective. These weren’t just any mountains, or just any river, or even just any trail we were following.   Everything was special, different, and unique to us. It was a spectacular feeling that can’t really be described or told in words, photos or even videos.
We stopped for a quick lunch break right on the river. With the rushing water as our background music and the mountains as our backdrop, a perfect moment was painted.

Again, it was aptly described by Donna, “When I breathe in deeply, I can feel it in my soul.” You really, truly, profoundly could.

It didn’t matter what time it was, or how sweaty or tired we were, because the ride meant more to us. Because this place meant more to us, and this moment and this experience we were sharing meant more to us. Simply feeling it, absorbing it, and breathing it in as Donna described, was mind blowing.

Being here is indescribable. I guess you will just have to come up here and try it for yourself.

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We continued on up and down, and side to side, watching elk bedded under trees and running up the mountain, and in one case, just standing on the skyline looking down at us, curious about what we were doing. Eventually it was time for a water break and another opportunity to stretch our legs. We came across a spring that fed into a really neat part of the river with small rapids. Huge black geometric rocks guarded the edge of the raging river and allowed the stream to connect with it. The rocks were huge slates of almost tabletop proportions with white splashes here and there almost as if someone just took a paintbrush and splattered white paint everywhere.

With that quick photo op finished, ourselves refreshed and our horses rested, we hopped back on to cover some ground.

The bush started to thicken, the trees became more densely packed, and when we eventually came to a clearing, we discovered it was muskeg. As Glenn had mentioned on our first day, it can be hard to tell where it can be besides slight changes in the vegetation. We were walking along fairly obvious ground when all of a sudden the horses sunk down into the mud and water, up to their bellies in some places.

It was too late to turn around, and it was felt that the muskeg was too unstable to continue forward on this track, so Glenn ventured off to find a new trail. He led us through a forest of thin trees placed so close together we had to lift our knees just to squeeze between (or through) them. Luckily we were rewarded at the end of this short detour with a spectacular view of the river below, and I mean very, very far below.

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When did we get up there so high? The elevation, and how much ground we covered was hard to keep track of, so there were quite a few times when I was pleasantly surprised, and sometimes shocked, to see where we were relative to the river and the mountains.

Thankfully it wasn’t too far (or long) after that we made it to camp, 2 hours later than the original estimation. We unsaddled, turned out the horses and just took a break to truly take it all in.

This camp, Lower Prairie, was situated near the river as well and had a fantastic view overlooking some beautiful scenery. After recharging our batteries a little bit, most of us loaded up into the plane to head back to base camp. We couldn’t all go back in one trip due to the size of the plane, and the need to take back some of the saddles used on the horses that were staying there. However, after 3 trips, we were “home”.

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Flying back to the Lodge was so eye-opening for me, and probably the rest of us. What took the plane only mere minutes, took us all day! From that viewpoint, in those short minutes, it was amazing to see just how much ground we really did cover.

Four horses needed to come back to base camp, so Glenn and his apprentices road them back. On their trip back they saw what I have always wished to see, a grizzly with her two cubs. It was Dan’s birthday and what a gift for him to have this additional experience, one that he will never forget.

From the porch of the base camp lodge you can look off into the distance past the river, and see the various mountain ranges in the distance. If you look straight across the river there is a particularly large, grassy mountain that is the furthest thing on the skyline. Flying back I realized that we rode past that. We skirted around it and went on to further, and sometimes particularly rough terrain. That was certainly an amazing feeling. Every deep breath went right to my soul.

 

Find out more about Glenn Stewart at his website and his Facebook page. Also check out his educational video on his Youtube Channel.

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Day Four High and Wild Adventure

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BY: KELSEY SIMPSON

I woke up in a slight panic this morning. First I thought I had slept through breakfast, but when I realized I hadn’t something else entered my mind. “Day four? How is it day four already?” I thought to myself. We only arrived a few, very short days ago and now the trip is already half over! What happened to our week!

But after thinking about it, and how we had come as a group, and as individuals it kind of made sense. When we stepped off the plane we were “newbs”. We acted like “newbs”, we walked like “newbs”. We were true “newbies” to this strange and unique environment. It didn’t matter if you had been on a horse a thousand times or just once. For the most part everyone was on a level playing field. I mean we were dealing with wild horses.

In the beginning we watched Glenn with intensity as he entered the large pen full of horses. I grew up on the back of horse and rodeoed all my life, and yet there was still a sense and almost fear, or apprehension, of the unknown. These weren’t my horses at home (although they can pretend quite well to be wild horses and not come in when I need them to). These horses were foreign and I had no idea what to expect from them. I found out later they also had no idea what to expect from me. Still, the thought of wandering through a pen of over 100 wild horses was worrisome, but we all witnessed Glenn smoothly and casually stroll through the herd and come out unscathed. It appeared like a risky place, one we wouldn’t want to be in, one we probably shouldn’t be in, but today that changed, we changed.

Even though our group ranged from people with zero horse experience to moderate experience, we all grew from that first day and that first impression. We have continuously been pushed (for some forced) out of our comfort zone as we listened, learned and experienced new things or reinforced old things to a higher level everyday. This results in varying levels of newfound confidence. A confidence no one was looking for but we all gained.

Today we continued to work on horses that needed some yearly maintenance. Yes they sound like cars in need of an oil change or a tune-up, but cars are maintained more than once a year and these horses are not. Some needed their feet trimmed while others had injuries to attend to. Some needed a good wipe down while others just needed quality time around people.

Just a chance to work with such horses, to learn and grow in confidence with them was an amazing feeling. We were not allowed to just come in and work with these horses; we had to earn the privilege. Over the days I have observed how Glenn is assigning more difficult tasks and challenges to different people, while allowing them to gradually increase their ability to handle the challenges offered.

Today everyone pitched in to catch the horses, spending time with each one to identify anything that they could help with (or fix themselves), and if not, then be able to bring it to Glenn’s attention for help. For some that once feared the large pen of wild horses, were now able to go and aid in helping the herd get through another year.

We have one 2 year old that has an abscess, two days ago she was assigned to two of the participants to soak the horses foot. Can you imagine a horse that has only been haltered one or two times ever in her life to allow us to place her foot in a bucket full of water? The two took on the challenge, and applied Glenn’s program and principles. They worked at their own speed and the speed necessary for the little mare to learn, building trust and confidence in themselves and in the horse. The first day it took them a little over an hour for the horse to comfortably place the abscessed foot into the bucket. But today they were able to walk right up to her, and after a moment of greeting they were able to bring the bucket of medicated water over, lift the foot and place it right in the bucket like they had been doing it for years.

These are the kinds of things most people in the group have found so rewarding. We are all learning that our actions either individually, or as a group, will help aid the herd and the horses, and their overall quality of life. Even though we all came here with varying levels of knowledge and experience with horses, we all did what we could to help because of our common interest, the horses standing before us.  I am so impressed about the health and quality of the horses in the herd. 110 horse’s all shinny coats, clear bright eyes, and I have not heard one horse cough

You could tell people had grown more relaxed with the horses and themselves. They weren’t afraid to ask Glenn for help or advice, but they also weren’t afraid to try it out for themselves. After spending countless hours trying to pick up on the slightest details of Glenn’s skills, it was rewarding to think that it had paid off. It didn’t matter if we had never lead a horse before or if we grew up on the back of one. Everyone’s skills and self confidence are improving by leaps and bounds each day in this environment.

It is interesting to me how little people in the more “traditional” horsemanship world learn and change each day, or how little the horses learn and change each day. I have found here the changes in horses and horsemanship have been extreme.

These experiences we have shared far exceeds our horsemanship. It is all spilling over to our everyday lives.

None of us will leave the same people we were when we arrived, all due to the experiences we are sharing.

Find out more about Glenn Stewart at his website and his Facebook page. Also check out his educational video on his Youtube Channel.

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Day Two High and Wild Adventure

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BY KELSEY SIMPSON

Gone is the sound of sirens, motorcycles, and cars rushing by. In their place is nothing but melodic birds and the distant sound of the river.

