The DX Ranch is a place I have called my “Summer Home,” for the past two summers now, and I have the intentions of returning in 2016, for my third summer. From the moment I arrived, I was instantly treated like family, and offered food, which is always a plus! What really intrigued me about the internship was how they focus on the student: where they’re at in their horsemanship skills, what they feel comfortable with, and what they want to focus on during their stay. It was very overwhelming on my first day; I was essentially being retaught how to ride and work with horses in a way that made sense to the animal. Many of the techniques used were practiced by Ray Hunt, who was an exceptional horseman, and are still being practiced by Buck Brannaman. The ranch focuses on Lifemanship, applying the work done with horses to your personal life. I've come to learn that their next endeavor is in the non-profit realm of the world; working with local youth to encourage this philosophy throughout their lives. I am very excited to see this take place, not only on the ranch, but the difference it will make on the community scale.
After the first few days at the ranch, I instantly began to ask myself the question, “How would I want to be taught if I were the horse?” With asking myself this question, I realized that throughout my schooling, I’ve always just been told how something was done; having to learn it within a certain time frame, not given the opportunity to learn at my own pace and in a way that made sense to me. This lesson fit in well with the horses I handled. Instead of forcing a horse to do something, you help them understand what’s being taught. Let them think for themselves, and reward even the slightest try. I learned quickly this is a big factor when it comes to working with younger horses, especially yearlings.
Working with yearlings was foreign to me, and maybe has given me the biggest lesson of all so far: patience. Just like any person, each horse is different, and may require more time to be taught. One horse may learn something new within a few days; another may take weeks, maybe even a month. But I couldn’t get frustrated with the learning and teaching processes. The more frustrated I became, the more the horse did not want to be around me, making things even more difficult. So, every day that I would go to the barn to ride or work with a horse, I would go in with a clear mind and positive attitude to make it more enjoyable for both the horse and I. However, patience isn’t the only lesson I learned. Besides patience, I learned about the “feel” in the horse.
Explaining the “feel” of the horse is easier done than said, but I feel it’s important because without the feel, we would have no unity with the horse. One of the harder things for me was to understand what feel was, and how to perform it. I remember watching Zach and Jenn ride, hardly using their reins at all, but using their legs and seat position. I also remember them explaining this technique to me multiple times. I swear it ran their mouths dry; however, they were patient with me and kept encouraging me. Thinking about the technique now, I like to think of it as a dance with the horse; two beings becoming one item. A horse will feel a fly land, and then twitch just that little area of their body to make the fly, fly away, correct? If a horse can do that, then a horse should, and can, move off of the pressure of your leg, otherwise known as the feel.
To turn right, I should be able to apply a little bit of pressure to towards the horses left shoulder, and the horse should gradually move to the right, and by applying some pressure to the right shoulder, the horse should move to the left. When it comes to seat position, the horse will be able to tell how fast you are wanting to go. Developing a feel, has again, taught me patience, awareness, and a sense of peace. The feel has made me, in a way, more at peace with my life. I don’t feel as tense, rushed, or like I have to please everyone all the time, resulting in becoming a better person, making my way to being the best I can be.
Not only has my experience at the ranch improved my horsemanship skills, but has also improved the way I act throughout, and even look at life. The skills I learn to apply to horses, I now apply to my everyday life. I am more patient with the people around me, more aware of my surroundings and how to approach certain tasks, and feel as if I have a weight lifted off my shoulders. I can now continue to make changes to my personal being for the better. I will admit, it does take some work, but surrounding myself with this group of people has made it an exciting journey. I recommend anyone to go to the ranch and experience what I have for the past two summers. It’s truly an experience you will never forget! I can’t wait to continue my journey at the DX Ranch and see where it takes me in life, and I am anxious to help them in starting others down their journey through Project H3LP!