Monday, June 15, 2015

First Wrangling Lessons

Today I got a taste of wrangling and thankfully within a 200 acre fenced field.  After walking the entire length of the field, I finally found the horses taking shelter in the trees.  I brought a halter thinking I would test my skills and go for the capture of one horse to bareback em all back in to the barn.  As I approached they all ran in the opposite direction of the gate and alas I was unsuccessful in my plan.  I jogged to keep up but they ducked into the trees and the little buggers lost me.

I thought to myself imagine doing this in the pitch dark at four in the morning up a mountain with 2000 acres for the horses to roam!  I caught up with them again at the end of the air strip.  They broke off into two groups and started to run away again.  Huffing and puffing I chased the larger group hoping they would head to the gate as I could not get in front of them to cut them off.  They took off back to the other end of the pasture again.

By this time I was exhausted but determined to catch my horse.  I gently approached the group and managed to slip my halter around one of the horses.  I hopped on his back and there I was this my wrangle horse.  What to do now?  I got behind the herd and they all started to run towards the gate.  I followed behind in a really fast trot.  I held on to the mane and squeezed with my inner thighs for dear life.  There was no way I was going to fall off.  I tried to smooth out the ride by giving him a kick to move into a lope and he gave me three huge bucks in return.  I held on.

We started to move faster and faster.  There was still a ways to go but my strength was diminishing.  Finally we got close to the gate and I hopped off while the other horses made their way to the coral.  I saddled the wrangle pony and made my way back to bring home the remaining stragglers.

My wrangling dream finally came true and for the first time ever it was an exhilarating albeit frustrating experience.  Afterwards, I helped the cranky female guide who never really wanted my help.  I got her oats, her lunch, her water and then stood around with my hands in my pockets.  She told me that she was going to eat more sugar so that she could sweeten up.  Wow, she knows she is a hard ass and I suppose she is working through her own issues just like the rest of us.  She has a lot of pressure as a guide and has become hard and tough over the years in this man's world.

I opened the gate for her as she left and wished her well on her journey.  She wished me 'good luck' as she set out on her ride with her string.  I am going to do my best to keep a positive outlook not only here but at home as well.  As the cook said, ' we are all civilized human beings and should be able to communicate with one another'.  My tendency is to bottle it up and to let it burn and fester inside me.  I know I have to get better at effectively verbalizing my feelings ... again both here and at home.  I'm going to keep trying to deliver my messages in the right way so everyday can be full of sunshine even when it is pissing rain outside.

Wrangling Lessons:

1.  Keep the herd together.  Get behind the last horse and chase them all together.  The whole is more than the sum of its parts.
2.  Don't take shit!  Be assertive with the wrangle horse.  Slow down, turn him in a few circles if he is not listening and make hime do what you want to do.  Use effective body language and commands.
3.  You gotta keep up with the herd to manage the flow.  And think three steps ahead as they will try to trick you!  Positioning is key.  Stay 45 degrees in relation to the herd and push them in the direction you want them to turn.  Think like a horse!
4.  When you're in the dark make sure your headlamp works
5.  Always stick to the trails!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Cowgirl Yoga Moves

Turning work into play - here are a few exercises that surfaced as I was doing my daily chores:

Rolling the Barrel:  Wide legged squats with circular arm circles like you are trying to move a heavy barrel of diesel with your hands from point A to B.

Pumping Diesel:  Set up Warrior 1 legs and imagine taking hold of a pump with the opposite arm.  Make a pumping motion in and out with your elbow at shoulder height to work the bicep and rhomboid.  Switch legs and arms after 20 reps on one side.

Shoeing Horses:  Bend your knees deeply into chair pose.  Squeeze your thighs together with your feet hip distance apart and toes turned slightly inwards.  Either keep your arms at your sides or extend and reach upwards to lengthen your spine.

Kicking the Barrel:  Keep your feet hip distance apart and extend one leg.  Press out and up raising your foot from the ground for 10 reps per side.

Fast Saddle Horse, Slow Pack Horse:  Set up Warrior 2 legs and stretch out your arms in opposite directions.  Then draw the energy back in from the fingertips to the centre of your core.

Ropin' Steers:  Place your legs hip distance apart and circle one arm overhead with your palm turning up and down as your lasso swings overhead.  Step forward with the opposite foot and throw your imaginary rope extending the arm overhead and forward.

Relinquishing Expectations

Geeze!  Things change from minute to minute around here.  I get my heart set on heading out to a spike camp but then decisions from the higher ups revert back ... I am to stay put at base camp.  OK, just try to understand and be content cleaning out rat doins' in the barn, hauling moose quarters from here to there, sorting groceries and fiddling with a broken down tractor.  Your day will come to experience life in the real wild but in the meantime make the best of it and just go with the flow even though this is not what you had conjured up in your mind.  What to do?  The mundane chores drive me nuts!  How am I supposed to swallow my pride and make light of the situation?  I feel stuck and angry and disappointed.

The only thing I think will help to make things better is to just keep going to my mat.  Even though there are days that I am kicking and screaming and all the little demons in my head keep causing me angst.  I should be doing this or would be better off doing that!  Damn it, cut it out!  I am living in one of the most gorgeous settings in the world!

This is my work - letting go of expectations, disappointments, hurts and living a balanced, happy life with gratitude and love in my heart for such a beautiful, quiet period of solitude with good ol fashioned hard work.

It's so easy to get caught up in the negativity.  Gather yourself and count your blessings.  Here are some things to be thankful for:

  • an incredible view
  • a cozy cabin of my very own
  • a hot shower and laundry
  • sunshine everyday
  • a small herd of horses
  • me time
  • physical labour
  • amazing food
  • the smiles of others
  • an opportunity to learn and develop

Sunday, February 15, 2015

My Wranglin Duties

It was all business when I arrived at main camp that first year.  Here's a samplin' of my responsibilities and let's just say I had to suck it up and check my glamorous side at the door:

  • Burn tons of garbage with oil in barrels and empty the ashes into the field
  • Take the slop bucket on the ol tractor and swish it down the river
  • Pull orders of food and supplies for all the other camps
  • Start and stop the generator
  • Look after the horses
  • Stoke the heat more with huge logs you can barely lift and be sure not to singe your bangs and eyelashes off when you open the blazing inferno
  • Meet the plane
  • Clean and organize the shops and tackrooms
  • Pump fuel and roll barrels of diesel
  • Pick up dog shit
  • Weed the garden, fill the water tank
  • Lug random shit, here, there and everywhere
  • Dishes
  • And the list goes on ...

To Main Camp

It was an eight hour ride through eerie forest drenched with moss, light peering through dead branches, rushing streams and steep mountains.  We noticed old grizzly paths and as we toddled along I saw fresh poop full of red berries.  Our leader stopped to smell the fresh pools of urine.  We were indeed following a grizzly or perhaps it was following us. Needless to say the young wrangler was the only one armed with her grandfather's old rifle and my bear spray and bear bangers were packed deep in a panyard.  Stupid me.  

That day, my buddy and fearless leader did not say a word to me and I was finding myself getting more and more frustrated.  I kept trying to let my negative thoughts go by visualizing the cool glacial water luring over my body or picturing myself rolling around in the soft, green moss.  I tried breathing techniques while on the back of the horse and tried to soften my gaze into a Buddhist meditation.  I guess it kinda worked but I was still upset nevertheless.  Never had I been so ignored so much and treated with such disdain.  I tried to understand her perspective and to empathize as perhaps some of her life experiences had given her just cause to put up walls.

