Rewilding the Herd: And Then There Were Five

I haven’t written in ages. At first it felt like there was nothing to say. The long snowy winter was gentle, monotonous; a much needed break from the insane pace of the last year. With all the seasons under our belts the cold wasn’t so alien. Despite ourselves, we have established some systems and built a little infrastructure, and everything feels more managable. The horses settled into their thick wooly coats and carved their trails into the snow, blinking white ice mascara and teaching me more about their incredible resilience in all climates.

Then after a while it felt like there was too much to say. In all that quiet so many incredible moments and thoughts had sprung up that I struggled to hold them as they pooled in my hands and dribbled back to the earth. How could I possibly tell all the tales? What was even worth telling? What should I just let go, and what should be captured and immortalized? Maybe I needed the quiet to seep into my own bones.

Spring came, finally, in fits and starts, nearly 6 months after the first snow. We have a Gitxsan word here to describe “the snow that takes away the snow”: Delugwa. After a couple weeks of Delugwas (and arguments over which one was the real Delugwa), the town and valley folk took to consoling each other. Surely spring would come. It had to. It always does. Doesn’t it?

This spring came with a new horse. Aha! Finally something definitive to blog about.

My oldest childhood friend is moving through some massive life stuff. A few months ago she asked me if it would be possible to retire her jumper, Nacho, on the ranch. She had been trying to sell him for as long as I could remember; back in her competitive days, he wasn’t jumping as high as desired and she wanted to move up in the show ring. But every time he met prospective buyers, something would go wrong. He’d have an “off” day or he’d be suddenly, inexplicably lame. Year after year he evaded being sold, to the point that I began to joke, and then wonder, that he had some other plan up his sleeve. If maybe he meant to stay by her side against all odds.

Turns out he really was playing the long game. I like to imagine he knew exactly where he was going, long before we had even the foggiest. He stuck with his girl like a giant tenacious, expensive barnacle, through the hardest years and right up until the moment that she wanted to truly let him go – not to another owner, but to his well-earned freedom. “He’s worked hard. I’ve put him through so much. He deserves to just be a horse!” He arrived on an April evening.

As we walked him up the drive (after a lifetime of showing, a two day trailer ride and a brand new environment hardly registered on his alarm meter) he craned his long, thin neck to see his new herd. There was something purposeful about him. Not quite anxious, he seemed like he had been waiting for this for a long time. I was struck by his appearance, so distinctly different from the solid, compact, evenly muscled bodies of my four “rewilded” horses. And then I was struck by that fact: four horses of different breeding, age, work history, and training, have all developed in the short space of roughly 18 months (spent moving freely, grazing and foraging on varied terrain, and not ridden or worked at all) a fairly uniform shape. Would our gangly Warmblood transform too?

I had prepared a paddock for him alongside the big horse field, planning to keep him in there for a day or two, then maybe let our quiet boy Falcon in with him to ease him into the social dynamics, before letting everyone out together. But this was not Nacho’s plan. He wanted out, running determinedly along the short fence line when the herd moved even 50 feet away, his lofty trot lifting him with the implied warning that he certainly could jump that teensy fence. And when the herd came back, he kicked out, those Dutch Warmblood hind legs easily clearing the four foot height. My friend and I looked at each other. It was late evening, but past the spring equinox the northern light was holding later. “Should we let him out now?” We both felt a big, clear, unmistakable “YES.”

Here is the footage of Nacho’s release. Spero, lord and protector, impressed me with both his work ethic (keep the new guy away from the girls, keep the girls away from the new guy) and his conservative approach (don’t waste too much energy making a scene).

When Amalia and Spero were introduced to Firefly’s future daddy, a wild mustang off the range never broke or “gentled”, they were run ragged for 24 hours. Jack of Diamonds chased them at high speed until they were all slick with sweat and bug-eyed, lashing out with hooves aimed to do damage whenever anyone slowed or took a poorly calculated turn.

