Monday, December 8, 2014

Everyone Wants To Go Fast!

     This guy can RIDE. He's been doing it his entire life, which currently is 56 years. Started out at about 5 years old on a pony his dad brought home to the ranch, and as he and his brother got a little bigger, they started colts that had little to no handling at all. Later, they took in colts to start for a local breeder, all the while learning how to not only get the horses going, but to do it without getting trashed out or injured too badly. They also had to crawl on some "trash", horses that already had some pretty bad traumas or "braces" built into them. Survival instincts for both entities in these relationships were quite strong. The horseman's survival came down to three things: pure luck, exceptional athleticism, and a little knowledge gleaned the hard way.
     The majority of his professional career has been spent in the saddle. He's been a cowboy, a mule packer, wilderness hunting guide, pack trip outfitter, trail ride boss, horsemanship instructor, horse trainer, and farrier. He's worn out a couple of saddles over the years, has more miles on horseback under his belt than nearly anyone I know, and fortunately, he has never been seriously injured around a horse, though not because he hasn't been exposed to all sorts of dangerous or risky situations. Continuing education is always part of his work; he is a student of the horse, and aims high to do better for the relationship. He'll tell you that he does not "love" horses, but respects everything they are capable of, and appreciates what they have to offer him as a human. And, he gives almost all of the credit to his ability and knowledge to horsemen he has known and/or studied.
     You ask, why the dissertation on this horseman's background? Because we all have much to learn from him, and how he came to the philosophies and practices he engages in today is defined by his lifetime spent working with horses of many shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. "He knows whereof he speaks".
     A fellow once commented that his adventure ride with us "was not the active, fast-paced loping ride I thought it would be" and though he had a great vacation, he was disappointed that he didn't get to charge all over the range at a high gallop like the cowboys in the movies do. He had only been riding for 3 or 4 years, sporadically at most, and though he was fit and sat astride a horse fairly well, he just did not have the physical ability or developed skill set to ride fast without putting himself, his horse, or others on the ride in an unsafe position. Like many of us, he highly overrated his ability. When it comes down to it, when we are in the field, we call 'em like we see 'em, and if you can't do it safely and correctly, you won't be doing it on our watch. A lifetime of practical experience and observation is what you are paying us for, which goes directly to your safety and enjoyment.
     That's not to say that someone cannot become an excellent horseman/horsewoman and rider in a few years, however perspective plays its part; it takes a lot of extremely hard work consisting of many long hours in the saddle, endless ground work sessions, frustrating trial and error, and some frightening escapades to get even part of the way. It is a never-ending lesson in patience and perseverance, and the rewards are often tiny and far between. A commitment to physical fitness and good health is imperative, and not something many of us are prepared to participate in to the extent necessary to keep ourselves safe, and to do right by the horse.
     What is the takeaway here? A Blue Sky Sage ride experience is for you at almost any skill level, be it novice to advanced, IF . . . you honestly admit that you are where you are, and you are willing to let our expertise help you to honestly discover that place so you can continue to improve. We are willing to share what we have learned over the past 50+ years in the saddle, in the spirit of "truth well told", so you can become the best partner you can be with any horse that comes into your life. You owe it to yourself, and to that animal. Fair enough?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cultivated Exposure

     In a recent series of Post by Blue Sky Sage Horseback Adventures on our Facebook page, I shared several photos of each of my parents, to illustrate that the "horse" in me comes from the generations before. Probably not something genetically inherited, but a cultivated exposure that was handed down from their parents, and grandparents. Here for instance, is my mother Shirley on her horse Silver, circa 1952. She and her dad Ollie raised horses together, from stock descended from a solid breeding program that Ollie's father Sam had developed over many years, and a stallion Mom purchased, with the registered name of Hat Creek Rage. Sam also was part of the U.S. Army remount program that was based in that area of Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota from Fort Robinson. Mom and her sisters Olita and Julia all grew up riding home-grown and raised quality foundation Quarter Horses from Sam's original lines.
Shirley Seaman and Silver, circa 1952, north of Harrison, Nebraska

