Physically sapped, aching frame and muscles, head in a fog, heart filled with intense satisfaction and elation… I think to myself, “this must be what it feels like to be a real cowgirl.”
Months ago, I planned and carved out 4 days out of an absurd schedule of art making, and mywine consulting business to attend my secondcattle herding clinic with Trevor Carter, from Carter Ranch Horse (a New Mexico Outfit) held at Lucia Farms in Lovettesville, Virginia. I had enjoyed it so much the prior year, and I was eager for more of that thrill and excitement. I now realize, after all is said and done, how significant this year’s exercise was, for me personally. Being out in the still mostly verdent pastures of northern Virginia, being one with nature, with the changing landscape of Fall, the sun, blue sky, under saddle with one of my favorite animals in the world, (my sweet Kiger pony-horse Lola) certainly enhanced the adventure. But the kicker was the pivotal progress I made in the mere understanding of what true horsemanship is, and how deeply I desire to implement this in my life moving on.
Its hard to believe that I have been riding for over 12 years, mostly in the English saddle, and new to western. I never thought of myself as a great rider, more so has one who could manage and get round well enough… and I was okay with that. Taking lessons on and off for a decade or so, trail riding here and there, and working Lola in the arena for no real purpose but to physically condition one another was the extent of my equestrian goals. The relationship aspect with my horse, the spiritual connection we have, and the romantic notion she brings to my life, my artistry, satisfied my needs— and that’s all lovely, yet after these past 4 days, this mindset has changed!
Something clicked. Becoming a more engaged rider, is also committing to be a present participant in the process, not just an innocent by-stander. Working with Trevor and observing him, and the rest of the participants, I came to an understanding of what I could be capable of, and what my horse can do if given the proper direction, and guidance. As I loped and jogged my horse around the arena and pastures, and practiced our turns, backing up, flexing, and applying the degrees of pressure to eventually obtain the desired results, over and over again, I saw the light! I relished in the long hours spent under saddle as Lola carried me through new heights, yielding through our idiosyncrasies…together.
The level in the realm of where I want to take my horsemanship has reached a new plateau, one which I want to embrace and grow from. My progress in the past 12 years has been constant, but slow indeed. Now, I am ready to burgeon into what I know I can become; like my peers whom I admire, with their ease and confidence of being, their elegance on their mount, the affinity they share with their animals; a silent understanding in a willing partnership. That is what I want, with my horse. Purpose, confidence, and alliance.
Amidst the busy hectic days we spent working the cows, herding the cattle, selecting cows, separating the calves, and learning the ins and outs of cowboy dressage, I was completely absorbed in the exercises. My mind focused on the cows, on my horse, on our work. On the last day I was pretty beat, and decided to take the afternoon easy. and reflect upon this happytime well spent….and be grateful to be an equestrian, an artist, a dreamer, and… a cowgirl taking a first step towards her new journey.