Horse Trainer Reflections

I know that all things must change.  Change is one of the basic rules of nature. The Universe is dynamic…not static. The Earth is just a tiny speck in the Universe, but it is controlled by, and subject to, the same set of natural laws that rule all the stars in the heavens.

I did not make these rules that we all live (and die) under, and I am not responsible for the way things work (or don’t). But as I have gotten older I find myself more and more wistfully mourning the human-wrought changes I see taking place around me.

What our society is doing to our little planet in its attempt to dominate and subjugate it, instead of learning to live in balance and harmony with it, is a sure fired formula for our own alienation, and eventually inhalations.

For fourteen years now I’ve been able to live in an absolutely fantastic environment, my own private personal paradise for breeding, raising, and training our Paso-Pleasure Horses. West Gait Equine Learning Center is our own little ranchette here in the Grand Valley of Western Colorado.

My wife, Maria and  I are not wealthy enough to own a substantial amount of acreage ourselves, but until recently we’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by miles and miles of wide-open space, keeping nosey neighbors at arms length, and giving an (artificial) feeling of peace and tranquility to our everyday existence in our humble homestead.

Our home place is a mere six acres, an un-irrigated chunk of high dry desert dirt, a plot of bare ground with a simple, single story, four-room log cabin sitting smack dab in the middle of it. The cabin was built around the year I was born.

By today’s standards, it’s tiny, barely big enough to house the two of us, our five cats, and our two Pomeranian dogs. Our four other dogs are content to live outside, under the covered porch by the back door. Our sixteen horses live all around us, in various sundry pens and paddocks. Like I said, it’s been our little personal oasis from the World at large.

Although our chosen cowboy lifestyle is undoubtedly a little too rough and rugged to be held up as an ideal for most modern Americans, Maria and I relish the independence and unencumbered simplicity of our somewhat primitive and unconventional existence. When it comes to personal possessions, we have little…and (fortunately) needless.

But when our lifestyle is sized up against the satisfaction gained from being in control of our own daily doings, living life with little correlation to, or interference from the work-a-day nine to five world, we count ourselves as truly rich indeed. All in all, I guess I have little room to complain. I promise I won’t stand at the pearly gates and say: “Oh St. Peter, if only I’d worked harder so I could have accumulated more!” Frankly, I think the world would be a  much happier and healthier place if we all played more and worked less.

I am a very private person; a loner. I can count my close friends on the fingers of one hand. I get along with myself better than I get along with most people, and consequently, when I’m not working, I spend most of my time alone. I often joke that:”I never socialize unless I’m paid for it”, and although that line always gets a good laugh, it is founded in truth.

Many of you know me because you’ve seen me perform as a speaker/clinician at one or another of the many major horse fairs and/or expos held here and there around the United States. Of course, these events hire and bring in people like me in order to (hopefully) boost audience attendance (and profits) for the show producers. Different clinicians have their own defining disciplines and, accordingly, individual claims to fame.

If they’re any good, over time they accumulate their own following of fans and ardent admirers. That’s showbiz. I’ve been promoted as “America’s Favorite Pleasure-Trail Riding Clinician, Your Learning Leader for Equine Adventure” for many years now, a title that has served me well, and brought me in direct contact with thousands of enthusiastic horse lovers… especially my fellow trail riders.

As a minor celebrity, in return for the name recognition I’ve received, I’ve tried to do my best to present what I’ve learned in the school of hard knocks, what I call Horse Handling-Horse Sense; my brand of experience-based, no-nonsense, down to Earth, easy to understand, compassionate conservative horsemanship.

My goal has been to promote the well being of horses and facilitate the enhanced enjoyment of pleasure horse owners and trail riders. I’ve worked toward that outcome by teaching Training for Trail Riding, Sit-Down Equitation, and Synergistic-Synchronistic Riding, as well as Saddle Fit and Low-Impact Horse Camping. As many of you know, I specialize in Paso and naturally gaited horses, the kind I’ve been breeding and raising for over twenty-five years.

I’ve also been a vigorous voice in the wilderness, calling out for the development and maintenance of trails for trail riders, while promoting an environmentally sound set of trail use ethics. I want all of us to be able to participate, as well as protect and preserve the backcountry we love to ride in. I have enjoyed my position of prominence in the public eye. It’s allowed me to act as a point man for promoting our equestrian sport…trail riding.

For me, it’s been a privilege and pleasure to be able to feel that I am performing a worthwhile service, making a positive contribution to a cause I enjoy and believe in. Unfortunately, unlike more urbane sports like golf and tennis, fortune does not automatically follow fame in the cowboy equine world. That’s the desired outcome I’m still working on!

But, that’s only part of my story. That’s my “on the road” life… my public persona. At home, things are different. We lead a very quiet lifestyle. We prefer and protect our privacy. Our day-to-day existence revolves around our horses, dogs, and cats. To us, they’re family. They give us more than pleasure — they give us a reason to get up in the morning. Here we lead such a physically full lifestyle that we have little time (or energy) left for socializing.

Add to that the demands of our Have Saddle-Will Travel business and we have little time leftover. In fact, we live like a couple of hermits, following a daily routine that beings and ends with horses: feeding, inspecting, and admiring our Paso-Pleasure horses. The last thing I do every night, before I turn in, is to go out under the open sky and count the stars, (making sure none are missing) as I open the pen gates, turning the horses loose to mingle amicably among themselves until morning…when the daily routine begins all over again.

This nightly ritual, spending private time with my horses while gazing up into the heavens, renews my sense of perspective. It reminds me of how trivial and unimportant our personal pursuits are when evaluated against the background of infinite time, awesome size, and the unfathomable space of the Universe.

Life on the road is fast-paced, people filled, and sometimes richly rewarding. It can be invigorating, but exhausting too! On the other hand, being back at home recharges my batteries and realigns my personal priorities. Yes, I’ve enjoyed my life as a cowboy-clinician. But I covet this haven I call home, and I treasure the real cowboy lifestyle it has afforded me now for almost thirty years, a lifestyle built upon, and revolving around breeding and training horses.