Friday, December 14, 2012

And The Truth Shall Set You Free

Horse Whisper - written by Davy Rasmussen 
Song Lyrics

I stood on a log and jumped on the horse's back, without any saddle, bridle or seat belt of any fashion to hold me on.  What happened next didn't go quite exactly as planned.   I'll save that little truth for the end.

His mother was a beautiful bay quarter horse with warm chocolate eyes and his sire was non other that Dakotas Poco King, who was a champion Paint stallion that fathered most all of the horses that free ranged in the hollow.   Not long after Ace was born he and I made a connection.  He was just a young foal living freely  alongside his Mom, grazing and swatting flies with his tiny tail the first time I was able to get close enough to touch him.   I used his curiosity of my dog Daisy to lure him a few steps away from his Mom.   Each time I would raise my hand outward to stroke his beautiful coat he would retreat back to the safety of his Mother's love and within her kicking distance.   We played the "come close, go back to Momma" game many times that warm spring afternoon.  It finally dawned on me that I was probably the first human creature he has ever seen and how strange I must look.   All the other animals that his young mind has processed have all been on four legs.    The deer, the horse herd, the coyotes at night, and even my little dog.   So I decided to get down on my knees and hands and do a little foraging.   Lucky for me it was the perfect time of year to nibble on some wild chickweed and winter cress.

The bait worked.   The next thing I knew his warm wet nose was sniffing my hair.  I tilted my head just enough so that we were nostril to nostril and I slightly blew back.   I gave Daisy the hand gesture that I had trained her with for "stay".  She looked back and had that look in her eye as if she was saying "Are you crazy?"  Ace sniffed her from tail to head and moved back to me.   The three of us grazed and hung out together for a couple hours that afternoon and from that day on Ace and I had a brotherhood.

Me with "Bam-da-Lamb"  imprinting 

There were many young foals that followed Ace over the years and I became close with almost all of them.   Larry, who was the farmer that owned, trained and sold these Paint horses had land that joined us, which turned out to be a dream come true.  There was no such thing as a fence separating our properties so his horses felt like ours.  We loved sitting on the porch and watching the painted hillside slowly move their way across, mowing and fertilizing all at the same time.   I often thought of buying little Ace just because he was my first but then I would have that internal battle of  "Horses are a business, don't get attached."  and of course "why buy one, you have your pick of over fifteen to ride at any time for free."

As the herd grew, I became more and more involved.  I created the website for Larry's farm where we sold many of his horses online.  I lent a hand imprinting the foals and began helping train the two year olds.  The training that Larry used was a combination of  "old school - horse breaking" and the newer method of "join up" where a horse is not forced to accept a saddle.   Larry was learning the horse whisper approach from a friend of his named Sam and one day the two of us drove over to see him work with a young colt.   That afternoon changed my relationship with horses for ever.   I vowed to never use force, fear or intimidation to communicate to a horse.  I would learn to whisper.

As it turned out Sam needed a website for his farm too, so I bartered website work for natural horsemanship training.  It wasn't long until Larry and I had our first crop of two year old colts all taking a saddle and excepting a rider without the use of a rope or whip and without even the first buck or kick.  Ace was among that freshman class of horses and my heart sank a bit the day Larry and I took pictures of him along with the others to go on the website.  I reassured myself that he probably would't sell since he wasn't covered in the beautiful paint markings that most buyers are looking for.  One by one his horse-mates sold and the day we had an email inquiry for Ace, Mr. Larry and I sat down and had a little talk.   He cut the price in half and the next thing I knew, we were in the horse business.  

As my knowledge of natural horsemanship grew so did my relationship with Ace.   I could stand on the ground in front of him and with my eyes alone make him turn left or right.  I could use just the tip of my finger against his skin to make him step sideways.   I loved ridding on his back without a saddle and with just the movement of my thighs make him turn, stop or move backwards.   He and I rode countless miles and most of the time I would use a saddle and a non-intrusive bridle.  It was more for my added safety then force, but there were many days when I would use just use a halter or bailing twine around his neck and would slip on his back in the barnyard and we would walk together.

So this brings me back to the day when I'm standing on a log.   It was a warm summer afternoon and I was building the barn that I was making for Ace and the others that we would eventually raise and train.  I stood on the last rung of a ladder nailing up a final board and looked out towards the little field that was next to our farmhouse and saw Ace along with ten other members of his family.  I decided it was time for a quick break and walked down to say hello.   I gave my best interpretation of a horse win-nee and Ace immediately stopped grazing and looked up.  He had heard my "horse hello" his whole life and knew it was me.   I hopped the fence into the field and was greeted with ten warm noses.  I rubbed and spread the love the best I could and when the others figured out that I come without treats they all returned to their foraging and left Ace and I to ourselves.  It was such a beautiful day and it would have been perfect for an afternoon trail ride, but my saddle and gear were all down the road at Larry's.   "Who needs a saddle or bridle?" I rationalized to myself.  "Ace and I are connected and I'm a horse whisperer."   I used my thumb and nudged Ace over to a log where I slowly mounted on to his back.   I leaned over and inhaled that sweet smell of his mane while giving him a gentle squeeze with my legs.  He slowly moves forward.  I apply a little pressure with my left thigh and butt cheek and he moves off the pressure and to the right.  I do the same to the left.   "Let's see if the breaks are working."  I leaned back and moved both of my legs forward, and on a dime we came to a stop.  I leaned forward, took in another sniff and a rub on his neck.  "We truly are one."  I whispered in his ear.  We weaved in and out of the other horses, made figure eights, practiced stopping and moving backwards and then there was a communication among the herd that wasn't shared with me.  Someone decided it was time for a water break and took off at a trot through the field towards Larry's and the pond.  One by one the other horses lifted their head and followed along.  Number nine took off in full gallop, not wanting to be last one to the water hole and that left Ace alone with me on his back with nothing but a pair of butt cheeks holding me in place.   Before I could raise my leg and slip off his side, he bolts and I grabbed his mane.   I bounced like was I was on a ride at the fair and when he made a quick jump to the left to avoid a wild rose bush I became a human torpedo.  By instinct I used my wrists to brace for the impact and came crashing into the earth, rose bush, and a heaping pile of pride.  

