Pony’s Rep Intact

byronThe darling pony, Peppermint, treats every new enclosure as a formal challenge. Her escape antics and subsequent escapades could make up an entire NickerNews category. Read Pep’s stories.

Pep, meet Bryon.

Byron Harward is the kind, generous host at West Field’s Ranch in Payson, Utah, where our six horses have taken up temporary residence. Byron takes pride in his digs and rightly so. His facility is horse- and owner-friendly, designed for efficiency and minimal fuss.
Mr. Harward is especially proud of his locks, a feature he developed himself.

Byron, meet Pep.

The pony must have sensed a weakness in the welding and cleverly applied hind quarters with an equal dose of lip maneuvering to bust loose.
Harward said she didn’t go far. (Interestingly, her paddock mate, Jolene, stayed put, even with the gate open. Read more about the mule here.)

He rounded Pep up without incident and reinforced the gate especially for her.
I think she must have said to Byron (as she’s told me many times):

It’s all good.

Proved you wrong.

Mission Accomplished.
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First mule ride

jolene2Work with the mule was interrupted by cross-country travel, but we still managed several more sessions on the ground this past month.
Now, it was time to move beyond just putting the saddle on the back. It was time to put the rider on the back.

With the help of Steve Peters (who has started several horses), we worked in a small round pen at our temporary digs in Payson. Jolene first got to move around with just the saddle, getting out a few bucks.

I put the rope halter back on her and gave the stirrups a good shake, flopping them against her side and letting her hear the leather skirt slapping against the latigos.

I checked the girth, took a breath, grabbed a bit of mane, put my foot in the stirrup, and pulled myself up. I stood in the left stirrup for a second and rubbed her neck on the right side, letting her see me there, before stepping off.
Jolene, tight and nervous, got a treat and some more rubs.

jolene1Next, I stepped up and swung my leg over. I touched her lightly with my legs and she moved out, humped up and tense.
I made sure there was slack in the rope halter line and grabbed the night latch with my right hand. She scooted out and alternated between walking and trotting. I let her go wherever and however she pleased.

After 10 minutes, we eased to a stop.
I got off, gave her a rub. At Steve’s suggestion, I got right back on and off again.
Jolene got more treats and so had lots of induced licking and chewing.

So far, so good.

First Utah Rides

payson copyWe’ve explored about 15 miles of Utah by horseback since landing here last month. It’s a paltry sum, eeked out from the horses’ temporary digs in Payson.
The biggest difference between here and Iowa and Maine?

Space.

  • You have room to see.

In every direction, you can see for miles. To the north and east of Payson, lay the mountains of the Wasatch Range. To the south is Utah Valley, a large, flat expanse. To the west are the hills of West Mountain butting up against the southeast edge of Utah Lake.

  • You have room to run.

There are vistas in every direction and if your horse needs running room, she’s got it.

We first traveled along an east/west canal that seems to supply water to the thousands of acres of apple orchards here.

Heading east took us under Interstate 15 and towards the Wasatch Range. A lengthy conversation was necessary to convince the girls to go under the I-15 tunnel. It roars with activity and the traffic sounds reverberate even more within the tunnel.

Heading west took us towards a quarry that makes up part of the nearly treeless hills of West Mountain. It was here we discovered our physical condition. Or lack thereof. We made good time, climbing from about 4,700 feet to 5,200 feet elevation.
But asking the girls to do more, would have been too much, too soon.
If they weren’t snorting to catch their breath, they were snorting to take in the new surroundings. Everything was spooky in these initial runs.
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Lombard’s Land of the Horses

Midway through his book, “Land of the Horses: A True Story of a Lost Soul and a Life Found,” Chris Lombard writes about that elusive goal of feel:

When you have a soft feel, there is slack in the lead line and slack in the reins, yet you have a completely focused and immediate connection to the horse.
…All thinking drifts away.
It happens through you…
lombardIt weighs as much as a feather in your hand.
You feel alive.
You feel life.

It took years, we learn, for Lombard to find feel. It took even longer for the Mainer to articulate what it means to him. (Lombard told me ‘Land of the Horses’ was nearly a decade in the making.)
The result is a thoughtful, 212-page memoir containing an entertaining blend of philosophy, horsemanship, and tales of life’s travels and travails.
Before he developed into one of Maine’s most popular horse trainers, Lombard, 39, traveled from his home state to Colorado, to California, to Arizona. All the while, he opened his mind to learning everything he could about horses.
Through horses, we read, Lombard learned about himself.
Through horses, Lombard gained confidence and direction. They shaped who he is today.

It’s easy to get cynical about memoirs. They seem to scream:

Look at me!

Aren’t I great?

But Land of the Horses isn’t that kind of memoir. The author comes off as confident but also humble. He shares lessons through his own mistakes. He offers suggestions without preaching.

Lombard writes:

Before you connect with a horse, you must connect with yourself.

It can be a difficult goal for many of us. Our journeys can be full of pitfalls and embarrassments along with occasional high points and epiphanies.
But when Chris Lombard shares his story, it’s as if he’s saying, “C’mon. You, too, can connect… You, too, can find feel.”

Read more about Feel.

Buy the book.

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