But Spero’s heart isn’t in violence and derision, it’s more tuned to, say, multiple long naps in the sun or avid mutual grooming. It was almost as if all five horses were performing a ritual, an ancient dance they all knew the steps to, but the outcome had always been decided. Nacho never wavered, never questioned his belonging, but took care not to overstep. The herd moved him off, moved away, and flowed back to him like waves on a beach, gradually shrinking the space between them all.

The next day, the mare-folk were approaching Nacho on their own, quite clearly brought into heat by his mere presence.

Five days later, Firefly stole Nacho, taught him how to climb through damaged barbed wire, and took him on walkabout up the valley road! When they reunited with the herd, the stress and relief apparently called for a pool party – I’d never seen any of these horses play in water before:

All this time, the big horse would not speak to me. He would only approach me if he thought I had food, and it was very clear that was all he was after. He knew he was meant to be here but he wouldn’t acknowledge me, just another human in and endless rotation of humans. I wasn’t his girl, and I wasn’t his new herd, so I was nobody. Two legs, busy appendages, loud and loathesome and hard to read. Keep away, keep away.

There is a kind of magic in doing nothing, something I’ve learned from my own horses and from many spectacular humans. I need nothing from this horse, and he clearly wants to be here. So I watched him bond with each of his new herd members, suss out the goats and pigs, and insert himself solidly into the farmscape. I’ve really never seen it go so smoothly; within days it was like he’d always been here, save for the occasional half-hearted lunge from Spero. I don’t witness much in the way of static hierarchies or “pecking orders” in our herd (herd dynamics are far richer and more nuanced than military-style chain of command), but it’s true that there is a customary line-up for breakfast bowls according to who will take what kind of abuse from whom. Suffice to say that by day seven, Nacho was third horse from the gate instead of fifth.

It was on the eigth day that the big man came to me, picking me out as I wandered the field and finding a quiet moment while the rest of the gang was occupied. It was the first time he’d acknowledged my existence, so naturally I was curious when he made eye-contact and headed my way purposefully. He stepped into me; I stepped back. Then I slowly reversed the energy, and stepped towards him while he stepped back. We traded back and forth a few times, secured by a thick rubbery band of ki, or energy. It wasn’t a conversation about pressure, dominance, or personal space. It wasn’t a preconceived ritual. It was a spontaneous movement, a strange little dance that meant nothing and everything. He then asked me to rub his withers, shoulders, neck, and finally head. Then he licked and chewed and yawned and stretched and licked and chewed and yawned.

I knelt down close in front of him and let him smell my head, inspect me at will. On his front legs there are white trauma marks, two on each cannon bone. I had asked my friend about them and was told that while she didn’t know for sure as he had come into her care with them, she suspected they were the result of yet another training abuse I had never heard of. Apparently, if a horse is knocking down rails or not lifting his legs as high as they’d like him to, one method used is to set a jump standard’s top rail on a strong spring. A helper stands by the jump and when the horse makes his jump, the helper releases the spring and the rail shoots up, slamming into the front legs as they pass over. Think of the pain of a sharp and unexpected blow to the shins – in this case, hard enough to take the skin off. The horse would now be wise to assume any rail could, well, jump at him at any time. Theoretically, he’ll now jump higher to avoid it happening again (or refuse to jump anything, ever – the undesired and completely logical response).

The story stuck with me – yet another baffling, ingenious human invention to force meaningless performance through fear. What else has he endured? Feeling led by him to acknowledge the marks, I set the tip of my thumb to the bright white fur on his left leg and sent ki, a neutral flow of life energy to be taken or left. He pulled it in as I worked my way down the largest mark, then stepped back slightly to stop me. He took a beat, staring blankly, and then his jaw started working again; licking and chewing and yawning and licking and chewing and yawning. And we were done for the moment.

