Storytelling: Ah-Ha Moments

One new and exciting element to the Best Horse Practices Summit was the Monday evening storytelling session.

Listen to our Storytelling Audio here.

Storyteller/Presenter West Taylor at the Best Horse Practices Summit

Hosted by Tom Yoder, producer of the popular Raven Narratives, the evening session featured six storytellers and involved the theme, an Ah-Ha Moment: West Taylor, TJ Zark, Katrin Silva, Maddy Butcher, Stephanie Abronson, and Feather Tippits,

For many attendees, it was a surprising Summit highlight. Here is Part I of a two-part story, told by Summit director Maddy Butcher.

She begins:

Have you seen that Nike commercial everyone has been talking about? The one in which Colin Kaepernick says, “Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they are crazy enough”?

That is not my problem.

I tend to think crazy and then have to reel things back in.

In moments of dreaming and scheming, I can get gripped with thoughts of of “Yes, I Can!” and “Just Do It!” and “You Won’t Know if You Don’t Go!”

I get consumed with the idea that free will, good will, and sheer will will all get me to where I want to go.

Maddy Butcher. Photo by Zach Rhoades

In life and in horsemanship, I’m coming to learn that yes, there are indeed Ah-Ha moments. But there are also moments of Hmm and Oh-Shit. And they should all inform the future me.

My little horse, Pep, and I have experienced all of the above. She’s a rescue from a not-cut-out-for-grandkids situation. When I first started riding her, she did not want to stop. She did not want any contact whatsoever with her mouth. Ok, steering was acceptable but using the reins to ask her to stop was not.

This was a Hmm moment. I knew she was a potentially a good partner, but how do I get there?

With Steve Peters help, I got the hang of just letting her keep going. She could choose to keep going as long as I could choose the direction. This was when I was still living in Maine. We’d go to the beach or find open fields and carve these huge circles. Gradually, she got tired of running. Gradually, we moved from a snaffle bit to a bosal. After a year, I could just bump her lightly and she’d stop.

When I’m trail riding, I like to bushwack. I like to have a notion or see something in the distance and say, ‘you won’t know if you don’t go.’ So what if there’s no trail?

When we were living in Iowa, Pep and I were bushwacking down a drainage and ended up in a dense thicket of vine and thorns. At this point, I was on foot, leading her through this ridiculous green jungle. Pep stopped suddenly and I was just about to say ‘c’mon, girl’ when I saw this mess of abandoned barbed wire around her legs. It was an Oh Shit moment.

For once, she stood still. I got my Leatherman from the saddlebag and cut her free. It was an Oh Shit moment that went just fine because of our earned partnership and a catalog of rides together.

I’ve rescued several horses and I like to think that when they land at my place they couldn’t have landed anywhere better.

My mule, Jolene, came from a troubled past. Jolene has what West Taylor would call a high degree of self-preservation. It was six months before she would graze when I had her on a lead line.

They say mules will make you a better horseman and that much is true with Jolene, for sure. I’d been working with her and riding for several months when my friend Raechel and I decided to take an all-day ride to celebrate the end of summer. This was when I was living outside of Salt Lake City.

Jolene in the Oquirrh Mountains

In hindsight, this was a perfect set up for a perfect storm: we both took two horses and two dogs. Oh, and my burro, Wallace, would come, too.

So eleven of us left home and traveled about eight miles, climbing about 2,000 feet into the Oquirrh mountains.

We had lunch in a pretty meadow. It seemed like we had the mountain range to ourselves. It was a glorious day. Warm and sunny. We felt good. We were all in good shape and we’d taken plenty of water.

I stepped up on Jolene for the ride home and pointed her downhill, down a rocky path.

I thought my other horse and the burro would follow us closely, so I hadn’t bothered to pony them. But, they wanted to graze a few moments longer. Finally, when the rest of us were a quarter mile down the trail, they decided to catch up. They ran up behind us and when they caught up to me and Jolene, we all started running. Down this steep rocky trail…

Part II here. 

Listen to our Storytelling Audio here.

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