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.

Here and Now

Some free flowin' thoughts on a snowy day in Terrace a few years ago ...

Where else would I rather be? But right here, right now. Cuz this is all we got and it's beautiful. Who wants to play the victim? Not I. You have to stand up and be strong like the peaceful warrior. Life's lessons are hard however our reactions to the actions can surface in a balanced, positive way. Under pressure, it's hard to navigate all of the thoughts and emotions. By becoming witness, the observer, taking a step back and simply being it just flows.

That's where the connection to Grace, to consciousness manifests and we can truly exist in a state of bliss, pure happiness. Take for instance, a moment with your furry friend - our pets bring such joy that taking time to love an animal connects us back to nature, our lifeforce, the source. They are our guardians. And this brings such a light, uplifting feeling. Natural chemicals are released into the brain and we become more balanced and whole.

No matter where I am or what I do I want to strive to tap into that source - to feel strength, courage, optimism and all those wonderful virtues. Life deals all kinds of cards but you can always call a spade, a spade - in a loving, compassionate way.

Becoming aware is the first step, putting this awareness, intent, attitude into action is the second. Step onto that yoga mat or wherever you are and feel the support beneath the soles of your feet. What's holding you back? You know it will feel good. Connecting all of your energetic lines into the higher cosmos and getting re-charged while loving back. If only we could feel this in our lives all the time and in all of our relationships. But why not? All we got is this moment - so read between the lines, interpret the signs and no matter where you are or who you're with or what your're doing or what you're experiencing approach it with a knowing, trust and deep faith that you are supported by the earth, by something greater, divine and free.

And that this is you and you are it. And it's all one big glorious one.
So there ... LOL.

Why Work for Peanuts Doing Crap Jobs?

Well here are a few reasons that come to mind ...
  • Develop a thick skin and cultivate new coping mechanisms
  • Learn to emphathize and not take things personally
  • Put your nose to the grindstone in hopes of something better
  • Bond deeper with colleagues and learn from others
  • Chalk it up as experience and great content for a novel
  • Learn to let go of the ego and be more selfless
  • Put yourself in other people's shoes and try to understand their perspective
  • There will be other days
  • To penetrate hearts of stone
  • To accomplish the little things
  • To develop patience and better communication

My First Day as a Wrangler

When I imagined my duties as a wrangler, I visualized a romantic image of a cowgirl wearing her dusty jeans and riding happily across the range to tend to her herd of horses.  She fed the horses, groomed, saddled, cleaned tack, cared for their feet and so on and so forth. Little did I know what the reality was actually going to be like.

My first encounter with the two senior guides who were leading the charge into camp was less than reassuring. They could hardly conjure up a smile let alone say hello.  The loading of the horses began into a huge truck.  As soon as they were all accounted for we threw our tack and personal belongings into the back of the rig which was just one huge pool of horse shit. As my bed roll was not protected, my sleeping bag and therma-rest became victim and of course by the end of the bumpy three hour ride were completely drenched at the bottom of the heap. I cried a silent tear to myself. We were off to a great start.

We finally reached the trailhead and unloaded the horses. Each one was soaked in sweat and had worked up a lather from such a crowded and stressful ride. The driver's departing words were, "looks like rain." "Thanks buddy", I thought to myself. So the packing began with a motley crew who were definitely wondering what the heck I was doing there. Oh boy, this should be fun. The pressure was on to show em what I had and my first impression of attempting to lift a 60lb pack box full of oats onto one side of a horse gave the female guide reason to roll her eyes, smirk and do the job herself. No leadership or motivation came from her, just impatience, frustration and the silent treatment. I kept trying to help, watch how she tied her tail knots and assist with the diamonds but all my efforts were to no avail. She did not care for my help and considered me to be an inexperienced nuisance.

I was definitely not used to this type of treatment and was at a loss for what to do. She appointed me an asshole of a saddlehorse so I decided to stick to myself for the time being and do my best to get ready for the journey which was already starting off on the wrong foot.

