Monday, June 17, 2013

Turtles

My second full week at the polo farm was filled with long hours and a lot of learning. It consisted of figuring out the game of polo and the fastest and most efficient way to have eight horses ready to play in an hour. I met more students, players and boarding clients and hired on a young girl who is helping exercise the horses a couple days per week. She rides better than 95% of anyone I have seen and has no fear. She is very polite, hardworking and intelligent and possesses a quiet, calm, gentle but assertive confidence with the horses. Coupled with simple, genuine love for the horse, she reminds me a lot of myself at that age. I can put her on any horse and know she will get the job done. Pretty awesome for someone who can't even drive themselves to work yet!

Tuesday and Wednesday brought some brutal winds and hot temperatures to ride in. Imagine riding straight into a hot blow dryer blasting air at about 25-33 mph for 5 solid hours. Wednesday brought in an eeire, smoky haze from the Black Forest fire that started the night before just south of us.

A look at the fire just hours after it started


At first, the horses wanted to charge into the wind. They all felt good after having Monday off and a few wanted to race each other. By Thursday, however, the wind and the smoke had taken its toll not only on me, but on them as well. The hard-chargers were even on cruise control and settled into a nice easy gallop. Fighting the wind had worn them down a bit and saved my arms pulling back the ones being ponied.

Just to keep it a bit interesting, I stuck my Garmin Edge 500 (the GPS unit mounted on the handlebars of my bike) in my pocket and decided to get some horse numbers on Strava. Click on the link and scope out average, max speeds (remember this is just a slow exercise ride) and the 97 degree average temperature. This particular ride was on my favorite bay mare, Mochatika. Straight from Argentina, this horse is one of the top polo horses, but I can't help but wonder what she could do in the rodeo arena. Getting paid to ride horses like this does not suck!

Friday was the highlight of the week as I was able to take a young horse and help the neighbor (a life-long friend of my boss) move cattle. Too many years (probably 3 or 4) had passed since I had done this. I borrowed a western saddle (because mine was STOLEN this past fall out of a friend's house!!!) and spent the day searching for cattle in draws, along creek banks and in watering holes. My horse, Keke, is an unmade polo horse, she needs some work, had never seen a cow and had never been ridden in a western saddle before, but many miles up hills and across big meadows at a long trot, medium gallop or a good run made for wet saddle blankets at the end of the day. She did very well and I am excited to keep working with her.

A blurry photo from my friend's phone as we were finishing up and riding back trying to stay ahead of the storm


Riding across wide-open meadows has always given me a euphoric feeling of freedom and awareness of the present moment. On the ride Friday, after cresting a small hill at a good speed, leaning back and letting the horse lope down the other side, I came upon a small watering hole for the cows. Surrounded by a four-foot wide, sandy beach, I pulled up on the reins as I noticed the sand was alive with movement. What the....? I moved closer and to my complete amazement I watched no less than 150 small, greenish turtles scurry into the water and swim towards the center of the water hole. In all my time spent in nature either on two wheels or four hooves, I had never seen anything like it. Especially in the middle of a grazing area in a cow-trodden, sandy, muddy watering hole.

I stopped for a minute to watch the kamikaze movement of all the little turtles, silent and mesmerized by  nature's brilliance right before my eyes....

No camera, but none needed for this one. It is stored deep in my heart with all the other life pictures a tangible photo would merely pollute. To my grave I will take this and so many crystal-clear "memory images" of my life.....

I believe I grow and heal on days like Friday. Genuine happiness, contentment and joy fill my heart and stay with me. The sounds of the horse breathing, the grass in the wind, the terrain beneath me, the vast landscape, the wind against my face and the natural movements and rhythm of horse and rider are intoxicating. Nothing I can purchase will ever come close. Only a mountain bike and remote single track can mimic this trance-like experience. I thank God for this part of life and the images I am blessed enough to find, stow away in my soul and cherish forever.



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