Thursday, June 22, 2006

Word from the Trail

Hello, Everyone! It's been busy around the store as people prepare for the upcoming holiday weekend (myself included!) and haven't gotten to the blog lately. But we got a letter from Bernice today. She has had some troubles (which I have shared with you below), which have caused her to take some time off. The letter is much longer than this, but I thought I would just share this section today because I would like to make some comments about it.
Wind blows hard from the West. Brings cool, bug-free days. Without it, it is miserable.

Must get words off to you. Feel like I’m adrift on the ocean in another country. Northwest Montana is long ago. Even Eastern Montana feels like another state, so different is the landscape. This open, endless prairie, the rose sunsets, the skyline defined by a single tree or long forgotten building. It all feels far away and the ranchers, farmers or those holed up in some abandoned town in a house hardly fit to live in are just out there, surrounded by space the sound of wind and the hope that it will stay that way.

Spring has been good to this area…luscious, green grass, tall blades, crested wheat, alfalfa, clover, cheat grass. Cattle fat with young calves suckling move slowly across 10,000+ acre ranches.

We move slowly. Honor has sores on her withers … not from the saddle, not from pads, but from my own negligence, not paying attention. Remember when we spoke of cutting out the pads. Well, I cut out the white ¼” pad, but not enough. I had added a wool blanket, one I was using to sleep on and the Pro Choice pad on top. It was way too much. It was a hot day and I was tired. Honor was getting agitated by a bridge. We had stopped to rest and she was not willing to settle down, so I said OK, we’ll just keep going. This was crossing the Missouri River on 236 south bound. I put the saddle on fast and too far forward. She was all trot and dance and she had swelling that evening. No sores just swelling.

Anyway, long story short – I’ve taken two weeks off and am walking a hell of a lot. But we are all healing and are now just north of Forsyth, MT. There’s no one to blame but myself and I feel Honor is just now forgiving me for my pushing and for not paying attention. She’s a hard one to pad and I’m not done yet experimenting with padding. I think one can get away with more on a broad, flat-backed horse, but her narrow ridge line of a backbone is a just asking to sore up. I have to be very specific about pressure points. Anyway, we shall survive.

In my opinion, this is the type of situation that truly defines a long rider. The standard definition of a long rider is someone who rides a 1,000 miles in a stretch. However, unwritten in that definition is what it takes to be a long rider. A successful long rider will have some horse experience, creativity and tenacity. When you are on a long ride, you are out there on your own. So when problems occur, you are the only one who can solve them. You need to have the horse experience to recognize problems when they occur and with any luck, recognize potential problems before they occur. When problems do occur, you may be far from civilization and far from anywhere where you could buy a “fix”. So you need to be creative enough to find a solution to your problems or a temporary fix that will get you through. And you can’t give up the first time something goes south.

So, before anyone jumps all over Bernice for her current situation, I just want to point out that she has all of these traits. While Bernice may be condemning herself for causing the problem, she should possibly give herself credit for recognizing the problem before it became a bigger issue for the horse. Her horse experience allowed her to know that padding this horse would not be simple and to keep an eye out for potential problems. Her experience also helped her recognize the problem when it did occur. She is being creative in her approach to solving the problem by cutting the pad, trying different combinations of pads and blankets, etc. And her tenacity is what keeps her walking toward Minnesota even though she can’t ride the horse, instead of giving up. I think this experience of Bernice’s is proof positive that Bernice Ende is a true long rider.

Bernice had more to say that I will post in parts over the next few days as it was a rather long letter (she has promised to send pictures soon). As always, for more information on Bernice and her trip, you can check in at

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