On Sunday Toby and I braved the unseasonable wind and ventured out into the unknown on our first off property trail ride. We followed Mel and Jake down the neighborhood lane where trash cans lurked around corners and large rocks stood as sentinels. The little paint looked at each new object with cautious curiosity but never spooked.
As we wound through the wooded path he eagerly stepped out, I think enjoying his new vocation. He flit from one side of the trail to the other trying to take in all the new sites, smells and sounds. It was like trying to ride a butterfly in the breeze. He carefully picked his way through the rocks but when it came to move around the long limbs of a cholla my leg cues became ineffective. I ended up dismounting and leading him around the cactus, there was no need to make this pleasant afternoon a disaster. When we made the turn back for home Jake began to jig and bounce. We stopped and Mel worked him through one of his nervous moments, Toby waited patiently like a seasoned trail pony.
Our decent down the hill proved to be my mounts biggest nemesis. Although he willingly accepts a rider, he’s still learning how to carry their weight. As my center of balance moved over his shoulders he naturally turned across the hill to traverse. I instead pointed him back down the slope and offered him steady support as he learned to bring his haunches under his body.
We retuned back to the barn with a sweaty saddle pad and an itchy backed horse. This big outing had left Toby tired and me with a list of arena work, legs cues there at the top. It’s back to schooling for us but Toby and I sure did enjoy our first field trip.
Not every training ride goes as planned. Toby and I have graduated from the arena to riding around the property. We were following Mel and Jake over logs, around trees, and Toby was handling every obstacle like a champ. I became over confident and thought it was a great idea to video our awesome training ride. As the horse in front disappeared around a corner Toby became nervous and wanted to catch up. I was busy playing videographer instead of trainer. When I added my leg to aid Toby around the large cactus bush, he didn’t pick up on the cue and aimed strait for the cholla. I’m pleased to report that both horse and rider avoided the prickly, instead I escaped with only a mouth full of pine needles from a near by piñon tree. When I’m asking a horse to learn they deserve my full attention. Although it was Toby’s training, I’ve definitely learned my lesson.
The red waters of New Mexico run through the salted desert like veins through an open hand. This photo was taken in the river bed of Ojito Open Space, where petrified trees and the bones of the largest dinosaur, the Seismosaurus, have been discovered.
Two Ears Tuesdays are back! Follow our journeys through New Mexico here each Tuesday. Come stay with us and discover these places for your self.
I am in the middle of a deep love affair with New Mexico. It began with the cotton wood trees that lined the lane of my childhood home, it intensified with the snow dressed mountains ripe for a ski bum teenager, and solidified by the banks of the bosque where thoughts can meander in the middle of a city. Even now in my seemingly grown up world, a desert sunset sends me into a moment of childlike awe.
When I came across this between the ears photo of the Rio Grande wandering through the Garrapata Ridge, I knew I wasn’t alone in my love for the Land of Enchantment. Pam McArthur, the owner of McAurther Quarter Horse Boarding Stables, captured one of these moments of awe. Scrolling through her Facebook page revealed her own New Mexico romance that incompasses Aspen groves, mountain lakes, and a sage brushed desert. Although she is located in the northern part of the state, near Taos, Pam has an abundance of diverse landscapes to ride through.
It is New Mexico’s wealth of varied terrain that I want to share with other equestrians. I’ve been asked many times why I started my business here instead of Colorado. It’s simple… I never ride in the same area twice. Although we ride the same trails with clients week after week, the land evolves, dilevering a new perspective each time. The sandy arroyos sparkle in early morning sunlight, mountain flowers emerge in pinks and purples maturing into reds and oranges, river banks overflow growing into salt cedar jungles.
New Mexico is an inigma to most visitors who invision our state covered in saguaro cactus and cow sculls. Yes we do have cactus but we live in the high desert that spans from grasslands to alpine forest. The plethora of open space gives the internal nomad a place to ramble. The afternoon thunderstorms that roll across the horizon, the sunset casting a pink hue on the Sandias, and the crisp blue skies that never end, all speak to the soul. For those who call this magical place home, wether by birth right or by migration, we love where we live.
To explore the wonder of the Land of Enchantment by horseback please visit Enchantment Equitreks to book your riding vacation.
All photos curtesy of Pam McAuthur and McArthur Quarter Horse Boarding Stables located in Rancho de Taos, NM.
This is a bit of a reverse Two Ears photo that captures the joy of riding an OTTB. Cash has been my first rescue, my partner in crime, my wings, my sanity, my most frustrating moments, my best friend. All horses make me smile but only this boy makes me grin.
Last week our outfitters, Mel and Paige, took a few Airb&b clients to Galisteo Basin. This red painted desert ride wanders by a few old stock tanks left over from the original ranch lands. While the horses drink and splash, the dogs jump in to cool off. Chloe, the rather large black beast in the middle of it all, is a three year old Black Russian Terrierr we adopted two months ago.
In January our 14 year old male BRT, Dodger, passed away leaving a huge hole in our hearts. Ten days later a female in Virginia came up for adoption. We flew out to meet the Russian beauty and instantly fell in love. Our journey home turned into quite an adventure when the airline refused to transport her due to over weight issues. Instead we made an impromptu road trip for two and a half days back to New Mexico.