During the three months that I wore the casts on my wrists I stuck to the story that I told Sharon about how I fell off the ladder in the barn.  Actually I told the story so much that I believed it too.  Only Ace knew the truth.  I finally came clean to Sharon some six years later and now on days when the weather is about to change, or when its real cold outside my wrists will remind me that I was once a horse whisperer.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Winter's Solace

Song of the Sun - written by Davy Rasmussen 
Song Lyrics

It's 4:30 in the morning and I tiptoe out of bed, slowly easing the bedroom door closed behind me.   I've been awake and lying in the warmth of the quilts and Sharon's body heat since a little after 3:30 and finally decided to embrace the early morning, stoke the fire in the living room and start a pot of coffee.   It's going to take a little while to get back into my winter solace and the rhythm of waking before the sun,  being in the quiet, listening to God, reading a book and beginning my day with something bigger than ME in mind.

December is a bitter-sweet month.   The bitter comes because it is the end of our bed and breakfast season.  Guests with smiling faces no longer wind their way down our drive, the vegetable garden and flowers of summer have long gone, the oranges and reds of the beautiful fall foliage that adorned the hollow just three weeks ago lay brown, cracked and broken like carcasses scattered across the forest floor.   We have been weaned from fifteen hours of glorious sunshine everyday down to less than ten and have been given fourteen hours of darkness in it's place.

I find that the sweetness comes in wisps and slow dribbles through the winter months.   We still have lots to do.  It's not like we can just be like a black bear and hibernate until spring.  There is plenty of work, maintenance and repairs, we still answer phones and emails for next years reservations, make changes and updates to our website and other's I support, cut fire wood, stack fire wood, split fire wood, volunteer in our community, visit with family and friends.  Sharon still works three days a week in an office about thirty minutes away. There's always a new building or garden project too... the wonderful list goes on and the wheel keeps moving about the same speed,  it's just now we can let a few thing slide a little.   We don't have to keep our home as immaculate as we like to have it during the B&B season.  We can leave some things on the counter, old boots by the front door, dust from the fireplace can settle on the mantel and we can root and borrow into our winter nest.

At first I'm resentful of the longer darkness and the sunshine that we've been robbed of, but eventually my body adjusts and I remember how special this time really is.   For me winter becomes the time for healing, for re-alignment, and for reflection.  It's in the darkness of early morning when this magic happens.

In addition to just waking up, sipping a cup of Community coffee,  and reading one of the books that I promised I would read all year, I also love to wake up, sit by the fire and just be still.  I'm a bit rusty at it now and today I have to keep retraining my mind to come back to the present and not think about what I need to do today.   "Breath in slowly and exhale through your nose." I silently remind myself.   Five nice breaths later and I'm beginning to feel that familiar sense of grounding and try to continue.  Then out of the blue I hear that voice in my head say "so do you think you'll have a little mulberry jelly on some of Sharon's home made bread later or just butter....."  WHAT?!!!   "Breath in slowly and exhale through your nose." I nudge myself again.    Ten minutes later and at least five more valiant tries, I decide that the other voice I was hearing was actually God saying that I was a bit hungry and needed some bread to soak up the pot of coffee that I had finished. 

I spread the jelly across the toast, sat down to write a little and reminded myself that the gift of words, art, and music comes directly from my creator.  A book that I recently finished called The War of Art, encouraged me to give back to my source what comes through me in words or music .  What ever our talent is, it comes from someplace higher and not within.   A few moments later I pick up my guitar, say a quick prayer of thanks and ask to let the music I play be a reflection of what is on God's mind.   I softly practiced a few songs and was just about to slip the guitar back into it's stand, when something happened. 

Instead of the standard tuning for a guitar, today I had the guitar strings set to an open tuning, which is something new for me.  I've played around with it some and have managed to make only three chords that to me sounded good together.   For some reason my chord hand slid all the way up the neck of Sharon's Mom's 1966 Gibson guitar and landed on two strings in two new positions I've never been to before.  I strum......."Wow I love that chord."   Two fingers slide down a few frets and press two other strings.  "Unbelivable- I love it!  So now where God?"   Another slide and press and then another and something was truly happening.  

When music begins its birth within me it typically starts with the instrument, followed by a melody that will form in my head and later words.  When I experiment with the melody I always just ramble and make up words and gibberish.  Once I like the melody and have it ingrained enough, I move on to the real words.   Today the gibberish that came out about knocked me off my seat.   I immediately went and grabbed the Ipad and began recording and the song I am sharing today is what my higher power wanted to sing.