I could say that it all began the day of my first visit to The Center For America’s First Horse, the day that I met Mas, an overo Colonial Spanish horse, and the 14 other Colonial Spanish horses, and Pako, the black and white cat. The afternoon that I chatted with the owner, Stephanie Lockhart, on the telephone asking if she needed a volunteer to help out with chores on the weekend. I could say that this was the starting point, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. I will say, though, that Stephanie is the reason for my interest in natural horsemanship–she has been my mentor, introducing me to Tom Dorrance and Pat Parelli, and so far she has taught me the basics of natural horsemanship.
My journey with horses began when I was 9 years old with my friend Jodie Braun. Jodie and I lived in the small Albertan town of Rocky Mountain House. Our houses were located near the end of a development that was surrounded by fields and in those fields was a herd of horses. Jodie and I would walk around the horses, petting them and naming each one, and eventually we even had the guts for me to hoist Jodie atop one of the horses, Carrot. The herd was startled and took off and Jodie was able to jump off without getting hurt.
During that time we would visit Jodie’s dad, who raised thoroughbreds. Initially, he lived in an area where we could only ride in the arena (which was probably a good thing). Even though the horses were young, easily spooked, and barely trained, we rode them, tucking our jeans into our tall cowboy boots and yelling “ye-haw” while twirling our imaginary lassos over our heads, all the while the horses trotting a little faster in the arena and promptly bucking one of us off. Eventually, Jodie’s dad moved to Cochrane, Alberta, where he had a cabin on the range. It’s there that we went on longer trail rides and learned how to cross rivers and gallop a horse through the fields without falling off.
Horses became a part of my life from that time forward, until I graduated from high school and became very interested in rock climbing and outdoor recreation. But they entered my life again when I moved to Missouri and began working at a Therapeutic Riding Center and a Saddlebred farm.
We moved to Vermont about 3 years ago and in that time I have not had a lot of interactions with horses. My main focus was to become a fast, accomplished ultrarunner. My niece who is 7 years old reminded me that horses need to be a part of my life again. It wasn’t something that she said to me but more the idea of me at her age and how I was introduced to horses, and how they were so important to me for such a long time. And how I sort of walked away from them, even though I still felt a connection and deep respect and love for them.
The best gift that Stephanie has given to me is her introduction of natural horsemanship. She has shown me a way to have a relationship with horses that is so different from what I have ever known, and yet it is so fitting. Natural horsemanship skills leave behind impatience, frustration, and the need to control the horse and the situation, and allow for cooperation, playfulness, and positive experiences. The horse and human grow together and have a relationship free of fear.
This blog is entitled “Mas and Me” because Mas was the first horse at The Center to win my heart. I do not own Mas but I do feel a connection to him and look forward to spending time with him when I help out at The Center.
I am excited to embark on this new path of natural horsemanship. I hope you enjoy following my journey and will join me for the ride!