Soon after, we (he and I) chose the name Nechako, meaning Big River in the Carrier language, and indeed a big river further east in our region. It relates to and honours his lifelong identity (Nacho the hunter-jumper) but opens into possibility, strength, and timelessness. He has always been the big river, and he has always been making his way towards us, and he has carried many souls, and you can feel him slow and widen deliciously as he reaches the mouth, and the open ocean.

Click here for Part 16 in this series.

Rewilding the Herd: And Then There Were Five

19 thoughts on “Rewilding the Herd: And Then There Were Five

  • May 6, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    Wow…this was a real soul grabbing story. What a world we would live in if all the horses could experience this as a grand retirement. I know so much better if they could all just live this way always. So fascinating that he was able to instrument his plan to know that he could arrive at such an awe inspiring place and fit in like he was always there. The release footage was almost uneventful. The water footage looked like a family just going about there day and taking a cleansing bath for body and mind. I am sure the dynamics will continue to unfold and you will have even more tales to tell us. I always wonder how some horses are chosen to receive such a wealth of rich engaging life while others seem destined to live in the grip of confinement and solitude. As life passes by and all of us who want space and freedom continue to send our ripples out into the vastness maybe this number will become greater and greater. Here is to you & the horses and the Wild I am of freedom and adventure. Horses and humans IMO living as they were meant to be…✌🏼❤️🐴

    • May 7, 2018 at 5:20 am

      <3 Michelle, thank you for your as-ever thoughtful and heartful words. I wonder if the dynamics will change or if he'll just settle in more - it's funny, at first I noticed I was a little bit sad that our herd of 4, who had achieved a masterful balance with each other, would have their bonds disrupted. But that's so human - they all have shifted and without any apparent remorse, and their lives are richer for the new input, new personality, new energy. And five looks even better than four out there!

      My sweetie suggested we take on more retirees in the had once crossed my mind but I had sort of written it off as we aren't exactly very visitable, we don't have a vet and we don't give the horses much in personal care. But with words like yours in my ears... maybe there is a certain type of person with a certain type of horse who wants a certain type of freedom for them - old, unridable, or someone's who's person has had a change of heart and just wants them to be a horse.

      Who knows??

      I'm open.

      Much love to you, o wild one.

      • May 7, 2018 at 7:49 am

        I think the great thing about putting a horse or two with you, is that although you’re physically remote, you are VERY active on Instagram and Facebook, so someone would actually see more of their horses and really enjoy the frequent glimpses into their daily life. It may even let them feel closer to their horse than a monthly visit…

        • May 8, 2018 at 10:27 pm

          Yeah exactly! Anyway, we’ll put it in the ol’ Idea Bag for Pondering Purposes…

  • May 6, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    Beautiful. I loved this- the post reflected that wide, expansiveness both physically and spiritually into which Netchako has been lucky enough to step. xx Dee

    • May 7, 2018 at 5:22 am

      …or crafty and determined enough to concoct! Thanks Dee xoxo

  • May 6, 2018 at 11:55 pm

    OMG, such beautiful writing! I so loved reading about your feelings and thoughts about what you went thru (nothing to say, then so much to say! I totally relate to that!), and this story of Nacho/Nechako is such a beautiful, poignant one. What a fantastic place for him to land on. Thank you for sharing it!! <3

    • May 7, 2018 at 5:25 am

      Haha, glad I’m not the only one whose stories come in waves… The hard part is being in the right headspace/physical space to catch them when they float on by!

      Thanks for the words; I think all us creatures are pretty happy to find ourselves here together 🙂

  • May 7, 2018 at 12:50 am

    Oh Kesia I have been wondering when we would hear from you again!

    Much love to this beautiful boy. My eyes are very moist as I read this tale. Yet again reassured that I have made the right decisions for my own horses. Your herd’s story and Jini’s 2 herds are constantly confirming to me that my horses are my soul family and that it’s ok to keep them without them having to earn their keep. They do so much more for me with their everything their value is in their unity, their freedom and constantly teaching me to be more sensitive.