We finally arrived at the main camp.  The last straw was when we were almost at the coral and the guide finally found an opportunity to yell at me as my rope had gotten tangled around one of my horse's legs.  "Look out, you are about to have a wreck!" she bellowed.  I scowled at her, fixed the rope and marched off to tie up my horses and unpack.  'Great. Two months of this shit', I thought to myself.  What the hell am I going to do if they assign me as her wrangler?  I'd have to speak my mind cuz there is no damn way I'm putting myself in that situation.  And so my days at the main ranch with the head haunches began. 

Day 3 to the Creek

That cold morning I did my best to saddle my horse and tie my string under the watchful eyes of my guide.  I attempted to help with all the pack horses to no avail as my hitches were redone and criticized by her loveliness.  The others gave me, the newbie a few helpful tips, a couple snacks for the trail and we were off again.  I forgot to remove one of my horse's neck ties which were no longer needed and as soon as we started one of my horses got its leg caught in it - of course!  A wreck was ensuing but quickly rectified as I jumped off my pony and managed to untangle the mess.  

Once again I had no idea where we were going or how long we would be trailing that day but I tried my best to relinquish control (which is not an easy feat for me) and enjoy the scenery.  Six hours later we arrived at another camp with another crew and their clients.  It was early enough in the day that once we got everything unpacked and organized there was time enough to relax and eat.  The cook was quite friendly and happy to have some company.  We hobbled our horses and sent them out to graze for a few hours before catching them and putting them into the coral for the night.

I slept on the floor of the cook shack that night and it was a most welcome spot as it was toasty warm with the fire going.  The cook laughed and called it 'the lunch box' as there we were sleeping with all the food where last year the grizzly had ripped off the back wall to find a midnight snack.  It was finally time for bed and I was so happy to rest my tired and sore body with now a rash developing on my butt.  The cook slept in the back corner with his rifle.  He heard a few noises poking around and swore he would blow a hole right in that ol grizzly if he tried to get in.  I sure did not want to get up and go outside for a pee that night but I had to go with my flashlight in hand and my full moon hanging out at the side of the cookhouse.

Morning came early once again with the job oaf a cook making sure coffee was on, the fire going and breakfast started so the hunters could get off to an early start.  We tacked up, packed up and were off again.  The cook sent three delicious cookies with me which I savoured along the way.  After all our conversations about fears of bears and hardships along the trail he gave me a white opal wrapped in a paper towel for good luck.  I was happy we met.  It gave me a sense of comfort.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Day Two on the Trail Ride from Hell

Now as a communications consultant, I thrive on bettering my team and the project as a whole with as many details and information as possible.  The exact opposite was the case here.  With these two guides in the lead and myself way in the back there was no knowing what to expect at all.  After six hours I finally asked about the plan as we all came to a stop. The female guide sneered, "we're waiting for this grizzly to move".  My heart started to pump frantically ... 'thanks for playing on my greatest fear', I thought.  

The other guy jokingly chimed in, "we're just trailin', trailin', trailin'" ... and trailin' we went.  Up and down and all around.  From meadows to moehills to windy sides of jagged peaks.  Whoa!  There's a few moose frolicking in the distance and oh, what are those things down there?  Elk!  Who knew!  I just knew my ass hurt like hell and I was totally exhausted already.  We kept on going and going with no end in sight.  

Night fall came and we were still trailin' ... leading the horses through some crazy marsh full of sink holes.  I couldn't see a thing.  At that point, I was going on blind faith alone.  Finally around 11pm we arrived at one of the spike camps.  We were met by a 40 year old wrangler and a couple of the guides who were stationed there.  They helped us with our horses and to unpack our stuff.  The young wrangler and I were shown to a dingy old tool shed where we would sleep for a few hours.  It was full of stinky junk but at least it was dry.

The other guide set up his stove and cooked a midnight meal of ribs, canned potatoes and salad.  It tasted so delicious after such a long day.  I was the first to hit the hay while the rest stayed up to chew the fat as pass around a bottle of the Captain.

A loud banging on the toolshed door in the wee hours told us it was time to get going again. I dragged my weary bones and aching hands out of the warmth of my down sleeping bag and into the cool crispness of the morning.