"Meil siin Metsikus Läänes" - Pauli artikkel eesti hobuajakirjas, yehaa! Oma Hobu tellis. Mina tõlkisin. Aive toimetas ja aitas ratsutamisterminid eesti keelde panna. Palju tänu Oma Hobule autorieksemplaride eest! Need jagame siin Pauli sõprade vahel, artikli originaali lisame muidugi juurde, sest ega ameeriklased eesti keelt lugeda mõista..:)
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A letter from New Mexico 
By Paul Harmon 

Belly deep in a thick clinging Yellowstone mud pot, Low Dog, my Appaloosa mare, with me on her back, were very stuck. I was riding my model 1858 McClelland saddle, was still pretty green to lots of the tricks of horse backs and I found we were not only stuck but really really stuck in that mud pot. I turned to Devlin; my friend, my boss at the saw mill, and the man who taught me so much about horses and I said “how do I get out”? His answer, very typical of a mountain horseman of the American west was extremely brief, “why you get out of course!”

 The horsemanship I know here in the mountains and deserts of the rocky mountain west are best described as practical. Directly descended from the need to get from somewhere to somewhere else in the quickest most comfortable way possible and I did say quickest not fastest and, in fact, most comfortable also since more often than not when you got to somewhere else you had to do something there. Not hop down off your horse and take a hot bath with special salts. No, you probably had to do some sort of work. So a small variety of “gaits” developed, just as they did all over the world for the same reason; transportation.

On Mountain gaits

 From this basic need came such “gaits” as the “fast walk” and the “really fast walk”. There is also a “really really really fast walk” but you do have to die and go to heaven to use that one. The first is simply what most horses like to do when they want to walk somewhere interesting. It’s quick and to the point and does everything you need, but it is the walk of the average. Nice enough but…
The second is like going to heaven and flying a magic carpet in and out of those huge white puff ball clouds of high summer. You float above the ground and smile the whole time and your horse drools and foams from the mouth just plain loving it. With this walk you eat up the miles and what little bounce there is gets used up by nothing more than having a good seat and being totally relaxed. But as in all things it can’t go on forever, you need to switch things up and so enters the slow trot.
 This one is born from pushing the really fast walk “over the edge”. You hold her in until she settles then let her work into the most effortless motion a horse can do, it’s their natural traveling gait after all. The slow trot is so soft and smooth that you can ride it far longer than your mount would ever want to.
And by the way, I mostly ride mares. 

The fast trot is of course, the one gait, done right, that can fold space. You have to extend on this one and push. Like I said, done right, which is the only way to survive it, you fly! In smoothness it rivals a Quarter Horse at full speed. It’s said that a wine glass, a long stemmed wine glass too and filled near to the brim with a very good Cab, could balance on a Vaqueros saddle horn at full speed on a Quarter Horse and that is how smooth the fast trot should be.  Done wrong and you might be able to try out the “really really really fast walk” but you know what that means…

 And then there is "buck Jumping". There are places in the Idaho forests where a phenomenon known as a "blowdown" occurs. Not sure myself on all the details of "how" but the end result can be a forest hidden within a forest of nothing but knocked down trees. I've yet to see such a forest where the fallen trees all lie in the same direction. They tend to be more like a box of toothpicks up-ended and scattered about.

What generally happens is you'll be deep within an upright forest when you come across the blowdown and it seems to always be easier to go on than go back. Of course the trees lie one across the other and are just too high to step over so now is when the tedious process of buck jumping begins. To negotiate a passage you ease up to a fallen tree and from a standstill you jump your horse over and in between the next tree. Ease on up, jump almost straight into the air, land and repeat. Ease on up, jump almost straight into the air, land and repeat. The longest I had to do this was a bit over a quarter mile and was it sure fun! On second thought it was bone jarring, scary and exhausting for horse and riider.

On starting and training

 In olden times some rough and ready individuals used the technique of "breaking" a horse to saddle and rider. I'd have to say that in fact it is a great way to break a horse if you need to use him from that first buck and straight through till the end of a long hard cattle drive, but I think the only way that horse will ever turn out much good is in spite of and not because of such a method.
Fortunately everyone I know uses the much older method of "starting" a horse. It's the slow, sure and methodical way of bringing a horse into useful and willing service. Granted it ain't all Sunday brunch. Sometimes you have to use more "eye opening" techniques to get a horses attention but that is generally after the horse was first misused in some fashion; more like re-education that a true "starting". But anyway more and more people everywhere are coming to their senses on this.