    Thank you Kesia for this beautiful story. I would love to hear more of how your relationship with Firefly has developed forward. Did her mother wean her yet? How did that look? What is she communicating to you as she matures? What kind of relationship is she wanting to cultivate with you? Maybe I’ve missed updates! Sorry if that’s the case. Take care xxoo

    • May 7, 2018 at 5:49 am

      Yes Tamara, I become the mole-people for large stretches of time but I’m still here!

      I think I’ve only just started to glimpse how the horses are truly “earning their keep”. It has certainly helped to have them in wide open spaces where I don’t have to think of them all the time. Where they can just be. The other day someone asked me (curiously, not unkindly) the question many of us are used to by now… why I would have horses if they don’t do anything… I usually have a rote, shortcut answer but this time I said, like what? Ride around in circles? Technically that’s entirely useless. It gets nobody anywhere and gets nothing done, and actually creates work. It’s just something humans like to do. So, laying on my back in a sunny field with horses nibbling my ears, that’s what I call a good time. It’s pretty useless but so is riding, so is showing, so is brushing, so is just about everything else people do with horses since somebody first dug up some old liquefied dinosaurs and burned them to make things go…I could go on. Let’s just embrace the fact that horses being “useful” in the old sense is an obsolete concept. And then we’re free to open to anything….

      Firefly! You haven’t missed anything, I don’t think. Like so many things the changes have been so slow that I’ve almost missed them, or haven’t noticed until I’ve thought about it. So thanks for asking, because I do feel we’ve both changed. Amalia still has not weaned her. The day she took Nechako up the valley road, sure enough as soon as she was back in with her mama she had a nice big slurp to calm down. I keep expecting Amalia to stop her but in fact she offers! It’s pretty quick and it’s pretty subtle but she is definitely still nursing. She’ll be 3 in July.

      As she matures, she is becoming the most deliciously beautiful little horse. As an unconditioned young horse she is incredibly willful, confident, and intent on communicating. The aggressive way she demonstrated this for a long year or so is changing; she seems more willing to meet me and others where we are at. I notice there is an edge to her, a cheekiness and a full-on intensity that I’ve only heard described by other friends with other unconditioned young horses. Fly wants in on everything and seems to think the world was created for her. As her aggression fades the intensity remains, like she is boring holes in me with her beady little eyes, watching every move, following closely. I can’t seem to put it to words, how different she feels from every other horse I have known. Like the rest of us are in 3D and she is in 4. Not in a spiritual sense but in a physical sense; she is more Here than anyone else I’ve ever met.

      What kind of relationship is she wanting to cultivate with me? I still don’t know. We are close, close like sisters and also indifferent like sisters. I think she is more a part of me than I realize, and probably vise versa.

      Tell me about your horses. How many? What ages? Have they always been non-keep-earners or have you transitioned from a different paradigm?


  • May 7, 2018 at 10:25 pm

    I very much agree about the old paradigm of ‘usefullness’ where probably all of us are concerned – not just horses, but (in my life) cattle, people, dogs, cats, birds, chickens and pigs. As you may remember I with my husband manage a large cattle station in the middle of Australia – it gets as hot here as it does cold there! Some times it feels like it will never let up! It breeds a resilience and closeness to the country that I have felt here more than anywhere else in the world. We are quite remote and the energy in the air is pure and mostly, innocent. We have no mobile reception and you don’t have to go far to get away from the wifi – we call our station a place of healing! I think it’s important to fill you in a little on our background before I tell you about our horses and what I think about ‘use-fullness’.

    I grew up on cattle stations and never played with dolls or anything much inside. I was always outside and have loved horses with a passion since I was a baby. I was lucky, my dad is a horse lover to. Apparently horse was my first word, and there is a photo of me at 18 mths old spontaneously cuddling a foals front legs – I often wonder at this photo, as this foal was semi feral, like all station horses, they don’t get handled much until they are weaned, so how did this foal come to be ok with me cuddling his legs long enough for my mum to go and find the camera and then take a photo?

