It’s-all-Good, level headed with trust, after a huge amount of foundation groundwork. Photo by Pam Asheton

It’s-all-Good, level headed with trust, after a huge amount of foundation groundwork. Photo by Pam Asheton

As photographs go, this looks like pretty dull material. A dark bay horse munching from a haynet, big deal.

In fact, it is a big deal and it’s taken a ton of being super aware, concentrating like crazy on horse-language honed particularly over the last decade due to a few wonderful mentors – and extremely mindful of concepts of what’s known as ‘bio-mechanics’. Ergo, if your horse is in the right frame and shape, his mind too will reflect that. So, if your horse is ‘level-headed’ (that historic expression we humans use so often!), his mind is calm too, that simple.

The fact that this horse, It’s-all-Good, is standing flat footed, calm, level-headed and with me pointing a big nasty black predator eye (the camera lens) right at his head (very bad manners!) and his jaw is relaxed enough he’s stuffing down yet more hay speaks volumes and yes, I’m exhausted!

He’s a wildie colt, one of those taken from the Alberta foothills by a permit holder in the midst of a very controversial ‘capture’ earlier this March after one of this province’s coldest, iciest and relentlessly long snow-filled winters. At the same time I was told about him, a friend directed me to a Horse-Canada online article, about an American ‘Challenge’ being opened up to Canadian horsewomen and trainers.

I’ve been asked, once very rudely by a woman who declined to make telephone contact or come and visit in person, if I had an ego problem, if I wanted to make my ‘mark’ as a trainer. No, I replied, the whole thing was one coincidence after another (a stack of them actually) and the Buddhists, who I respect for a few sound philosophies, remark there is no such thing as coincidence. I’ve lived my life, perhaps way too hard, on instinct and feel (my horses like me for this attribute).

Traveling up to Sundre in relentless four-wheel drive one iced morning, the youngster looked, on the surface, to have a reasonable shape and conformation, good legs and the stout hard feet wildies are famed for. He didn’t run away, he stood and looked brave, I thought, later signing the adoption papers. The adoption included trailering him down 80 kilometres southwards, plus the veterinarian fees for gelding, a necessity for a horse going into a more domestic setting, and a definite consideration on behalf of your neighbours (and, a practical note, of both our fencing).

I’d done a stack of research, about four young men who rode mustangs from Mexico to the Canadian border last year, chronicled in the knockout documentary ‘Unbroken.’ In the States where the Bureau of Land Management is floundering through an escalating population of mustangs, you have creative solutions including the prisoner/mustang redemption programs and another scheme, with some remarkably gutsy women trainers in the ‘Extreme Mustang Makeover.’ They all seemed a little bit more solution minded, more ‘creative’ than a capture process where most of the unwilling participants ended up in a tin can.

So, can he and I end up in Oklahoma in October? I’m not going to fry his brain to get there, that’s for certain but in the meantime, we’re working a huge amount together, two hours a day on average, in snatches of what works, then take the pressure off, come back later. I’m exceedingly fortunate my horses live right around the old farmhouse, very tuned in to where and when I am around.

And, in retrospect I lucked in years back when I wrote a weekly newspaper column on anything and everything equestrian for five years. Horse people in the main tend to be linear, ‘I do dressage’ or ‘I follow this clinician.’ Well, every week I interviewed and listened and watched some of North America’s best, filing copy and photographs; the learning curve was huge, the contacts and networking invaluable. I’m counting my blessings!

The next blog will be highlighting two recent sessions, one-day snapshots plus photographs and what gets done, achieved, remembered in cementing our relationship. I hope you ride along.