There is nothing logical about it, but every time I cross the state line to Nevada, all my senses all of a sudden becomes wide open. I feel free and alive. The smell of sage brush fills my soul with adventure. It’s like the scent carries the dream of all adventurers before me. The unusual state of excitement, calmness, harmony, and hope mixes into a wonderful state of mind. The kind of state that makes you feel alive. It’s like entering another universe.
Last week I had reason to go there. I drove there to reconnected with some horse and ranch people that I’ve worked for previously. Work, pleasure, and passion have somehow gotten mixed up in the most exquisite way. My love for horses, and photography does make me work many long hours on most days. To draw a line between work and passion is impossible. A few years back I had an Equine Photography business, where I only photographed horses. It was fun. At the same time I worked with rescue horses, and was involved with several different organizations. It was a good match. My personal life changed when I ended a long term relationship, and at about the same time my best camera, and two of my best lenses were stolen. The events were not connected, they just happened to happen within a few weeks, and the world was no longer as it used to be. I was forced to think outside the box, that I’d created for myself. I did, and it’s been an interesting journey. I’ve learned more about ranching, gardening, and different kind of photography. The purpose with my most recent trip to Nevada was to reconnect with some of my former clients, and horse connections. I did meet up with several people, and it was an intense, rewarding trip.
My daughter spent a couple days with her father, and I enjoyed the silence of the landscape. I stopped on several places where I photographed wild horses in the past. I did see some, but only far away. I only spent one night in Nevada, but drove through many, many miles through a beautiful desert scenery. The trip felt longer than it really was. I slept under the stars, and had my morning coffee watching the sunrise, with wild horses playing in the distance. (It looked like they had Arabian blood running through their veins.) At first I thought they were only playing, but after a while it was obvious that something bothered them. (It wasn’t my presence, I was too far away. Too far away to even bother trying to catch them with my camera.)
When I finished my coffee, I took a walk on a nearby dirt road. Between me and the horses, there was tracks of a mountain lion on the road. Huge tracks! I placed my hand next to one of them, and my hand, with the fingers stretched out, was smaller than the track. I had a 85 lbs rescue dog with me, her paw prints where tiny next to the tracks. Her paws are not exactly small! The horses had taken off towards the mountains. I could see why! I did not see anything but hundreds of tracks, but it must been a mountain lion size XL. I choose to get back in my truck and drive to my next appointment.
The previous day I had talked to an elderly lady. I met her during a ranch photo shoot a couple years ago. (I’ve also helped her find homes for a couple horses.) When we spoke she invited me over for lunch, and ended the conversation with by the way..I have a horse that I need to move from one pasture to another, but I can’t catch him. Maybe you can help me? Lol..the lady lives remote, by herself, and doesn’t move like she did 70 years ago. I didn’t make any promises, but said that I would meet her horses. I hadn’t seen this one before. She sometimes takes in horses in need. I figured this horse probably had a story like that. I was right.
When I got there, the horse she needed help with was sharing a pasture with her faithful Quarter Horse Billy, that she rode 10+ years ago (when she had cattle.) The horse that she couldn’t catch was a mustang that somebody adopted with good intention, but without proper knowledge. He was now maybe around 5 years old, and not halter broke. He was wary of people, and there was no way I could come close to him on foot. The pasture was around 250acres. I walked out of the pasture to think about the situation. She wanted the horse loaded on a stock trailer, so that she could drive him to another pasture. The stock trailer was in a nearby fenced in area. It didn’t seem impossible to get him to the trailer, since the areas where connected with first an arena, and then another pasture.
Billy, the old Quarter horse, didn’t leave my side during our conversation. I asked her how long ago it was since anyone ridden Billy. It was more than ten years ago, according to the lady. I don’t usually enjoy riding other peoples horses, that I don’t know. I try to avoid doing that. I think this started after I become a mom. I sometimes make exceptions, when my inner voice is giving me a clear YES. I’m starting to trust that voice more and more. In this case I kept seeing images of us herding the mustang through the different pastures, and up on the stock trailer. (I often see images in my head when I am around horses. When I am attempting to do something new with a horse, I am also thinking about the result I am going to ask for, in images.) I could of swear that Billy was offering his help.