We tied the horses into mini-strings of 5, 6 and 7 and were off around 4pm with myself and my crew of horses bringing up the rear. "OK at last I can relax", I thought ... except now my saddle horse just wanted to be right up the ass of the horse in front of him and ... oh great, that horse is a kicker and the pack horse that I'm towing, well he just wants to lag behind.  Who knew I was in for four days of tug of war with these two huge beasts. I had to keep drawing each of my arms into the centre of my torso for fear of having my shoulders ripped out of their sockets from the continual pressure of the two horses pushing and pulling in opposite directions.  I kept reminding myself to mimic the biomechanics and mindset of Warrior 2 to try and stay protected and centred.

Since we were off to such a late start, we didn't make it to the cabins which typically would have been the first stop on day one of this particular trail ride.  As it neared dark, we pitched camp by a creek and hoisted a blue tarp with a diamond rope from the trees to create a shelter. Now sleeping in the open air under a tarp with three strangers and a bunch of horses, well ... that was a first.

The fire and dinner were a welcome relief. The other young wrangler and I oated the horses which we tied to trees for the night. I was totally exhausted and made my shit-smelling bed as far from my arch nemesis as possible. 5:30 am came soooo early. I rolled over with the rain seeping into my side and a horse's ass about a foot away from my face.  A new day was about to begin ...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Letting Go

My life in the fast-paced world of Toronto was all about working hard and playing hard and believe me I knew how to play hard.  I was involved in developing web sites and online media for huge corporations, climbing the ladder ... exhausted, cranky and stressed out.  I did however have an amazing group of girlfriends.  We loved our 'Girls Nights' cackling at shows like the Bachelor and we were always there to lend a listening ear.  Weekends consisted of socials, speakeasys, expensive dinners, clubs and people moving in and out of our sphere.  Often times the company we kept felt pretentious, false and scripted.  I heard far too often, "So what do you do?" as the second question in any conversation.  

I was always searching for something more and things finally started to come to a head.  My long-term relationship fell apart and even though things were going well in my career, I knew in my heart it was time for a major change.  But what?  One thing led to another and I decided to move out West to one of the most remote areas of Canada to live in the mountains and start fresh.  My friends and family thought I was insane.  What?!  Leave everything that you have worked so hard for ... your identity, your life you have built here!  I was just starting to make some great money.  I mean  what kind of opportunities would I ever find in a hick town?  I took the plunge anyway and ventured into the unknown in search of something more.  

And so the tales of a Yoga Cowgirl begins ...

Live. Laugh. Learn.

Live: We live in an era shaped by science and technology, information and environmentalism, money, medicine and multi-tasking. And with modern culture in a continual state of transition and uncertainty, it is difficult, if not next to impossible to live in the present moment. Many could say they suffer from the restless mind syndrome; a state of mental turbulence in constant pursuit of “what’s next.”

Being present is the foundation of positive change. By creating space in our minds and letting go of attachments, compassion and forgiveness can arise. In doing so we are better equipped to understand the emotions that surface within ourselves so we can live more balanced and peaceful lives. It’s our responsibility to live each moment to its greatest potential, focus on what is truly important in our lives and realize our dreams. By relinquishing control and bearing witness to our beliefs, we have the innate power to liberate ourselves and re-discover our true essence.

Make friends with the present moment.

Laugh: Happiness is our purest and most natural state of existence. As human beings, we have been designed to laugh, play and explore our creativity. Happiness lifts our spirits and gives us the patience, energy and desire to help ourselves as well as others. When we laugh it creates a positive effect on the interconnected structures of the human system - it fills our lungs and body with fresh oxygen, boosts the immune system and relaxes the mind. Combine laughter with yogic techniques and discover the effects that have the ability to transform lives.

Laughter truly is the best medicine.

Learn: To study yoga is to study the self. Seemingly simple yet a lifelong journey, the purpose is to equip practitioners with a systematic approach to deconstruct and still the turbulence of our consciousness. Using the breath as a mechanism to purify the body, mind and spirit, this ancient holistic healing system aims to create balance and connect our many layers. Yoga sets a strong foundation for all aspects of our daily lives. To develop a strong practice will produce an array of benefits. You’ll look better, feel better and will respond to the world around you more effectively.

The Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga act as a step-by-step path to truth or enlightenment:
Yamas – observances
Niyamas – purifications
Asana – posture
Pranayama – control of life force
Pratyahara – turning the senses inward
Dharana – concentration
Dhyana – meditation
Samadhi – super consciousness

In essence, we are waking up so we can remember all that we already know. What better training for life?