It took a few months of conditioning for Chloe to slowly gain the strength and stamina needed to be a trail dog. She has been going on training rides from the ranch, but this spring day was her first time to trailer out and go for about three hours with clients. “She loved every minute,” Mel told me later, “but she bounded into the stock tanks to swim.” I don’t think Risa, Paige’s Appaloosa mare, was too entertained by Chloe’s attempt at fishing.
This big, shaggy, wet mop of a dog stole the show that day. You can even see in the video where Rain, the bay mare, was tying to splash Chloe when she wades by. She has become quite the addition to our rag tag pack of trail dogs.
I love when someone I follow posts an amazing Two Ears photo. This inspiring picture came from Chris Cox, a trainer that I have been following for a few years. He’s won the Road to the Horse series several times and stars in Chris Cox Horsemanship that airs on RFDTV. I personally like the “Problem Horse Series,” where he visits ranches across the country to work with horses and their owners. After working with rescue horses for the last decade, problem horses are right up my alley. Cox’s training style is in line with many others that I have learned from, like Ray Hunt, Julie Goodnight, and Stacy Westfall. Some call it natural horsemanship, I call it practical training.
In a world where training schedules are over booked I appreciate that Chris took time out of his day to slow down and savor nature’s splendor. This picture not only captures a beautiful Texas sunset but also a moment between a man, his horse, and God. He shared this personal peace with his Facebook fans, giving them a glimpse of the man behind the brand; something that many professionals rarely get to do amongst all the sponsor advertisment. This rare connection between fan and horseman has ignited a deeper respect and enthusiasm for Chris Cox Horsemanship. I plan on a training video binge this weekend.
What a wonderful spring like Tuesday to celebrate a few firsts. Today was my mom’s first ride after a full shoulder replacement and our new puppy’s first time out on trail with the horses. Today’s between the ears shot captured a carefree woman on a big paint and big black baby leading the way.
After her bionic joint was popped in, my mom patiently waited almost two months before she could get back in the saddle. Although she didn’t have the doctors express permission, I knew she needed the mental therapy that only comes from riding. I threw her saddle on our rocking horse Cisco, jumped on my bay mare Rain and ponied the little red dun Mia. We were about ten minutes away from the barn when I heard my mom sigh. It’s a sigh that realeases all worry, tension, stress and melts away all the weight of the world. I knew she need to ride. She’s even taking her own Two Ears shots.
As we wandered down the road the big puppy bounded past us with her tail wagging as fast as it could go. I use the term “puppy” loosely because Chloe is an eighty pound, three year old Black Russian Terrier that we adopted only a six weeks ago. Although she’s a big girl, Chloe scatters her toys about the house like a toddler and wakes me up every morning with boundless energy. Like any kiddo she needs a lot of activities to keep her entertained and worn out. After today’s big adventure she now lays at my feet sleeping like a babe. I was so proud of the Chloe bug today. Chloe’s First Ride and she never wandered too far, she’s learning to respect the horses space and absolutely loves to lead the way.
I’ll end my post with a little YouTube Two Ears video, Two Ears Tuesday, as we head back home with happy horses, tired dogs, and light hearts.
Happy Valentine’s Day! I chose today’s between the ears shot because of the love story behind the picture. A little over a year ago my mom came home from a buisness trip and excitedly explained that she had met my Tennessee twin. On the van from the hotel to the airport she saw the young blond thumbing through a few pictures of horses on her phone. As they chatted Katie told her about growing up with horses out side of Nashville and her upcoming trip to New Mexico with her boyfriend Derrick. Naturally Mel invited the pair to stay at our ranch for a few days and take them on a day ride.
On a stormy October day we trailered out to Galisteo Basin with Katie and Derrick. I love this area for its sandy arroyos, painted desert walls and unbroken vista views. Although Katie had been horseback all her life, much like I had, Derrick had only been riding for a year. His natural ability was evident as he became buddies with our Quarterhorse draft cross, Teddy. Derrick understood that horses are Katie’s passion and he invested his time into her passion because he loved her.
He not only learned to ride but proposed to her the night before. This was their first ride together as finances, as two people starting a life together with a mutual equine infatuation.
I still keep in touch with my cowgirl sister, her fiancé, and their budding equestrian business. There’s is the quintessential Valentine’s Day story of two souls falling in love from the back of a horse.
This winter has been tough on my riding schedule. It’s been nonexistent. I love riding with snow crunching under hooves and fat flakes catching on eyelashes, much like the day when I captured this lazy winter storm looming over the mountains. I live for these days, but they have been few and far between this year. Usually the afternoon sun peaks out, transforming snow into a sloppy, slippery mess unpleasant to walk in and undearable to ride through. However, I keep trudging through muck and mire, waiting for when the world is covered again in a blanket of white and the stillness is broken by breath puffing around my horse like dragon vapor. This winter can be a bit like life, mucking though the slop to grasp a magical moment, no matter how fleeting.
He said, "Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." -Roald Dahl