    Horses for me have been my friends first and work mates second. I completely agree that going around in circles is essentially pointless, and done just for the sake of being ‘pretty’ is a little ignorant at best. Here our horses have been our partners in a tough land where we have had to get a job done (mustering cattle). Of course they have helped us in many other ways until recently, but this remains, and is unique I think in the cattle industry – horses are still best when it comes to moving cattle in the quietest, most honouring of the cattle, way. I have spent the last 8 years examining as best I could my desires, my horses desires, where does my will end and theirs begin? I need to get a job done, but what right do I have to impose this on my horses? What horse would choose to be tested like a soldier in some of the roughest terrain in the world? Would a horse truly want to be with me to help get the job done?

    Honestly I feel that I can only now answer some of these questions for myself. I believe the answers are very individual and follow the dance of awareness and awakening. Jini and you have actually helped me to also move and answer some of these questions.

    I have learned that yes, my horses when given a choice have chosen to again and again and again to partner with me to get a job done. As I have released them to choice, I have watched them come in without fail, time and time again. It never ceases to amaze me! Their paddock is 10 000 acres and they have many watering points away from the homestead, yet they still come in when I ask if they would like to help me. The more I have opened, up the clearer this line of communication seems to work. The most poignant example I have of this is late last year with a mare whom I have struggled to listen to early in our relationship. She is now 7, I bred her, she is 5th generation mare line in our family, and that family is definitely soul family. 2 years ago (me still getting over my earlier conditioning of dominating horses), I took her out to do a gentle job as she was a really late developer and it was going to be a little day to build her confidence. Of course it turns out to be a much bigger job than first intended. Long story short, as I am ashamed at how I handled her then, she was frightened (which I knew), but due to the huge amount of stress I was under at the time, I made her complete a job she was ill equipped to carry out. I apologised, as I realised what I had done and told her that she will never be made to do a job ever again. This was really the catalyst for true change within me. Where I truly gave the horses choice. Fast forward to late last year. Her sister, who loves, loves, loves to work was out through injury. The aforementioned mare has since forgiven me (it never ceases to amaze me their depth of character) and she forgave me unconditionally. It was very humbling. She has continued to ask to be ridden. She gets a lot out of it when done right – meaning I am fully present with her and very conscious of what I am asking and how I ask it. She was born very uncoordinated, held herself in a strange kind of posture and couldn’t canter – she cross gaited terribly. With some exercises and a lot of time through working together she is excited that she can now even gallop (I have seen her blissful freely testing this out in the paddock!)

    So this day late last year I needed to get a job done. I say to her that she defintely does not have to come, it is going to be a huge day – massive mob of bullocks, big bullocks who have little education, no fences to help control them, lots of galloping, many miles and 2 choppers. I say it doesn’t matter, if another horse doesn’t step up I’ll just ride the bike, no biggy! Well that morning she is waiting over at the stables. My husband is there first and he is clearly instructed to put her in. He informs me and I am amazed. I promise to keep her safe. I promise to listen to her, and explain that it will still be tough. No worries, we saddle up, pack our lunch and load up in the truck.

    The bullocks were indeed tough! And she galloped her big heart out! I remained conscious of her the whole time and didn’t compromise her integrity once – and you know what, when we finally got those bullocks under control she was all over them. She was choosing to continue to block them, to gallop across the lead, stop at the right time and push them back – and she did it all with fire in her belly and spirit in her soul! In her mind as in mine, we were partners, working together doing something neither of us could do on our own! My husband commented that it was impressive to watch a horse work in that way, with their soul and spirit fully intact – or so we think, in our opinions.

