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June 7, 2019: Dispatch for Friends, Old and New

The Horse holds the book, the human turns the pages
Dennis ?

As promised, here is the first long awaited trip dispatch. Pete and I are now in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It took us 14 days to get here. We did dilly dally some. And while on the road we stopped every two hours to water the horses. They fared well and actually enjoyed the attention they got at rest areas, visitor centers, and gasoline stations.

We also did trail rides in Alaska, the Yukon, Idaho, and Washington. We’ve spent the past four days here with our good friends CJ and Dave, the owners of Synergist


Saddles. We last saw them five years ago, when we were doing Tolting the Divide II. This is Tolting the Divide III.

Dave spent a better portion of his day yesterday assisting us with saddle and pack saddle issues. My main concern was Tyra’s saddle, which I claimed sat too high on her back. Dave determined that the problem isn’t the saddle; rather, I am the problem as is Tyra. Dave rightly deduced that because my stirrup leathers were an uneven length (that is on the wrong notches), that I am putting more weight in one stirrup than the other. This is because I’ve been collapsing in the shoulder and raising my hip to compensate. I was at first dismayed to hear this because, of course, I wanted a quick fix. But as we talked, I realized that not only was Dave right, but that he understood the rudiments of having a balanced seat. And as importantly, he builds his saddles with the horse/human body awareness relationship in mind. I was also cheered by the fact that I have not used Tyra’s saddle since January and since that time my alignment has improved markedly.

The other piece of the saddle fit puzzle is this: Tyra is round, like a barrel, and has hardly any withers to speak of. It was for this reason he suggested that I use both a crupper and a breast collar when riding. I agreed, and Dave then made a top strap, so that the latter fits quite well.

I feel a real kinship with Dave and CJ whose ideas about alignment and its importance in regards to saddle fit complement my own. Such individuals are rare, and for me reaffirming. Making this connection is also a part of my life’s work and so our sharing our ideas advances my own.

Today, Pete, CJ, and CJ’s friend/horse trainer Dennis went to the Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse Sanctuary, which is a 50 minute drive from here. I have read a great deal and watched numerous videos about wild horses. However, it was way different seeing the horses and how the adoption process worked. Those working with the horses and burros were kind, articulate individuals who had the horses’ wellbeing at heart. And, I think the horses and one burro on site knew this.

CJ adopted a horse before the day’s end, a well built and amiable fellow she named Smoky. I got to see him ushered into her trailer and released into her home round pen. The process went smoothly and he is already feeling at home. Dennis immediately worked with him for 15 minutes, doing routine things like pen cleaning and scratching his back with the manure fork handle.

The high point of my day was talking with a woman named Nikki who prepares B.L.M. burros for adoption. She had one named Margaret with her. The wild horses were hands off, but it was permissible to give Margaret a scratch on the back and feed her dandelions. I also listened to a talk/demonstration that Nikki gave in the round pen – her ideas about how to educate horses resonated with me. She too does clicker training and uses positive reinforcement nearly exclusively.

I now want a burro. If any of you would like to accompany me next summer, on a long ride, I can pony one of our horses and you can pony Burrito. I am thinking about riding on the Trans Canada trail.

Our trip plans have been dashed by a greater than average amount of snowfall in the higher elevations in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. What to do? I had hoped to do a long, more linear trek, like the long riders do. This isn’t going to happen. Rather, we are going to do a series of shorter treks, first in Wyoming and then in Idaho. And, perhaps we’ll do a longer trek in July in the Bob Marshall Wilderness area.

Next: 157. 6/8/19: Trial by Trail

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