Coming Home

Written by Tara Scott Westin

“Look into their eyes, you will see their spirit. A spirit meant for freedom. A freedom that runs with the wind.”

The Native American Indians of the Great Plains were unequaled in their horsemanship. They were able to outride the best cavalrymen in the American West, earning them much respect and admiration. Their horsemanship skills were grounded in understanding the very essence of the horse. The trust between warrior and horse was absolute, and always as equals. It is in the knowing, and understanding, the essence of the horse which forms the cornerstone of learning horsemanship at RRC.

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On a recent, quiet Saturday afternoon, we had taken possession of one, very handsome grey. Abandoned at RRC by his previous owner, he lived a horse’s life. Paddock by day, stall by night. Mark and Trish made sure he had the comforts of home like every other horse stabled at RRC. His name, ridiculous and lame, RG-2. Who calls a horse by some unknown code listed on the ownership papers? Mark gave him a more proper name of Cloud Rider. He responded well to his name. Mark, however, heard Deborah call him G-Man one day and began calling him the same. He answered much better to G-Man.

G-Man checking out the grass after arriving at JN Ranch (Jan 2017)

During breaks in practice, Mark let Deborah walk G-Man in the covered ring. No lead rope, no halter to guide him except her voice and touch. It had taken weeks for Mark to bring him to this stage. When it comes to horses, those at three years old, with little to no training, are likely all instinct. Teaching options are fewer. Why the previous owner would bring a very raw horse into an equestrian setting is beyond puzzling. Mark thought the best G-Man could become is an escort horse or manager horse, one who would have a calming effect on other horses. If not, a steady and reliable working horse.

After striking an understanding with Mark, Deborah began working more with G-Man. Much of the work was centered on voice commands – forward, stop, back three paces, left, right. Yet, G-Man was resistant in wearing an halter – including a rope one. No halter she explained, “no can ride.” Two weekends later, Deborah was able to convince G-Man an halter was worth wearing. She had shown our horses, and others, wore halters. Whether he gave into her “nagging” or was convinced, it really didn’t matter. He began wearing a rope halter.

from Trish, G-Man wearing his leather halter (JN Ranch, Jan 2017)

Deborah ramped up the instruction, walking and running with a lead rope attached to his halter. Soon, the time arrived to be under saddle. “Unbroken,” Mark said, “it’ll make for an interesting ride.” He slowly mounted G-Man and had him take a few steps forward. After a short break, Mark had G-Man walk the ring for a few minutes – doing the basics he practiced with Mark and Trish, and with Deborah. G-Man passed his first test.

Though Mark and Trish knew he would be coming home with us, there was a little melancholy in seeing him leave. They had seen him progress from a very green horse to one with basic skills. Trish made sure he had his own kit – grain bag, hay net, a pair of customized halters, a saddle pad and a bag of his favorite treats.

While his time under saddle is limited, G-Man continues to do well in learning the basics. Deborah said it is a matter of time when his time under saddle will begin to increase. Since coming to the JN Ranch, being around our horses, and the ranch horses, it has been a good experience and influence for G-Man.

contemplating the future: Deborah and G-Man (JN Ranch, Jan 2017)

What ever his future maybe, G-Man, formally known as Cloud Rider, will undoubtedly have a good one under the steady hand of Deborah.

About the author

Tara Scott Westin is a fifth year senior attending the University of Colorado. She will be graduating this coming May with a BS in Biology (Microbiology). She graduated with honors from St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Colorado Springs in 2012.

A highly decorated rider with the Rustler Riding club, Tara has won multiple blue ribbons and other placement ribbons with her horses, Brie, Cameron and Candace (Happy Girl). In 2006, she was named Comeback Rider of the Year – the only non-competitive rider in Rustler Riding Club history to win this award.

“Ride now, ride forever”

A New Addition

Practice was going poorly with Comet, so it seemed. Clearly frustrated, Deborah asked to take a break from the session. Once dismounted, she flung off her helmet. Walking over to it, she kicked it over a fence panel at the opposite end of the practice ring. It is not often Deborah expresses her frustrations. After Elizabeth finished her round, I motioned for her to check up on her sister. They sat together, quietly watching Tara work through the complicated circle exercise. Not a word was exchanged between the two. A few moments later, they hugged and walked over to Trish. My girl had regained her composure. After talking with Trish, Deborah remounted Comet and flawlessly rode the exercise twice through.

While sitting alone, Deborah had taken notice of a handsome grey in the adjoining corral area. He was studiously watching the practice session in between his munching. It was like he understood everything – all the actions of a hunter/jumper going through the paces. The grey wandered off into another part of his corral to take in more of the September sun.

On the way home, Deborah worked on making the troublesome circle exercise course more difficult on her tablet. She asked Elizabeth and Tara for their input on the adjustments. A couple phone calls to Trish, the following week’s exercise course would be more demanding and possibly with a time limit. During the last call, Deborah asked about the handsome grey.

The grey had been abandoned at RRC when its rider/owner suddenly dropped out of the advanced riding class in early summer. Since that person did not return any of Mark’s calls or responded to his letters, he decided to keep the grey. The grey was going to be a project for Mark. He had not been under saddle nor halter trained, and only allowed to have a loose lead rope around the neck. Having a three year old, with a blank slate, is an exceedingly rare opportunity.

G-Man indoors after having his mane and tail trimmed (RRC, Oct 2016)

During the following week’s practice, Deborah made an offer – she would take the grey, train him, keep him as a forever horse pending clearance of the abandonment period and a vet check. Mark thought about it for a few minutes and said he would take the offer. One condition – if the grey proves too much to handle, Deborah is to return him. A handshake deal is made.

It is not like we need another horse. He’s willful, tall, and very muscular. His new name, G-Man. It is only fitting since we have a Secret Agent Man and a Starfleet Captain (Andrew). Will G-Man become a hunter? Only time will tell. But, since that September weekend, G-Man has adjusted to wearing a loose rope halter and has been under saddle three times with Deborah, once with Mark and once with Trish.

G-Man will move down to the JN Ranch soon as he clears the abandonment period on December 19. He has already passed his vet check.