    This is not the first time I have witnessed horses coming in to be with people in this work environment and I have wondered many times why? Why do they continue to be with us? I believe it is their quest to meet us where we are capable of it so they can lead by example true emotional and spiritual maturity and intelligence. I don’t for one minute believe in the torture that often goes with uneducated people and horses and especially the competition industry – although I have seen many horses ok with competing as well, would they do it if they chose it? I don’t know, but I keep seeing examples of them meeting us where we’re at everywhere. And my mare, well, her name is Kachina. She was born under the blue star signalling in the new Mayan calendar. I believe the Hopi Indian named this star Kachina (don’t know if I spelled this right) and that is a little of her story. In many ways she ushered in a new era in my life.

    We have 15 horses in total. All breeds. And they are my family. Thankfully I now see their worth spiritually to me and they don’t need to prove their worth through working. I had actually felt this way first, but was taught not to have this thinking. They still come working from time to time, but not often. Most enjoy being ridden and having their bodies exercised. I always keep in mind what you wrote some time ago, about being in a unified dance with your martial arts instructor and the joy in that and wonder if this is what they are wanting when we ride? I remain open and constantly work on pulling my ego back and seeing what I had been unable to see before. My horses also now choose to work with me when working with youth at risk through EAL, that is a wonder as well.

    Well I hope that this epicly long reply doesn’t bore you. That it’s not too much information, that it’s appropriate. I am very curious about Firfly’s journey because I want to see what she chooses with you to. I love how it is right now and your allowing of her helps to continue to open me up also. I also have a 3 year old gelding, whom I have handled differently to Firefly, but still with choice. And he is asking to be ridden. He wants to do stuff with us, and I don’t know what else. I am hesitant because I have much trauma when starting young horses and I don’t want to subject him to that. I think maybe that might be part of his gift to me. That he is making me work through this trauma by staying true to who I really am on my inside. I think he is leading me ever deeper to myself. Time will tell.

    Oh gosh! I have spent an hour on this without realising! Again, I hope that it’s appropriate in the sharing of so much detail.

    Thank you again Kesia xxoo

    • May 8, 2018 at 4:21 am

      Oh I’m sorry Tamara, this is just SO GOOD I have to jump right in here! I LOVE LOVE LOVE your story of Kachina – and everything you’ve written here! I cannot use enough exclamation marks to express the thrill of being able to enter your world from your open-hearted, brutally honest, spiritually questing viewpoint. Just FANTASTIC!!!!!!! And thank you so much for taking the time to write so much – I wish you’d written more! 🙂

      From what I’ve observed, if a “job” can be treated like, and carry the energy of, an “adventure” then all animals (and kids!) are IN. Jobs are hard-goddamn-work, they are contractile and slog. But adventure, OR the pursuit of a common goal are stimulating, invigorating and expansive. Yes, they are hard, sweaty, challenging – but the energy of the endeavour is completely different. It’s why people who want to be Marines love bootcamp. Why people who train martial arts, or gymnastics, or basketball love the sweat, the gasping breath, the sore, aching muscles. It’s the difference between an Olympic athlete and a slave. Both ‘work’ equally hard, and suffer as much – but one is lifted up and the other obliterated.

      So when you come to your horses with this invigorating, adventurous-challenge energy (NOT servant/slave energy), I can see how they might LOVE to get in on that. The key (I think) is where you said, “I remained conscious of her the whole time and didn’t compromise her integrity once.” That is what I’ve found to be the deal-breaker with my horses. If Zorra asks me to get off her back and – for any reason – I don’t immediately comply, then we’re done. Because I just broke her trust, I compromised her integrity as a sentient being who OWNS her own body.

