Sunday, January 24, 2016

Twenty Years A Horse Virgin

   Where do I begin? I had always liked horses. I grew up in New York State near Saratoga and always made the summer sojourn to the track in August. I learned from Touloose's Dad that a crisp one hundred dollar bill would get you a table in the Clubhouse when you where told there weren't any. Another Benjamin Franklin slipped to the Bartender would insure you would always be recognized and a wet gin and tonic would promptly appear. A trip to the Paddock to eyeball my choice for the next race and a sprint to the windows to place my bet. This was my exposure to the Ponies as we called them.

   Flash forward a half of a lifetime to Lake Tahoe, California on February 14, 1996 the afternoon of my wedding day. An elevated wooden boardwalk with a string of pleasure horses alongside the boardwalk, and my beautiful Bride smiling and saying, "Surprise, I booked a toy trot for us, and we get to ride across the Truckee River." I remember looking down at the horses backs and mumbling something like, " I didn't realize that they were this big." Second mistake, the first was acting like a landlocked Eastern man and not wanting to take my socks and shoes off at the beach in Encinitas. After all my wife was Western, so western they filmed all the western horse movies next to where she grew up. All the movies I grew up watching and wished I was out West were at her finger tips, places like Vasquez Rocks, and the Western Town of Calico. The ride was a real experience and we rode our horses almost belly deep in water across the Truckee River. Years later, after gaining much horse experience I would marvel at the audacity of the outfitters to take a pack string of inexperienced riders across a major river.

   It was the very beginning of my horse career. I would later work with hundreds if not thousands of horses through our Massage School and gain invaluable knowledge and have incredible adventures. I learned very important lessons.

    Lesson # 1. Never tie a horse or horses to a movable object. I tied three horses that I was grooming for the school to an empty round bale feeder. Everything thing was O.K. until I tried spraying them with fly spray. When one of the horses spooked, I suddenly had a whirling dervish of horses spinning across the field like a top. Lucky for me, Kathy and the students showed up on cue to help rescue me from this predicament.

   Lesson # 2. Never bring more than one Stallion into a enclosed pen with lead ropes. I accompanied three young stallions into a small pen. Once the gate closed behind them they decided to play lets all stand on our hind legs and paw at each other and the air while this dumb cowboy stands in the middle with no where to go.

   Lesson # 3. If you are going to work with show animals you need to ask if they have any special cue movements they respond to. While a group of students were massaging several brood mares in a row of stalls. I was in the pasture in front of the stalls with Bo, The Buckskin Stallion. He was being a pest and stalking the mares. I immediately rushed toward him and began shooing him away from the mares. Unbeknownst to this cowboy, I was giving him the cue to rear up and to strike at the sky. Not a pretty picture of safety.

   I could fill the pages here with inexperienced horse virgin stories. I choose to remember all the wonderful miracles of the horses lives we touched and helped through the years. I am working on a collection of horse stories about our years on our ranch and work with Horse Rescue and Teaching Equine Massage. They are stories of joy, triumph, tragedy, and sorrow. I wouldn't have traded one moment on the ski slopes for a second of wonderment of my time with horses.

Today's Song
"Wild Horses," Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ski Colorado!

   So I am biased, I do believe that the order of ski adventure is rated, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and New Mexico. Many people would dispute my opinion but after thousands of hours and runs on the mountains of America I feel qualified to make that statement. I love them all each and every one, each and every state, each and every mountain, slopes and runs not to mention the quality of the high mountain snow. They all vary in size shape and technical difficulty. Unfortunately in Ski Area Management the designation of the difficulty of the runs vary tremendously. A Blue Run in Utah might be considered a Double Black Diamond in Colorado. They have the need to sell the experience to the consumer. I have learned to live with it. It is O.K. each and every mountain has their unique experience as well as the quality of snow. Some are groomed to perfection, the brush is removed on the sides of the trails and in places like Deer Valley in Utah and Beaver Creek in Colorado the tracks of the snow cats are sidestepped by the Ski Patrol so that the area is impeccable. No ridges left in the trails. It is all good. You learn to glean and appreciate each and every area for it's unique claim to fame.

   It brings me back to my reason for wanting you to Ski Colorado. This evening I was browsing through Facebook and I saw a post from someone who worked at the chain stores called The Ski Market. They were stores I grew up with in the East. The majority of my friends were managers or employees. They were a discount store for quality ski apparel and equipment. If you were a serious Ski Bum, you bought your gear there. Any way, they were posting to other former employees about a Ski Reunion in Aspen, Colorado, during the 2016 U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame Induction & Skiing History Week, April 5-10. Aspen is a good mountain and it would be great to see the former managers and ski friends from this great chain and to maybe make future contacts to research the History of Arapahoe Basin. It has become a former hobby turned serious pursuit for my upcoming retirement years. I personally haven't skied in over twenty years. Retiring my sticks for saddles and spurs in my married life. Colorado has been getting very good snow and if you have never turned a ski downhill here you need to.

   The coming full moon has reminded me of my youth and climbing in the back country on Loveland Pass to Ski the abandoned mine dumps by the light of the full moon. Wow! is all I can say and remember about it. A kid from the East climbing mountain sides and skiing the wilderness by the light of the moon. Talk about gut wrenching and heart pounding stuff, these days a brisk walk with our toy poodle is my heart pounding endeavor. Don't feel sorry for me, I had my turns when I was young and could climb and ski these places. I have no regrets. I look forward to the work. In my future, I have researching and completing my Historical Novel. My motto is Retyre 2018. Then full pursuit of my writing dreams. All good things come to those who plan and prepare.  Hope you enjoy the pics of A-Basin and of skiing on Monarch Pass. Love the Verticals. While I miss the thrill of skiing, I find just as much joy from a well written piece. I have a lot to write about and a long future, I pray, in which to pursue it.
A Song for Colorado
"Colorado," Flying Burrito Brothers

My buddy Piper with her good friends.