It's funny how things work out sometimes. I've always wished I'd been born someplace where I could live and breathe horses. I wasn't. When I was a kid, I rode in every vacant lot and parkside riding stable in the five boroughs; I moonlighted at the NYPD Mounted Police stable on Varick St.; and when I started making money, I rode cross country in Ireland, in Morocco, and, for most of about 20 summers, Wyoming. When I quit my day job, I apprenticed with some NCHA pros for a few years. So, because I was't brought up with horses, I discovered there were a lot of relationships you could have with a horse.
There's the surrender the poor hack horses in the city had with the numerous people they had to deal with, buckaroos for an hour who stepped up and stepped off and didn't think about the horse for a moment after they drove away. I'm ashamed now to think of how I used to yahoo with those horses, and how stoically they endured, because this was their life and they had no choice.
There's the business deal the vacation horses had. Their lives were a little better, they were treated better, their riders a little more skilled and compassionate. The deal with those horses was, you communicate half decent with me, and I'll do the best I can to keep you on.
There's the deal the NCHA guys had with their string. The highest compliment this guy could give a horse was to say, "that horse is a machine!". It hurt my heart to hear that, but that was pretty much what they turned them into. They lived in a stall until they were taken out to either lope in a circle for 20 minutes, or cut a cow, and then back they went. The light had gone out, but they were sure good cutting horses
Then, there's what I saw in Wyoming. It's hard to believe sometimes that Wyoming is on the same planet as the Hudson Valley, where I live, because it is so wild, so open. It is a hard country, and you can't ride out there on a horse unless they grew up there, because the land is so rough, the gopher holes, the sagebrush, the divides opening up right beneath your feet. There are times you're in charge, but there are times, if you're smart, you let the horse be in charge. There are places I would have been afraid to walk on foot, but the horses carried me safely. The cow work, too, the ranch work. These horses know the job as well as you do, maybe better, definitely better, because there are so many horses who taught me what the job was. That is what I would call a partnership.
When I started having my own horses, I discovered still another kind of relationship. It was quite startling. It was not something I was prepared for, or had even any knowledge of before it happened for me. It was Connection. It was something more intimate than I would have thought possible with another species; yet, it was clear to my entire community that there was something out of the ordinary in the relationship between Chey, that golden horse, and me.
I'm going to talk more about this concept next time. And, I'm going to be offering a clinic in May to share some of what I've learned. Come back soon.