      The last thing I want to say is that I don’t think we can have a conversation about horses choosing to give us rides, without looking at the biology/physiology of the equine. There is not a single breed of horse whose bones have hardened, or growth plates closed until FIVE years old – at the very earliest. Most breeds are not even physically capable of bearing weight, without being deformed or injured, until 6-7 years old. Here is the science:

      So when we want our horses to be FREE to choose whether we go riding together, or just hike or play together, we need to make sure we are not getting on their back before they can even physically bear weight. If you don’t get your horses young or wild, someone else has already f**ed this up for you. So if being ridden causes pain or discomfort due to injury or deformity – much of the choice to get with a human in that way has already been taken away. It’s amazing to me how even trainers who tell people this information, will still start a horse at age 3 or 4 – justifying it by saying, “Oh I’m not on there for very long at any one time, so it’s okay.” Because… they’ve done WHAT MRI’s, x-rays or bone scans to confirm this??

      Here’s another piece Zorra just shared with me recently. She wants my daughter to ride her, but being ridden hurts her back. So she asked me to create a series of weighted pads – starting at 40 lbs – and put them on her back when we go out hiking, so she can gradually strengthen all the muscles and micro-muscles involved, whilst gradually increasing the weight burden. Bloody brilliant idea!

      I thought to myself, what the hell are we doing with horses anyway? Let’s say a human wants to climb a mountain and the climb will take a week (so needs to pack/carry lots of gear). We don’t go out on the first day of training, and start hiking with a fully loaded backpack, do we? No, because then we would injure our back and have to put our training on hold! We start with a manageable amount of weight in the backpack, and gradually build up the weight over time – as our muscles strengthen and the micro-muscles needed to balance strengthen. So why would we slap a saddle on a horse for a few days or so and then BOOM a 150 lb human – and expect that to work well?? Honestly, yet one more reason why it’s always better to listen to our horse, and let the horse be in charge!

      p.s. I get such a kick out of you calling 10,000 acres their “paddock” 🙂

    • May 8, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      Tamara….Thank you so much for sharing your story. It confirms what I have come to believe that some horses really do enjoy the dance and partnership with humans…even while being ridden. Every individual is unique and also every situation…when we are open to the possibilities that come with each new glorious day life can surprise us. My situation is so far removed from yours but one of my horses Bullet gave me a gift a few days ago of saying it was ok for me to ride him home after we had went for a walk about 2 miles away. Bullet has never been a horse that particularly liked being ridden but his giving nature allowed us to do so until he got a screw in his frog and then that was it for him. I have not ridden him in almost two years…he is very clear about not being ridden as he will try and bite your foot when you mount and then just not go…his determination is unwavering. So now we play at liberty and he has embraced it like a duck to water. He thrives on learning and trying to impress me & more importantly himself. It has been some of the best times in my life getting to play with him. His gift to let me get on and ride a few days ago was really surprising to me. But I could tell he was just in the mood to give me that gift. It was glorious and I told him over and over how much I appreciated it. Of course being the greedy human I am I wanted more so a few days later I tried again but it was forced and he was not happy. I just had to try to see if maybe this was a new beginning back into riding for us…but appears it was a gift for that day. Who knows maybe there might be another in our future but I will let my expectations dissolve and just keep appreciating him for who he is in eqch moment. Thank you again for such a wonderful glimpse into your world. It sounds rugged and raw and wonderful. So grateful to get to read and share life experiences with this amazing group. ✌🏼❤️🐴

      • May 8, 2018 at 9:54 pm

        “greedy human” – SNAP! oh so very true Michelle!!

  • May 8, 2018 at 4:53 am

    First off, it is ALWAYS SO APPROPRIATE to share your stories! And I want to thank you thoroughly for yours. Every post is simply an invitation for conversation; I am delighted when I get to learn as a result of having word-vomited my own stories. There is so much sparking in my little brain from all that you have said and I’m sure I won’t get it all out…

    I of course remember your discussion of the honourable harvest and your incredibly wise and thoughtful words of encouragement as I have embarked on my own version thereof. I think it is it’s own kind of powerful that you have lived this particular life, held yourself accountable not only to the traditions and the lifestyle but also your own intuitions and convictions, and are treading this vast, razor-thin edge through it all. Many people go from one extreme to another; still more turn away from their questions for fear of everything crumbling. Or worse, explain and justify in ways that don’t require them to change anything or face their fears of the unknown. You have opened your heart and your mind and held them open despite the blistering heat of the landscape and the truths they hold. For that I thank you and encourage you to keep sharing your tales, because it is this kind of honesty that we need, now more than ever.

