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.
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.
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.
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.
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.