Robert and Shirley Hladky, on their Wyoming ranch, 1995
 Shirley married Robert Hladky, my dad, on December 25, 1958 and they became partners not only in starting a family (I was first, September 1959!), and a fledgling cattle herd, but in raising a few of their own saddle horses from Rage and several mares they owned and pastured at Ollie's. Dad was a foreman for Patrick Brothers Herefords north of Lingle, Wyoming for over 20 years, and for Bucky Barnette on up Rawhide Creek for about 6 years after that. During those years, he not only rode the ranch horses, but many of his own horses while doing all the cattle work. In 1975 they purchased their own small ranch in the same area, and that is where they live to this day, although the ranch was recently sold. Their entire life has revolved around raising kids and grandkids, working cattle, and raising and riding good horses to do the work on, with a little recreational roping and rodeoing thrown in just for fun.

Emily and Amanda in the Great Divide Basin/Chicken Springs, 2004
     While our daughters were not raised on a ranch, working cattle and training cow horses, they nevertheless have had the "horse" cultivated into them from both the Hladky and Wade roots of their tree. They grew up in horse camp, which revolved around hosting guests from all walks of life and from around the world, in hunting camp, in the Teton & Shoshone wilderness on summer pack trips, and the adventure ride camps along the Sweetwater and Little Sandy rivers. Both of them sit a horse beautifully, and occasionally when they come "home" (read: horse camp), they gather up and spend a day in the saddle with us. Horses are no longer part of their regular lives, as they have other interests and careers, but the freedom they experienced from riding has influenced their lives in ways that serve them well every day.

     I read many essays and social media postings that refer to people "loving" their horses, and while that is certainly a valid and heartfelt sentiment, I wonder that what we all really love about our horses is the freedom we feel that they give us. Freedom to cover the ground faster than we ever could on our own two feet; freedom to confess our sins and woes to an impartial ear, with no criticism or rebuke in return; freedom to center our energy and love on ourselves through this animal that has borne the glory and heartache of nations for many a century. And, freedom to raise several generations of family with integrity and empathy for both human and animal, while in the pursuit of a livelihood that is honorable and culturally relevant. And while change is inevitable in this life, the foundations cultivated into us can serve to carry us through if we use them wisely. The horse carries a heavy burden for us humans, don't you think?
Emily, Amanda, and their dad Mike Wade, Sweetwater Camp, 2005

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Come Ride with Me

Coming out of a Wind River hunting camp with my horses. Riding Rustler and packing Sage
I was at the end of a camp cooking contract job, circa 2005.
     The inspiration to write the tales of a lifetime comes and goes with me, depending on how much other stuff I think I need to prioritize. Marketing, advertising, bookkeeping, housework, cooking, husband, grown daughters, aging parents, horses, dogs, finances, vehicle maintenance, YIKES that's a long list! But I do enjoy writing, enough so that I used to write a column for a now-deceased local news rag. I still pen an essay or two for special occasions, so I know that all it really takes is a little time and consistent pursuit to get the words flowing.
     All that being said, I believe that I am in the same boat as many of the lovely women riders that join us on the trail every season here in Wyoming. We are all busy with the day-to-day of this life we are inserted in to, and prioritizing what needs to be done and what we want to pursue is complex. The pressure to make a living while maintaining a quality family life simultaneously is intense, and often we ladies find it difficult to twist off and do something for ourselves. Many studies are around that validate the fact that "if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy"; therefore, it is in the best interest of everyone we come in contact with that we honor ourselves by taking care of our own needs.
   So, starting today I am going to write (read: BLOG) regularly about what has brought me along in my career, where the trails have met, and forked along the way, and how the influences of people, animals, weather, government and politics have "bent the twig" so to speak. It may lead to some thought-provoking ideas, or maybe give someone pause as they think of their own life. I know that I have witnessed some miraculous things in all the years I've spent on horseback, and in the camps where I've built a fire. And every event and experience has led me to the place that my husband Mike and I call Blue Sky Sage Horseback Adventures, which is where women just like me who love to ride free and have an adventure all their own can come and do the same. I hope you will ride along, stirrup to stirrup with me, and we'll see where our ponies will take us . . . 