    I am not a purist in any sense – as you know I don’t disbelieve the idea that horses (and dogs, pigs, humans, whoever) may enjoy certain types of work with certain types of people in certain scenarios. Given a choice, many of us throw ourselves even more energetically into our work if it holds meaning for us. I love that you ask, allow, and keep asking. I wouldn’t deprive someone of an activity they enjoy simply out of principle!

    I grew up in the city and felt my way out of it; where we are and what we are doing is wild to many but in my eyes relatively very tame, very privileged. You grew up in a distinct tradition and different culture; what it comes down to in my eyes in authenticity. I can’t make a horse do things because until they are meaningful to me, they can’t have meaning to my horses. I can’t rightly ask them to perform any particular tasks because they don’t truly need to do them here; until there is something (we think selective logging might one day be of interest to us and, possibly, to the horses), my asking is inauthentic. Why should they respond? Nor have I ever been a good enough rider technically to truly exalt in the beauty of that kind of dance. What you describe, of horses still being the best way to move cattle, I can understand. I can also understand why moving across the land in search of the herds with someone you love and trust could be fun, exciting, well worth the weariness and tender muscles.

    ((Remind me to tell you of this most wonderful dialogue I had with a friend who is vegan – I’m too tired to get into it now but I think you’d find it very interesting in terms of honesty, personal truths, and owning one’s own stuff.))

    There is so, so much difference between meaningful labour and meaningless, ego-driven slavery. I work every day to keep the farm alive and slowly evolving. Force me to do the exact same labour for someone else, without good pay, without choice? No thank you. None of my horses ask to be ridden (well, they have, at moments, but these days, no way). The elders lived through too much unpleasant, meaningless riding and the youngers haven’t seen it done enough to care (although Fly sure likes it when I have ridden someone else, because it means I can keep up on our adventures).

    I’d be so interested to hear more about (everything, but particularly) your young one – it sound like he will have his way and teach you something brand new and particularly fabulous. If you do decide to start him and want to debrief as you go, I’m your gal – something to consider 🙂

    Finally (not finally, but I can’t remember all my other thoughts right now), if you do want to share wider, we would love to have your story/stories as guest posts here. Another thing to consider. We could use what you’ve written here to start…

    Well now I am longing to visit. Australia is now firmly on the bucket list! Keep on shining/burning/expanding,


    • May 8, 2018 at 5:07 am

      LOL – Jini and I replied at the same time! You got us both so excited 🙂 🙂

  • May 8, 2018 at 10:25 pm

    Ladies thank you for your replies! I am very moved! I am super busy today but will make time tomorrow to get back to you properly!

    Thank you for sharing the love and the journey….


  • May 10, 2018 at 10:21 pm


    You are living a dream-life by my standards. Your descriptions of your horses communicating a desire to be with you even when hard work is in the plan- is wonderful to read. How inspiring.
    And clearly with the amount of space available to them, they can choose to be with you or not.

    They are incredibly social animals of course, and don’t ever leave each other willingly, unlike us humans who typically show up, do stuff and leave. They often seem to be as curious about us as we are about them which undoubtedly helps our relationship with them.
    I find them to be one of my life’s greatest blessings.

    In my view of the world, they, like us were created by an amazing God, who made them extra special among the beasts.

    Clearly the people in this group take their stewardship of the beauties very seriously which I appreciate and do as well.

    Tamara and Kesia –Thank you for sharing the insights into your relationship with your horses. Truly lovely.

    Michelle Wright
    Colorado, USA

  • July 2, 2018 at 2:47 am

    You write so well. I always love to hear your stories. I’m glad the Big River has come Home.


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