The importance of getting out

I am back at Windrock Farm for the first time since September of 2007. I am Cari’s brother. We grew up in Ohio. Cari was drawn to Europe and then New York. I was initially drawn to Washington, D.C. and then to the American West where I’ve spent most of my adult life (so far).

My times at Windrock Farm over the years have been wonderful antidotes to the grand Western landscapes of my adopted Western homes.

Hacking out: Cari on Bond and Jim on Cosmo.

Both of my sisters are accomplished riders—I am merely a competent one. I share their love of horses, though horses have not taken center stage in my life. Still, I’ve helped give many horses new leases on life by shepherding breakthroughs. My specialty seems to be young or inexperienced horses.

My current personal favorite horse here is Cosmo. I met him last year when he first arrived at Windrock Farm. At that time I don’t think he had spent much time hacking in the woods—he was a little flighty when I took him out on hacks. My training philosophies are not as advanced as Cari’s but I am in full agreement with the importance of taking a horse out on a hack as an integral part of their training regimen. Horses in our times spend too much time living confined lives in stalls, small paddocks, and riding arenas. Such living arrangements are unhealthy and create unbalanced horses. These arrangements are often the best we can do, so it is even more important to take horses out on trails every chance you get. If your horse is flighty in such situations, it is even more important that you patiently and persistently introduce them to the joys of riding out on trails.

Last year Cosmo showed great progress over the six or so weeks when I was riding him. When I got on this good looking chestnut upon my return a few days ago, he was a different horse from the green gelding who arrived here just over a year ago.

We headed out into some of my favorite country—New York’s Dutchess County. Our first ride out was just the two of us. It was late in the afternoon. I am living in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert right now, so even though it is unseasonably warm in New York, the short days, and relatively cold air immediately gave me a chill anticipating the coming Eastern winter. Cosmo and I rode through a light drizzle. We cut through the woods, over a perma-puddle (that would stop most over-stabled horses in their tracks). Cosmo and I proceeded by following the perimeters of our neighbor’s hayfields and ascended to the nearest and highest spot with a view of the nearby countryside.

It was a sight for sore eyes. Pockets of color clung to the trees, though most of this year’s foliage was already underfoot. The light was failing quickly but there was enough for me to see across the local valley with its irregular checkers of woods and fields. Cosmo felt sure and strong beneath me—his hooves pounding the soft November ground. The cool drizzle on my face reminded me I was out of the Sonoran Desert for the moment and oh so lucky to be astride such a magnificent creature.

Jim Breitinger is an Arizona-based writer. Visit his web site at