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Horses need space. Riders do, too.
If you look at Swisher, Iowa by satellite, you’ll see lots of open space. When I moved here from Maine, I was excited to explore the 14,000 acres of nearby Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area.
It was wonderful.
Until I got a ticket.
I was cited for riding my horse on public land and fined $100.
Turns out the Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area is reserved for hunters and fishers. Despite the negligible environmental impact (hoofprints? The occasional poop?) and acts of good citizenship (calling in poachers, carcass dumpers, litterers, etc), I was labeled persona non grata by the Department of Natural Resources.
The citation left this horsewoman frustrated and curious about the state of horse-friendly public space.
Iowa ranks 49th out of 50 when it comes to the percentage of publicly-owned land. Just one percent of its land consist of parks, forests, and grasslands. Horse riders are unwelcome on most of them.
Maine, as many of you will attest, doesn’t do much better. It ranks 37th.
Many of us enjoy riding on private land owned by friendly neighbors. But as time marches on, development often turns old trails into subdivisions, fields into fenced and gated backyards.
Increasingly, we must now resort to trailering to open space or riding around and around and around in an arena.
It’s a drag. For those of us with an open-space craving, it can be downright depressing.
But consider Utah.
The state boasts five national parks and has a greater percentage of public land than every other state except Nevada and Alaska. Combine that with a culture that welcomes, embraces and accommodates horse riders.
If a chance ever came to move there, what trail rider wouldn’t jump at the opportunity?
That chance has arrived and this girl is Utah-bound.
She paused and spoke with NickerNews and BestHorsePractices to address the complexity of the mustang message:
“We’re trying to get a real holistic look at the mustang issue, from all sides, not necessarily to point any fingers, but just to explain it.
The whole nine yards. It’s a misunderstood issue because you hear sound bites.
I don’t think most people know all the facts about exactly what the process is. So we’re trying to do a ton of research and make a really clear picture for the audience without taking sides.
I think if there was ever a crisis in the mustang world, it’s now. And certainly, it’s been brewing for a very long time.”
Meehl and a film crew from her Cedar Creek Productions traveled to the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board in Washington, D.C., earlier this month and interviewed attendees, adding to some 400 hours of footage.
“I don’t know that we see a great answer anywhere but I’m adamant about people not jumping to conclusions based on one news report they heard. It’s been misunderstood…I don’t want to say ‘misrepresented’ but I think it’s often not a holistic view,” said Meehl.
- Not how she moves.
- Not how she looks.
- It’s how she eats an apple.
When you give Jolene a chunk of apple, she will:
- Smell it
- Take it in her mouth
- Hold it in her mouth while looking at you
- Only then, after a long moment, she will start chewing it.
And so it is. My every intention gets vetted and scrutinized by this guarded, new addition. As expected, my skills are being put to the test as I work on helping Jolene become a more confident, more trusting, and more trail-worthy partner.
These past weeks have been dedicated strictly to ground work. Even leading her can be an exercise in patience and consistency.
Pressure and Release?
Better call it light pressure and immediate release.
From previous experience and a few false starts (see above), Jolene knows bolting can get her away from whatever’s bothering her.
My task, in these early days, is to teach her that bolting means more work and will be less comfortable than just hanging out with me. Round pen work has been effective in getting her to understand I can make her move as well as give her relief.
She moves to a trot easily. No whips or sticks necessary, just pressure with my eyes, arms, and body position. She stops quickly when I relax and stop directing her. She’ll let me approach and give her a rub. But she doesn’t follow me around like our other horses will.
Lois Dietrich will host neuropsychologist Dr. Steve Peters and horseman Martin Black at their first seminar of Evidence-Based Horsemanship on the East Coast, November 15-17.
The pair will conduct lectures, demonstrations, and Dr. Peters will dissect a horse brain at the Mountain Springs Arena facilities in Shartlesville, Pennsylvania.
The seminar begins Friday evening with an introductory lecture, followed by two jam-packed days of learning.
Stay tuned for more information or contact Lois Dietrich at 610-223-7859 or email@example.com.
Check out more Evidence-Based Horsemanship articles here.
Read about their presentation at last year’s Equine Affaire.
Buy the book.
How does Evidence-Based Horsemanship work in the New England reality?
EBH in New England reality, Part II
Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland.