The Natural Horseman – One journey at a time.

By Steve Stevens

What would life be without adventure, excitement and challenge. I think it would be pretty boring.

That’s why we invest our time, hearts, soul and money into spending our lives with horses.

I was entered in another colt starting competition this past weekend in Attica, Indiana where I found myself in a covered arena in the middle of a cornfield.

I thought a lot this weekend about how every horse we meet takes us on our own personal journey. It can start out rocky, the road can be winding and with many dead ends.

It seemed quite poetic that the nervous foundation bred mare I drew was named “Windy”.

I try to remind myself when working with horses to never judge a book by its cover. But sometimes the path ahead looks impassible and it can be easy to waver.

That is where I found myself last Friday evening.

Windy was scared as she entered the round pen. She then stood in the corner and stayed put. Hoping no one would notice her, she trembled. I was not prepared for how shut down she was.

Most horses want to move when they are scared, they want to flee. She was so scared she could barely move.

This would make me have to re-evaluate my game plan. It took the better part of twenty minutes for her to relax enough to start trotting around the pen.

I had not just begun and the road was already covered with warning signs.

I had slowly become aware that the little arena had started to pack in with people. Farmers, cowboys and city folk alike. The energy felt good, as the crowd seemed invested in what these trainers were doing.

Of course I am sure I helped with that as Windy bucked, snorted, pulled back and evaded me every step of the way.

As Kenny Rogers says “no when to fold them…”

I somehow got the mare saddled and quiet enough to mount. She was tight and didn’t want to move. The frustration was kicking in.

I reminded myself again to try to stay in the moment.

So I worked away, focusing on being aware for the smallest of changes.

Everyone else seemed to be doing fine. I found myself on a much darker route.

The evening ended. Kind people came up and patted me on the back saying things like “tough one”, “rough draw”, “maybe you will get a better one next time.”

Not so anyone could see, but my head hung low.

The next morning I heard about a state park about 30 miles away.

So I headed my bright blue rent-a-car that way.

Miles of corn everywhere…then about five miles from the destination, the scenery started to change.

It became hilly with tall trees and leaves that were starting to fall.

Narrows covered bridge at Turkey Run State Park. (Photo by Amanda Stevens)

As I drove through the gates of Turkey Run State Park my spirit of adventure awoke.

I entered the forest across a grand suspension bridge and cobbled river. As I trekked on, I went through canyons and revines through the wilderness.

As I climbed my way in and out of river bends, I reminded myself this is what it is all about.

This out of the way trip, that I took to kill some time on my Saturday, reminded me why I was entered in the colt starting competition. It wasn’t to win or prove I’m the best.

It was for the journey.

I took a deep breath, took in the surroundings and got excited to get back to that stout mare Windy and work away.

And that is what I did.

Taking every stride one hoof at a time. She was tough, but this evening it didn’t matter, I just went with the flow.

Steps leading to a path at Turkey Run State Park. 

This was my road.

Although she has a long way to go, she came leaps and bounds from the mare hiding in the corner to riding out in an arena doing obstacles just four hours after we met.

I am proud to say we won First Place at the competition.

I say this not to brag, but just to remind us all that no matter how rough things get… as long as we keep moving forward and enjoy the ride, good things will come.

I want to thank Windy the mare for teaching me so much about myself this weekend.

And also to the people that joined us in the small farming community, for opening their hearts and minds and sharing the journey with all of the colts and trainers.

Steve and Windy during round 4 of the competition on Saturday night. Here Windy was being rode for the first time in the arena.