“I am still here”, I thought to myself when I opened my eyes this morning. I looked out my window and sure enough there were the beautiful rugged mountain ranges and tall and voluptuous trees I had been introduced to just the previous day.

Everyone woke and started visiting and filling their coffee cups to kick start the day. The talk around the table was about how much we have already learned and how much we have each grown in this short amount of time in this unique environment. After a quick breakfast, some headed to the kitchen for dish duty while the others were given the task of rounding up the 110 head of horses.

As the horses are getting settled in, Glenn reviews the morning activities with the group. Today is an important day here at The Big Nine Outfitters. It is our task to collect up all the younger horses, many of which have never been touched or halter, much less know how to lead.

Next up was display after display of true horsemanship. With complete and total ease, Glenn walked among the horses in the corral, rubbing on each of them as he passed by, approaching the ones he that needed caught or would benefit from a rub.Watching him maneuver you can see immediately he has a true gift, and a gentle touch working with horses and building their trust.

The first of several colts to be worked with that morning.

The first of several colts to be worked with that morning.

One seemingly overly protective mare and her youngster were very challenging for one of Glenn’s apprentices. Glenn came over to give assistance and advice, and it was soon apparent that the spectators were all in for a real treat. What had been an overly protective untrusting mother was able to soon relax and trusted with ease. The young, defiant colt evolved into a companion who enjoyed human’s presence while licking, chewing and yawning and was rubbing up against Glenn at the end of the session.

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As Glenn continued the work of separating the young horses we were instructed to go and gather our assigned horses, some were easier than others. Hours were spent grooming and rubbing down the horses, and brushing off the thick coat of dust they have collected. When both the horses and the riders were comfortable, the saddling process began. We were told to saddle and unsaddle our horses until we had it down pat and under five minutes.

It was evident how so many of us in the group are changing because of this adventure. Everyone is being stretched out of their comfort zone. The mental and emotional growth, and increase in confidence is exciting to observe and be a part of.

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After the group spent whatever needed time with their horses and confidently achieved the assigned task of tacking, they could head over to continue watching and learning from Glenn.

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The horse himself, Elvis.

One particular colt of interest was a slick bay with a white diamond on his forehead. Glenn shared with us that this colt named Elvis that was handled for just over 3 hours over a 3 day period three years earlier when it was just one month old and hadn’t been seen since.

Every trip back to the mountains Glenn looked for Elvis and finally this year he showed up.

Wanting to see just how much the colt remembered, Glenn started off slowly, but was able to halter Elvis in no time. It is remarkable that these horses come in after a year of not seeing any people, and are mostly calm and willing. Elvis hadn’t been seen in three years, making his previous session with Glenn, his only experience of people.

Soon Glenn was rubbing the colt down and picking up its feet like an old timer. Next was the Australian whip, and after just a few tries Elvis was standing calmly while Glenn cracked the whip above, behind and in front of the three year old. The bright red flag took a little bit longer to get used to but Elvis quickly calmed down. It was clear the solid impression Glenn made on him was remembered.

Glenn working blue tarp was the last triumph for the day for Elvis and like the flag it took some getting used to. However, for a horse that hasn’t had a human hand laid on him for three complete years, he partnered up like a champ. With a good scratch here and there, and the proper handling from Glenn, we were all simply amazed and inspired at being able to witness the importance of these colts having the proper foundation. When done correctly the impact is forever.

I always wondered how much horses remember. Well I guess even after 3 years without human contact they still remember what they learned. The scary part is they must remember anything we do, the good as well as the bad.

After a long day and getting a lot accomplished with the horses we headed into the lodge for another spectacular meal. Tonight, lasagna with garlic toast and Caesar salad. Who knew roughing it in the wilderness could be so hard?

With the sun sinking further and further behind the last ridge of mountain peaks, we said goodbye to another fabulous day filled with laughter, discussions, learning, fun, and of course, horses.

Find out more about Glenn Stewart at his website and his Facebook page. Also check out his educational video on his Youtube Channel.