On reining

 I have to say I'm not very professional or technical when it comes to horses. I've never done competition except against myself and there isn't a tougher critic anywhere than yourself. So mostly what I have to say on such a fundamental aspect of horsemanship is this. In the west we use "neck reining " mostly. You've already got her started on direct rein but if you were smart you would have been lightly touching her neck each time with the off side rein when you gently pulled her to right or left. And each time you might have been pushing her into the turn with your leg and cheek. The other cheek Mame...
As she progresses you push more and direct pull less until the slight touch of the off side rein on her neck will get her to step off on the opposite front foot.
 Everybody knows more about getting a horse to lift this foot or move out on that foot with reins, legs and cheeks than me, so if I am fortunate enough to meet any horse people in Estonia, in person, maybe you can show me how?

On horse breeds

 We have lots of different horse breeds here in the Mountain West. Paints and Pintos and Appaloosas and Quarter Horses and A-rabs and Half This and Quarter That’s
with a sprinkling of Piebalds and Ghost Ponies and Swaybacks and Mustangs, don’t ever forget the Mustangs, V8 with rammed air, uh, I mean the small and rough little ponies that descended from the war horses that either got loose or were liberated from the Spaniards and were developed by the Native Americans which in turn gave rise to the Pintos and Paints and Appaloosas and Quarter Horses ( through breeding with Half This and Quarter That’s) and Piebalds and so on. 

My favorite breed of horse has always been “the scrub”. These come from a mysterious blend of various horse types and grow just fine on just about anything and just about anywhere and nine times out of ten don’t need and have never had iron shoes on. We found them at the auction yard or through trade. No papers and no ruffles, no filigree or perfection. They still had names such as Appaloosa and Pinto and Quarter Horse but you could never prove it in a court of law. Nope.But they are the toughest, the healthiest and the most beautiful horses on Earth. And yes, we were always concerned about their conformation, if there wasn’t a hoof on the end of the leg we went elsewhere.
But in truth when you found a good one you would never let that horse go. They have what’s known as bottom. They don’t give up on you and it is very hard to get them to quit. Once though on a pretty long ride into the Grand Tetons we were sauntering along an “eyebrow” trail, one that has a sheer drop on one side and a sheer rise on the other and my brothers horse Dumbre decided to “rest”. He just leaned his whole body and also my brothers against the sheer rise side and leaned there; resting, comfortable, at peace. They stayed that way a few minutes then with a deep sigh from all of us we went on our way…

 On my own horses

 I can't admit to owning thousands of horses nor hundreds nor even very many. I've personally owned only 2 but was put in care of 5 or 6 others through the years. Like I wrote earlier, when you find a good one you don't let them get away. My first horse was a buckskin mare named Missy and was sold to me by my good teacher Devlin. My brother, myself and Devlin also found a good scrub gelding we named El Dumbre at an auction in Idaho Falls Idaho.

 I was living in a log cabin in Idaho at the time with no electricity, no running water and no corral. Just acres and acres of grass, hills trees and then mountains. My first time in the saddle on Missy's back lasted two bucks and all of 15 seconds. The good news was I landed on the only 2 bales of hay within miles. My second time into the saddle on Missy's back last all of 1 buck and 5 seconds or less. The good news again was she flung me into a snow drift on the side of recently graded Pinocle road. Keep in mind I had never been on a horse before and there were no anybody's anywhere to ask questions of. Devlin had just dropped her off with some hay and left.

 I knew that if I stopped now I would be afraid, indeed very afraid, of getting bucked off again; and again and again. So I got mean and set off running down the road with her in tow. We ran about a half mile total and when I got in the saddle this time she just waited for instructions. It went well I thought. So that was my introduction to horseback riding.

My brother and I went on to learn an incredible amount of important details about the care, feeding and sheer joy of having horses. We must have been on horseback 4-5 days a week and 6 to 8 hours a day. We would even fix morning coffee and then jump bareback onto them to drink it. We didn't know it yet but we had those two horses tougher and stronger than any others in the valley. There was one thing though that we were missing. Sure they were in great health. Lean and mean and in top shape with no fat on them at all and able to go all day everyday. But it was getting close to winter and in Idaho the winters last from November till June with upwards of 6 feet of snow. Devlin, who had been showing us the ropes, said we were screwing up badly and we needed to fatten them up or we could lose them to the winter. So it went. We were learning about horses.

 A word about Missy before I head on to other matters. She wasn't Missy for long. In fact maybe a week. By then I knew her for what she truly was, The Bitch. She was the best teacher a rider could ask for though. She taught me a great seat, great focus, and a super human ability to stay in the saddle no matter what (except for bucking, I never did master that minor detail).
 You see she was a shyer. And if you don't know what that is; good. I hope you never find out.
Now The Bitch didn't just shy at anything though, she shyed at changes in the color of the ground. Changes that every other of God's creatures never notice. The Bitch would shy over lines such as going from dirt to grass. She would shy when you least expected it, when you most expected it and at times when even she didn't expect it. She would shy at any speed; slow fast or standing still.