Hoka Hey!  

#WyomingHorses #GirlsRideOut! #MustangHorses #HorsebackAdventures #WyomingTravel

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Cowgirl Hats, a Saga

I've been blogging over on our website recently as I thought it would be a good idea to drive more traffic there and give visitors something more to read, however I've decided to keep TWO blogs going. Wow, that will definitely take a little time . . .

 This place is going to become a little more personal, with ramblings and ideas and thoughts that I have to get out and share. I have certain standards however; I live by Thumper the bunny's wise words "If you can't say somethin' nice . . . don't say nothin' at all".  So while I'll have an opinion or two and will probably be a little disagreeable from time to time, I won't get personally ugly. It's just not good for the world and certainly, "what goes around, comes around".

My latest working hat, circa 2015
Today, I just wanted to tell a little story about the hat in the photo. I wear a hat in the summer when I'm outside riding and at camp, and wear a dress hat when I'm on the job for Blue Sky Sage Horseback Adventures at equine trade shows, events, personal presentations and the like. I used to have a big, black Resistol hat, trimmed in red around the brim and the hatband, with red eyelets. It was beautiful and so Wyoming, perhaps a little bit much, but it was striking. I had shipped it back to my dear friends in Massachusetts last November in preparation for the Equine Affaire event in W. Springfield, where I and several of our wonderful clients/friends were going to work 10-hour days at our company booth, promoting our rides.
     All went well throughout the week+ that I was back there - at least until it was time to get everything together to ship home. When we got back to my friends' home, I gently placed the hat inside the protective plastic wrapping and diligently fitted the cardboard shaper into the hat to hold the shape. Underneath the hat, I stuffed in a heavy-duty extension cord that I couldn't squeeze into the show box. The box was secured with packing tape and was placed on the stair landing, ready to take to the UPS store.
"Red Trim Resistol", West Springfield, MA at Equine Affaire, 2010
I had one lovely extra day to spend with my friends, so we took a day trip north of their home in Beverly to see some historic Wade family dwellings. The plan was to come back with delicious pastries for dinner that night back at the house. We had a lovely day. We came into the house and noticed that the hat box was gone. Upon interrogation of my friends' husband, it was confessed that he thought the box was trash and it went to the curb for the recycling truck to haul away. Alas, the "over-the-top" head covering was long gone, and the poor husband (who is also my dear friend) was aghast and dismayed, insisting that he must replace my lid with one of like quality. I was not distressed, it really was quite humorous to me, but I know he felt terrible, so I agreed that upon such time as I found another dress hat, I would let them replace it.

My New Hat, Pomona, CA, 2010
Two months later I happened to be in Jackson, Wyoming for a Chamber of Commerce event and took a stroll into Jackson Hole Hat Company, just to see what the possibilities were. My eyes zeroed in on the new hat, right in the middle of a display wall of about 50 toppers of every shape, style, color and appointment. I tried it on; the fit was exact; the color was a soft silver with the slightest hint of sage green and the ribbons around the brim and crown were a translucent flesh color. It was high quality, beautiful, shapely for my round face and expensive. I was almost too embarrassed to dare consider it was "the one". I put it back and tried on another hat, but I was unimpressed. The first one begged me to save it from it's surroundings. I called my friends and they were so relieved that the burden was to be lifted from their guilty hearts and the price on sale was much less than they were expecting. I sent them photos, like a new mother with the first pictures of the baby.