The resort she went to is a family-run working ranch, which hosts 40 people each week. The Ranch also offered other activities, including hiking, river rafting, fly fishing and mountain biking. In addition to managing a resort and running cattle, the family runs a high-end reining training facility. They know horses. :-) At the time DH's Mom registered with them, she had to fill out a questionnaire outlining her riding abilities.
The facility was gorgeous, with small cabins around the main lodge, surrounded by the Canadian Rockies. The first evening was basically getting to know everyone. Can you just imagine sitting out having a cocktail on this porch? The next morning, her orientation included getting acquainted with her assigned horse and showing her skills to the wranglers to ensure that she was was matched with the right horse. There were all levels of riders - some had never been near a horse before this! After the skill levels were determined, groups were formed - beginners, some experience, experienced, etc. Each group had, I believe, two wranglers assigned to them. A few of these wranglers were actually from Australia! All of the horses wore special shoes, so that they could better grip the rocky terrain and avoid hoof damage.
DH's Mom was in the advanced group. One of the wranglers assigned to her group of 4 is a vet student. He is working towards being a large animal vet. He grew up with horses. He told DH's Mom that he didn't "love" his horses. His focus is on respect and ensuring that the horse understands what is required of him/her. This is my understanding of what he was trying to get across: "Love" was humanizing a horse and he believes that this is doing a disservice to the horse. Horses don't "love" each other. They respect and protect each other, but "love" is not something that is part of a herd environment. When we start to apply our human emotions to a horse and expect it to be reciprocated, it's not a fair. Horses are horses. Guilty as charged! I am not ashamed to admit that I love my horse to bits. Absolutely, respect plays a big part in your relationship with your horse, but I also think showing affection makes us relaxed and in turn, makes the horse relaxed. What do you think of the wrangler's comment??
He also said that horses that have a job to perform; whether it's jumping, dressage or trail riding. It is our job to make sure they understand what is required and we shouldn't make excuses (humanizing) for them not performing their job. They either do their job or they are made to do their job. OK, I sort of get this. Actually, DH's Mom follows this line of thinking and I have to say that DH has not suffered in the least with this approach. He is solid and well adjusted. I admit I have a hard time with the disciplining aspect of horse ownership and making Gem do what I ask. I am inconsistent in this area. In fact, DH's Mom and LA have told me on numerous times not to let Gem away with stuff and that I baby him. I don't know about you, but I make "human" excuses for Gem all the time when he gives me the business. "He must be hot", "the flies must be bothering him", "he's tired"....
DH's Mom rode every day for about 5 hours. Each day was a different type of ride. One day they rode along and in the river. Another they rode up a mountain - the path was less than 3 feet wide in some parts!! Yikes!! One day they went through forests. They would gallop through any terrain put in front of them. DH's Mom said she had never ridden like that in her life (and she's as old as me!!). She was pushed way beyond her comfort zone and had to completely trust the horse she was riding.
Sometimes, lunch would be served out on the trail. How cowboy is that?! All the meals were homemade. Cocktails were at 5:30 p.m., dinner was early evening and very relaxed - lots of talking and laughing. Very civilized. DH's Mom said she when she hit the pillow, she was asleep instantly! She said it was the best sleep she had had in years. :-)
DH's Mom said that this vacation not only increased her confidence by pushing her riding comfort level, but this experience also pushed her in other areas. She came to realize that it was time to make some personal changes. You see, DH's Mom lost her husband 6 years ago to a brain tumour; he suffered for weeks. This vacation highlighted that it was time to get out there, be an active participate in life and be with others. She feels she is now ready to start dating......Giddy up! :-)
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Gem and DH were relaxed and OK with just plodding along the trails while DH's Mom chattered away, telling me of her adventure. As we started to head back, I suggested that we trot across the small field we were in to the next field opening. Off we went....Gem doing a lovely big trot. We hadn't done this kind of activity in a while (back strain) and I was really into it, posting and thinking how amazing it felt. Suddenly, I felt Gem power up and break into a uninvited lope. In a flash, LA's comment you shouldn't post a trot when asking for a lope because you are off balance - you should always sit a trot before asking raced through my mind. She was right...I came down, he came up and I bounced and lost my balance. I tried to save myself but ended up in the dirt .