Your intuition is your second skin & only way to trust a future free from the handcuffs of the past. It never lies, it never fails, it never falters. It’s not a fire in the sky, an earthquake, or a storm. It’s just a soft, deep, soulful whisper; the wild that lived in you before they tamed your wolves with reason. – Andrea Balt
There was some old tack in the barn. I tacked him up, and it sure looked like another horse. Billy straightened himself up. It took some convincing from my side to talk him into not taking off in a full gallop. Since the little mustang was so wary, and slightly nervous, I wanted to keep things as calm as possible. Slow is usually fast in these kind of situations. We moved in a half circle around the mustang, so that we ended up behind him, but still at some distance. Billy seemed to really enjoy himself. I’ve rarely ridden a better schooled horse. It was obvious to me that he had some great training back in the days, and an awesome work ethic on top of that. He must be in his late 20’s by now, at least, that’s OLD for a horse. His big pasture, and the company of other horses had kept him in great shape. Moving around a lot is vital for a horse’s well being. It’s not unusual that they move 20-50 miles in an ordinary day, in the wild. That kind of exercise have many health benefits. Billy couldn’t move 20-50 miles/day at his pasture, but 250 acres is pretty darn close to paradise for a retired horse.
We kept moving closer to the mustang, approaching him in half circles, pushing him closer to the next pasture, without putting so much pressure on him so that he panicked. He was very much aware of what we were doing. Horses in the wild move each other in different direction all the time, it sometimes serve practical reasons (like moving towards water/grass,) and sometimes it’s just a game of dominance to establish leadership. I had opened the gate to the next, smaller, pasture before entering the big pasture, so the gate was already open. The mustang passed through the gate rather smoothly. Inside the smaller fenced area he got a little agitated. I closed the gate, still on Billy’s back, it was easy to tell that he’d done opening and closing gates before. If I don’t count the first two minutes of the ride, when he was a little excited, it was impossible to tell that he hadn’t carried a rider on his back for more than ten years. Horses do have a great memory.
Billy and I stayed in the background for a few minutes, letting the mustang deal with his worst fears, before starting to move him towards the next pen, where the stock trailer was located. In the process of moving him to the next pen I decided to work with him a little, before approaching the gate. He was much calmer by now. Probably a little tired as well. The sun was starting to heat up the day. The old lady, who owned the horses, was already back inside her house. Sitting on Billy’s back I was able to touch the mustang first on the neck, and later his back, and face. I figured that was enough. He was fairly calm. I think he realized that I wasn’t going to hurt him. He willingly moved through the last gate. I closed it. I got off Billy and tied him outside. I made a narrow passage leading up to the stock trailer, using panels, and a heavy rope. After only a few minutes of coaxing, the mustang was in the trailer, and the dividing wall was closed. I lead Billy up in the trailer, and closed the doors. Both horses had some hay to munch on in the trailer, and the fact that the mustang actually did, tells me that he was pretty OK with the situation. The lady was pleased, and I felt good. I followed her in my truck, as she was driving them to their new pasture, (still on her ranch.) Every thing went super smooth. They started to check out their new home, and I went back to California. We never had that lunch! I didn’t take any pictures of her horses this time. She gave me some horse tack as a Thank You gift. I did feel that I grew a little as a horse person. Horses are the best teacher’s of mindfulness. When I’m with horses the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Getting into that feeling makes me feel high, sort of, it gets addictive.
I love road trips! Especially the ones that offers unforeseen adventures, and opportunities to grow.
PS. Have you seen the book Nevada Mustangs – Living Symbols Of The West, that I published a few years back? It’s about my first meeting with these amazing horses. (Hopefully I’ve learned a little since then, but I am still proud over my first dedication of love towards them.)