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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