I was at camp! A very special, three-day camp called "Women and Horses"--one devoted to women, journaling, and horses. My friend P. runs it at her beautiful ranch, and boy! did we learn a lot!
We learned how to approach a horse to make friends and how to put on a rope halter:
This photo, and all subsequent ones (with the exception of the saddle closeup): courtesy of Horse Warriors (tm)
How to groom them, including brushing them all over, combing mane and tail, and cleaning out their feet:
Man, those hooves are heavy! And the mud and stones get so packed in. It was quite the daily workout.
Speaking of workout, we also learned how to saddle up our horses and put on their bits and bridles, which we did daily. Hoot, the largest of the horses, had the heaviest saddle (below). There are no pictures of me trying to put that monster saddle on, probably because everybody else was struggling, too, and P. was keeping an eye on us all to be sure we wouldn't collapse under the weight!
I swear this sucker weighed 45 pounds!
P. taught us how to safely introduce our horses to all sorts of potentially scary sights, sounds, and feels. Here we are, listening to how we should safely introduce a plastic bag to our horses:
A hula hoop with beads inside it sounds uncannily like a rattlesnake, and it takes patience to teach a horse not to freak out at the sound:
A horse going through the underbrush has to get used to all sorts of things brushing up alongside, like mesquite, low tree branches, and overhanging vines. A foam pool noodle does a good job of simulating that:
Once on horseback, we took our mounts over and through all sorts of obstacles, like a tarp scattered with noisy soda cans:
The unstable surface of a teeter-totter:
Different barriers, made of traffic cones, PVC piping, and fake flowers:
Here is one of my classmates, expertly guiding her horse around a wickedly tight turn. My guy, "Hoot," had to do this on his blind side as well as his good side, and he did a fantastic job.
We also learned to ride bareback! I always thought riding without a saddle was only for the most experienced riders. We were all thrilled to find out how easy it is to feel a horse's movements without all that leather and wool in the way. And it's so much easier for the horse to feel what we ask of it with our knees, feet, and hands.
Here, Hoot and I are supposed to be riding shoulder-to-shoulder with our buddies. We're a little ahead of where we should be. Ooops!
Yeahhh, not so much tandem-ness going on here:
Now, this is better!
I am probably sawing on my reins more than I have to (below), but Hoot was very forgiving. In my defense, this was his blind side, and I was getting him to make a turn to his right around that cone:
How I loved accomplishing something new! Thank you, Hoot, and P!
We didn't spend the whole time in the paddocks or practice fields, either. One day we took the horses out on a beautiful ride up into the hills:
Those helmets don't make anybody look good, but they save lives, so what the heck.
If this sort of a get-away appeals to you, I'm happy to share the information. P loves running these workshops and would like to add more of them in the coming year.
And she liked this photo of me with her horse "Silver" so much....
...that she made it into a print ad for the workshops:
Thank you, Horse Warriors, for all the above photos (with the exception of the saddle closeup).
So, call or go online (info in the photo, above) to learn how you can go on this fabulous retreat in the heart of Cowboy Country.