Tuesday, February 2, 2010
New Mexico, 2010
Arrived in Denver and made our way to Kel and J's home in Parker. We were late getting in, so we saved the bulk of our conversations until the next morning over a lovely breakfast and superb coffee & pastries. We love spending time with them and having thoughtful conversations. Kelly is pregnant…YAY! So we told them to remember their roots and gifted them with an "Alaskan Grown" baby t-shirt.
Traveling south to Santa Fe: a high fierce sun (oh my, do we love that) and crisscross patterns of contrails across a wide blue sky. We passed many small towns and horse hotels. Entering Mora County line in northern New Mexico, tufts of lonely sage sprung up, and horses grazed on the stingy ground, nosing through the snow. Buttes, weather-worn telephone poles and cattle meandering the fields in tight clumps was the typical scene for miles..An advertisement for Buffalo Thunder Resorts read, "electrify your nights", which is kind of funny. I guess spending one's days repairing old wind mills and crooked fence lines would propel one to seek a little excitement, but I can't think of a life more well lived than a rancher's.
After a lengthy set of directions, we arrived at Apache Creek Ranch and settled into the evening swapping stories, and enjoying Lee's adventures of his current work at the ranch.
Sunday:. Pinon and Ponderosa pines, juniper, birds lighting on feeders outside the kitchen window, partly sunny skies, and horses, magnificent horses. We're staying in the ranch house, Lee's home on the range! A couple switchbacks down into the canyon are the animals (kitties, chickens, ducks, wild turkeys & horses), barns, an adobe guesthouse, the owner's quarters, an oval arena for horse ground work, and a huge greenhouse. Eight thousand foot Shaggy Mountain and lesser mountains covered in pine, cactus, scrub oak and cottonwoods surround this beautiful canyon.
Lee thought it best that Kent ride Red first, partly to get him ready for me as he hadn't been ridden too much lately and was a little soft. Lee rode Pepper, who is a feisty mare with an agenda of her own. I hiked around taking photographs, and when they returned from their ride, Kent dismounted and I took over with Red. At 17 hands, let's just say I was a bit intimidated by Red, and sought out ground work with Lee instead. Lee is a superb horseman, and he gave me excellent advice by pointing out how my behaviors affect the horse (especially the tone of my voice). Later that night we watched a video on horsemanship that was quite enlightening, horse whisperer style. My personal dilemma is the mix of being assertive/taking charge, but at the same time, using as little touch and direction as possible so the horse learns to feel me, and I him. I like the concept of having the horse court me, like romancing the horse!
Monday: Hello blue sky and relentless sun! In the morning, Lee gave me more lessons and I worked with Red, learning how to tack him and carry out specific instructions such as backing up, bringing his rear around, stopping on command and leading from both sides of his body. This helped me to gain confidence. In the afternoon, Kent and I shopped at Trader Joes (Triple Ginger snaps!), and enjoyed some great coffee at the Santa Fe Baking Co. and Café…Yumm. I love this town, although it's much busier than I remember back in 1993. When at the ranch, you're a world away from the bustle of town.
Tues.: Another day at the ranch: I started out the morning grooming Red and simply observing his behavior. Kent wandered off to take pictures of wild turkeys, while Lee helped Vint do some truck repairs. Later, Lee saddled up Red and we rode off to the arena for another session of lessons. I learned SOOO much today; it was just fantastic! The greatest thing about life is learning, n’est pa? Whatever blows your skirt up; whatever floats your boat... hahaha! Lee gave me specific exercises, then offered his advice. My reining has improved, I feel much less intimidated by the size of Red (I think Big Red is a more appropriate name, however); we practiced my vocal tone, setting a deep seat, giving directions with the least amount of tension, and much more. What I walked away with is you can be gentle and assertive at the same time, and I was ecstatic how Lee lead me to understand how my body movements (so very subtle) affect the horse. It just felt dreamy once I learned to drop into “Red” mode; now I’m just wondering how to feed this love of horses when I get home; leasing may be the best way to develop greater skills. Sporting a BIG GRIN after my lessons, Kent and I went into town and checked out all the art galleries up and down Canyon Rd. Can you tell we love sculpture?? So inspiring! We got all kinds of ideas to take back home and incorporate into our respective arts.. This evening, we made green Thai sauce over shrimp and rice for dinner, and followed that up with viewing round pen training videos. So much to learn, so little time on this crazy, interesting planet.