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November 15, 2012: Spirit Animals

This morning, Pete, who is now on Thanksgiving break, suggested that we go for a trail ride and added that we should do the big loop. The big loop goes past the Grizzly Camp trail and skirts the Moose Meadows. Most of the time, it’s not navigable. Now that the ground’s frozen, it’s navigable. A few years back I would have sought an excuse not to do this winter ride. This is because back then, I was a more fearful rider. Snow-covered footing was just too treacherous for me to consider. High winds, like we experienced today also gave me reason to pause. Today I didn’t hesitate. In fact, shortly after breakfast, Pete found me standing in the yard, fully garbed for riding. I was wearing my big suit, gloves, and baklava. So he put aside what he was doing to join

me. I decided to ride Signy rather than Raudi because Raudi needs a new saddle. I’ve finally conceded that her treeless saddle doesn’t provide enough back support.

Once out on the first, and easiest section of the trail, I let my mind wander. Joseph Campbell writes about the hero’s quest for self-discovery, and speculates that quite often, animals are our spirit guides. Indeed, I’m now surrounded by spirit guides. I probably need more than most because I’m damaged goods. Every single animal here, that is every chicken, goat, dog, and horse are assisting me on my always exciting, but sometimes perilous journey. There are no critters merely living off the dole around here.

I thought some about Siggi and Signy’s role in the great scheme of things because they were integral to today’s literal journey and to my figurative journey. Siggi is both Pete and my spirit guide. I cannot speak for Pete, but he’s here to teach me patience. I’ve learned a great deal from watching the two interact. For example, we soon came to an iced over section of the trail, a nasty stretch that Siggi previously determined to be unsafe. So, he again refused to cross it. Signy and I went to the left, and put it behind us. We’d shown Siggi that the selected route was safe. However, he did not believe us. I parked Signy and went to cross the ice, so as to give Pete an assist. I remembered, as I was falling down, that I was wearing my Steger mukluks. Wham, my feet went out from under me and the back of my helmeted head hit the ice hard. I ignored the neck and head pain, and looked up at Siggi, who clearly said to me, “See? I told you so!”

I really wanted to do this ride, which was why, with Pete’s assistance, I lured Siggi around the ice using treats. After, Pete climbed back on him. And together the two continued to negotiate the now gnarly trail. There were, on the trail’s entirety, ATV ruts filled with ice, and as well, smooth stretches of ice. Siggi hesitated a few times, but not for long. He was, admittedly, much happier once we got over the section we simply call “creek overflow.”

What most amazed me was (as it always does) how Pete and Siggi work so well together. Pete always keeps a firm seat and a steady hand, and Siggi reciprocates by remaining calm and thinking about where he’s putting his feet. His funky conformation sometimes causes him to slip or stumble. My heart then goes to my throat, for I wonder if this is the time in which he’s going to go down and break a leg. But no, he keeps on going. Both are a testimony to the importance of a horses’ being one with their rider, and a riders’ being one with their horse.

Signy is as much of a spirit guide as is Siggi. The summer before last she proved her mettle by being an ideal pack horse. Pete and I purchased her with me sensing that she’s a spirit horse. She’s since proven to be a very wise presence, being incredibly patient with us both, as we attempted to assist her in bringing Hrimmi into this world. Most recently, her former owner, Andrea Brodie, said that she’s a very independent horse, but once she has your trust, will do anything in the world for you. It took a bit of time, but Andrea was right. Of our four riding horses, I now feel most at home on Signy. She does not ever spook or bolt, but at the same time is very forward.

At times today, she’d take the lead, carefully picking her way around the dog awful ice scree. This, I sensed was a job that required considerable focus. In fact, it required so much mental energy that at times she elected to give herself a break, by falling in behind Siggi. Plus, she had to contend with my momentary bouts of nervousness. At the half-way point I heard what she said, which was to ease up on the reins and let her do some figuring. I did this, and she relaxed further.

The terrain was just one aspect of what in some ways was a very challenging ride. We all also had to contend with gunshots, ATVers, creaking branches, popping ice, squeaky bridges, and flighty spruce hens. Respite came when finally, we came to what I call Raudi’s Trail, a fairly nice stretch that has not yet been torn to shreds by motorized vehicles. Signy, who knew that we were on way back to the barn, picked up a very fast and steady trot. And she maintained it once we turned onto the road home. Pete stopped at the trail/road intersection, and hooked Rainbow up. Signy was so eager to go that she was dancing in place. However, she did not take off, which she could easily have done.

One of Signy’s greatest virtues (and there are many), is that she’s taught me to be more trusting of bold, powerful horses. I now feel that should I get a chance to go to Iceland, I will be able to ride horses that are like her in body and spirit. She’s also taught me the importance of facing the unknown head on. No, Pete and I did not need a fourth horse. And at the time, we did not know what her temperament would be like under saddle. As it’s turned out, she’s an ideal horse for me to be riding in winter. So, extending the metaphor, maybe I should stop fretting so much about the future, and what it might hold. This is something I do a lot, except when in the presence of winter spirit horses.

Next: 341. 11/16/12: Heads up, the Humans are Coming