Never Really Riding Alone

Ever notice that our lessons repeat themselves, until they are big enough, painful enough for us to make a change? Something happens–the flick of an eye–we dismiss it, and Divine Mother says “Oh, you missed that message in a snowflake floating by, let me make it easier for you to see…” Before you know it, the warning has become a snow ball. I would like to think I’m paying attention long before the snowball hits my face or I find myself in an avalanche.

So when some of you said that I should not have been riding alone, or on that particular trail, the day that Tru fell, I had to try these ideas on for size, as my grandfather Ted would say. What I love about horses, riding out alone, how I prepare to be safe, as well as the deeper meaning for me of The Fall and the Angel, is both practical and spiritual.

Over the years, I’ve read articles in Equus, and other places that say “Never ride alone.” I’ve wondered how an entire sport of endurance riders track thousands of miles alone safely. I can see how this rule is safer for lots of people and situations:  new riders, young riders, riders on young horses, older riders. When you come off of your horse, having someone else there can be helpful, for sure.

We must anticipate what could happen with horses, and set ourselves up to be safe, because snowflakes can turn into an avalanche very quickly with horses. But riding with others will not, in itself, prevent an accident. In fact, more horses is inherently more complicated, and prone to accident.

“If you think your hairdo is more important than your brain, you are probably right.”

Words of wisdom from the wall of an endurance horse barn

For the record, this was my first accident riding alone in thousands of hours and miles of trail riding since I was 7 years old, before cell phones, before pagers, really before helmets.

The Challenging Trails We Love

That Canyon Creek trail is mostly flat and wide enough for a truck to pass, not at all challenging or technical. That specific section was an old slide. It was narrower than most of the trail (and about 8 inches narrower now from Tru’s churning hooves), but wider than the Pacific Crest trail.

Honestly, I just did not see the tree that had slid further down after we passed under it on the way out. I did learn to stay vigilant of changing trail obstacles. That same week, a friend of mine fell down a set of stairs that she has walked down a thousand times. She hit her head so hard she had a concussion. Some times we fall. Embrace your karma. That’s not a reason to stop walking, or riding.

The Tevis Cup! It’s been a long and humbling journey so far on our way fulfilling our dream to ride the 100 mile Western States Trail through the Sierra Nevada mountains from Truckee to Auburn, in one day.

The Tevis trail is mostly single track often with steep cliffs off the sides, lots of horses, 100+ degree temps during the day, and letting your horse lead the way through the dark. I’ve had people ask me aghast why I would want to do that?! I chuckle. It’s definitely not a glamour sport.

We love the rush of going up big mountains and technical trails, like Cougar Rock, but more importantly we love the learning that it takes to ride safe. Really, we’re just getting started. In the pics, you’ll see on the left Oman, the imported Shagya Arabian stallion, who is Tru’s granddaddy, and an international stallion test, eventing and endurance champion. On the right is Omega, an Oman son. His owner and rider, Karen Bish, has SW Daniel, who is Tru’s sire. Oman and Omega both completed Tevis on their first trys.

It will require training–our bodies, our minds, our spirits–and opening up to mentorship from riders, vets, horses–and changing to discern and follow the guidance that comes through them. Mostly it’s me that has to open and change. Tru is there as soon as I am. (Thankfully, the gifts of dressage trainer Clay Wright, Dr. Noel Muller of Los Caballos Equine Practice and Susannah Jones, 2019 AERC National Champion have already arrived to guide us!) The supreme challenge of this event–and who we will become in rising to it–is the draw, the purpose and the joy.

Merging

Riding out alone with my horse, down a new trail is the penultimate pleasure for me. Immersed in the beauty and peace of nature, my horse and I merge, our hearts and minds in constant communication, partners in navigating and witnessing our adventure in the wilderness. I am profoundly alive, and in love, on these rides.

Enjoying the trails out of Hope Valley, South of Lake Tahoe.

Would you really ask me to give that up? I’ve spent too much of my life demurring to the practical. At 55, it’s actually, time for more adventure in spirit and nature, not less.

Preparing for the Risk

Riding is a risk. Riding alone is a risk. Risks we prepare for…on the ground, in the round pen, on the trail…building trust, understanding and respect for my horse’s power, and fears, and standing firmly and compassionately in my role as leader. Three things I always do to be safe:

  • I always look for my mistake. I reflect to understand, but I never blame my horse.
  • I always wear a helmet.
  • I always meditate before I ride, no matter how early I have to wake up.

Meditation helps me stay calm and open to hear the intuitive wisdom and warnings. As many spiritual teachers have said, prayer is asking God, meditation is listening. The Divine will does not impose. We have to be open to it. Regular meditation makes me more receptive to Divine guidance.

Channel for God

For me, my horse is a channel for God to open me up and play with me. Coming out of our fall essentially uninjured was not just lucky. We were blessed with grace. We experienced a miracle.

The purpose of this event in my spiritual life, and in my horsemanship, was to open my consciousness, to make me more receptive to grace and to learning. Tru and I will ride alone many more times–and by Thy grace, we will complete Tevis–but we will not need to tumble down another cliff to know that we are never really riding alone. Divine love is showering and protecting us, inviting us to dance with snowflakes every moment.

“Self-realization is the knowing—in body, mind, and soul—that we are one with the omnipresence of God…All we have to do is improve our knowing.”

Paramhansa Yogananda
My True Companion dancing with snowflakes 21 days after The Fall and the Angel.

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