A Test of Wills

Some of our horses at the ranch

Our horses are the stars at our ranch. Many people who visit us are not experienced riders but our horses accommodate all levels of riding abilities. They climb rocky trails and maneuver down steep canyons without a single hitch in their pace. They were born and raised in this rugged country. This is their land.

One year, we took nine people on a 10-day pack expedition. I rode a horse named Galleta (gay-eta) Cookie in Spanish. We covered 120 miles roundtrip while riding 6–7 hours a day. Once we reached our camp spot for the night, I’d jump off my horse, wash up and cook over an open campfire for thirteen people. My husband Raul was up at 4 am making coffee while the wranglers fed and watered the horses.

Looking back, I don’t know how we did it. Of course, I was a lot younger then but in this present day, I couldn’t see myself doing it again. The experience drained me to the bone yet it felt exhilerating at the same time. A sense of wild freedom hovered over me with each mile we rode. It was just me, my horse, and the land. A true reconnection with nature and myself.

Years later, I rode a horse named Bellota (Bay-0-ta), Acorn in Spanish. She was my transport into the past for many years. We’ve traveled long distances together but at the beginning of our relationship, barely broke for a saddle, she tested every aspect of my being.

A battle of wills is a better name for it. She dragged out and lay before me my emotional, physical, and mental strengths. She made me see where I needed to pay attention to her but also where I needed to focus on areas of my personal life. Horses have a way of bringing out the best in us, and the worse.

My Horse, Bellota

I truly believe the right horse for a rider comes along at a time when the rider needs them most. Horses are highly sensitive and therapeutic. Because of their heightened senses as prey animals, they have a wide range of sensitivity, more so than humans. They read you through your body language and tune into your inner feelings, your fears, and your anger. No matter how much you try to hide your emotions, horses catch onto them. You can’t fool a horse!

My horse Bellota and I have been through some rough times. She was born at the ranch. After ground training at the age of three, I began riding her after she spent a year with a trainer to prepare her for the saddle.

We had quite a few battles. Her size and strength scared me to death but I knew I couldn’t let her win. If she did, she would never respect me or trust me to lead her in our small two being herd.

One day we were out riding just the two of us, I had to pee really bad so we stopped on top of a hill. I tied Bellota to a bush, did my business and when I came back she was gone! Oh god, I thought how the heck will I catch her?

Well, she was grazing nearby but when I took three steps towards her, she took a few steps away from me. This continued for a good thirty minutes.

How she managed to munch grass and keep an eyeball pinned to me I don’t know. I tried chasing her which made things worse. Lucky for me her reins had fallen to the ground. I approached her from behind, quiet like a hawk swooping down to grab its prey, and I pounced! Bellota jumped and tried to run away but my boot landed on one of the reins. With lightning speed, I grabbed it before she knew what happened.

After a quick inspection of the situation, I tightened her cinch and took a few deep breaths. My heart pounded inside my chest because I knew no one would come to save me. The battle had begun between myself and Bellota, a 1200 pound mass of muscle and a mind of her own.

Bellota as a baby with her mom Rose

When I steadied her and put my foot in the stirrup she jigged away from me, tossing her head defiantly as if to say, “No way lady.”

After a few more miserable attempts to get on, it wasn’t until the sixth or seventh go around that I grabbed the reins firmly in my hand, my life literally depending on them, while I secured my left foot in the stirrup.

Her muscles tensed, ready to bolt if I moved so much as an inch. We must have looked like statues on top of the hill as we stood stock still glaring at each other square in the eye. I envisioned a game. Who moves first?

The decision became clear. It was now or never. My hand tightened around the saddle horn. In death grip mode, reins in hand, I propelled myself up and onto her back. Done! I was quite surprised at myself. I didn’t know I could move so fast. She managed to take a few steps but that was all. Mission accomplished. We turned around and had a nice ride back to the ranch without incident.

Upon my return, my husband Raul asked me how she behaved. I smiled and said, “Like the lovely girl she is! No problem!” And I never told him what happened!

I must admit the entire time I was out there with her I was scared to death but fear sometimes invites us rather rudely to challenge ourselves and discover what we’re really made of as I did that day, thanks to Bellota.

I hope you like this true story from life on the ranch. If you liked my writing you can find more of it on VocalMedia.com.

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