 She was also a jigger. She'd get excited and jig. She wouldn't get excited and jig. She could jig in her sleep and did probably. I wanted to kill her and make a rug but I knew she'd jump out from under someones feet some day and they then might be traumatized for life. She wasn't all bad of course. She could do the really fast walk all day and sometimes did. She had the smoothest fast trot you'll ever see too. But even so she was known officially as The Bitch for as long as I knew of her.

So instead of making a rug I traded her for Low Dog, the best all around scrub Appaloosa Quarter Horse blend I ever had. We rode all over Yellowstone and the Big Holes and Bull elk creek and all over the Grand Tetons and then all over New Mexicos southern desert and she lived a long life and died in good hands in a pasture in Arizona.

 I won't talk about the bone heads I knew, suffice to say they had big heads, big feet and I'm sure some redeeming quality somewhere...

 The second horse I trained up, Low Dog being the first, was a little red mare a tad bit bigger than a pony but still full sized and was, of course, named Rosy. She was a top notch thing that I actually knew for a fact would take me through the worst situations imaginable and in fact one night she did. I went for a full moon ride through the desert and for want of a better place to stop, I went to the Tuli bar about 10 miles away from home. I rode up to the door and asked if we could come in and the wiseass barmaid said the horse could but not me! It was a good evening visiting with all the folks there.
All things must pass and so we headed home. I was the designated drunk and she the designated driver. We made it safely home that night as can be seen that I am writing this short letter from the wilds of New Mexico.

But next day...
I went for a ride the next morning and decided to follow my tracks from the night before as I had missed much of it. I was very literally scared sober for as I back tracked I discovered that we had rode up to and then circled not one but four old mining pits dug and then left unmarked in the middle of the desert. Each was about 5 feet across and 30 feet deep. Rosy had worked her way threw this treacherous mining field and got me home. A keeper for sure.

She was a sweet horse. She would do most of the fancy working steps like the flying change of leads and move sideways so you could open and close gates. She could back up as easily as go forwards, move from a walk through all the gaits up to a full run and then back down and she would do it without me having to use the reins. I'd simply tie them up and use knees and cheeks to talk with her. Very nice.

 Enough about the horses I have had the pleasure of knowing. It's time to move on but one last mare needs mentioning. I just call her the A-rab Mare as she was indeed a full bred Arab Mare. I had had some dealings with A-rabs and other than learning that they have ESP and can do mental telepathy better than any other breed and also that when an A-rab rolls over you it really hurts, I just didn't have much repoir with them. But this little filly was something else again. Some friends had asked me to start her and even though I hadn't started any horses in a while I said I look at her.

She turned out to be well set up and compact, she also had a very nice demeanor and so I said sure, I'll start her. Well she changed my entire view of the A-rab breed and I now actually sorta kinda like them. Or at least her. I took her though her first trips into the mountains and was impressed. I use a hackamore rig to teach with and she took to it fast. To cut to the chase on this, she would stand placid and calm when I even put the dreaded white plastic shopping bag on a buggy whip and moved it all over her, around her and even between her feet. She was moving out crisply with leg and weight pressure and was ready to start work on the trot when I turned her over to her new owners. A very good start indeed.

On rides

 I've never ridden in a show ring or been in or on a dressage course. I try to watch the Olympics to get a glimpse of real pros at work. Awesome is the word on that. The most jumping I have ever done is across creeks and over trees and the odd river banks that you just can't get up any other way. I've never had to swim across a river or lake. I have had to go up and down trails that were so steep that going up I was parallel to the horses back with my whole body and going down I could rest my head on my horses rump.But I must say I have been blessed and gifted with the most wonderful horses, teachers and rides imaginable. Wouldn't change any of it for anything except some of the sad times any horse owner knows but even that has it's proper place.

So I'd say its off into the sunset now except that for a change it's been snowing here in New Mexico for two whole days and I can't seem to find the sun anywhere. So Adios then from here and a howdy till the next time.

And by the way, did I ever tell you how I got out of that thick clinging Yellowstone mud pot?
Las Cruces, NM, January 2013


Epp & Paul Harmon
…live in The United States, New Mexico Territory, in the Land of Enchantment. They met each other over the Internet in 2009. Epp had two homes for two years, on two continents, until the couple decided to move together on the Western side of Atlantic ocean. Paul is making rockets, Epp is writing and making art. The rest of their time is filled with hiking, road trips, photography, cooking, Martial Arts, cinema club, gardening, forging, handycrafting…and horses , at least sometimes, when opportunity arises. So far, Epp hasn’t  done much more than just sit on horseback, but with Paul being a skillful and patient teacher, she’ll hopefully get into that fast walking gate one day too.

Translation: Epp Harmon
Photos: Epp  Harmon & private collections