Laddie, Light My Fire!

Dateline:  Pacific Palisades, California

The year:  1967

I can still picture the scene.

I’m in my early teens, trotting and galloping the dirt fire roads above Will Rogers State Park, riding my first horse, Rebel — the fulfillment of my life-long horsey dreams.

Alongside the horn of my Western saddle bounces the buckskin pouch I sewed myself, containing my small transistor radio — precursor to the Walkman, the iPod, the Smart Phone.

Groovy!

KRLA, my favorite Los Angeles rock station, is playing the long, seven-minute version of The Doors, Light My Fire.

The time to hesitate is through
No time to wallow in the mire

I rise and fall with Rebel’s swift and powerful movement, to the sound, the feel, the rhythm . . .

Come on Baby light my fire!

Listen to The Doors here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deB_u-to-IE

Carousel Horses

It’s a magical time. Along with Disneyland, The Beatles, vinyl discs, Star Trek . . . Jim Morrison’s rifts frozen into the framework of my Baby Boomer’s generation coming of age.

This song nails it — encapsulating the elation, the freedom, the escape of riding Rebel — from my everyday, junior-high life.

You know that it will be untrue
You know that I will be a liar

If I was to say to you,
Girl, we couldn’t get much higher . . .

~~~

Light My Fire became Rebel and my theme song.

I can’t listen without transporting back to the rhythm of hoof-beats, the feeling of freedom, the smell of chaparral — and hot sweaty horse.

That, and the GIANT SMILE on my otherwise trying-to-figure-life-out teenage face.

~~~

Laddie Shadow

(From my journal, written the night Laddie came together to really RIDE :))

~~~

Laddie, Light My Fire!

Fast forward: Fortysomething years later, Frazier Park, California

The Scene: Riding my homebred gelding, Laddie, in the woods!

Same rhythm. Same hoofbeats. Same theme . . .

Girl on horseback, experiencing flight. Freedom. Escape from everyday reality into Pegasus’ realm.

GIANT SMILE!

You see, Laddie came together tonight. And transformed from ‘sticky, green’, to full-blown, Rebel-style Light My Fire!

IMG_2668

~~~

Homebred Horse!

We started riding Laddie May, 2012, as a four year old.

Born August 22, 2008, I like to wait to start them. Give them time to grow and mature . . .

Especially being half-Arabian. Especially being part-draft, part-Shire.

(For some reason, the smaller horses and the bigger horses seem to take longer.)

Although half-Arabian, Laddie pulled his Grand-Shire’s genes, with Arabian accents. He looks very Welsh Cob: big curvy neck, heavy hindquarters, large high-stepping hooves, complete with feathers.

He’s the third of my four generations of offspring. And I find him the most interesting!

Baby Laddie

~~~

Training Notes

You see, training horses comes together little by little, in fits and starts.

From the time they are born, you move them in the general direction that you wish to accomplish — personable, and mannered, and safe.

Yet, by their very nature, horses are cantankerous, and dangerous, and animated.

They kick and bite and strike. In a word: Wild!

No healthy young horse I’ve known walks up and allows itself to be haltered — walking perfectly, following.

Some are easier than others, yet, like a Mustang off the range, little foals have to learn all that.

~~~

Apply By Layers 

My favorite description of training horses is like applying varnish to wood. It must be done in thin coats, allowed to dry — and sanded between, in order to shine.

You cannot just dump the stuff on in one session, but must lay it down, layer by layer, building, just so — and stopping at just the right time, to let the lessons sink in . . .

Sometimes you make progress. Other times you just back off and give them time to grow.

The biggest question: Is this horse suited to what I want to use him for? Does he have the build, the mind, the temperament to be safe and fun?

Some individuals, some breeds, fail this requirement. It’s taken me years to work out the mixture, but I’ve got it now, and I treasure it!

Laddie Looking

~~~

Our Method of Starting Horses

When we first take our young horses out into the woods, we let them run along with the group, free. Then, later, on a rope. And then we let them run free again.

It starts with learning to yield, to submit — to ropes and leadines and people.

Building, ever building, on what has been done before — adding weight and saddles, girth and tack.

They also must learn about trails and footing, trees, rocks and stumps. Barking dogs, speeding cars, loud motorcycles. Gates, mailboxes, dumpsters. Flushing quail, jack rabbits. And a thousand other things that can occur on a ride.

Once, riding Starboy solo, I heard a massive boom. He spooked in place, dipping, but fortunately not slipping off the steep trail. I thought there must have been a gas explosion from one of the houses below.

Turns out it was the Space Shuttle, Enterprise, coming in for a landing at Edwards Air Force Base, a hundred-plus miles from here! The Shuttle broke the sound barrier — right over our heads — and spooked my horse. How do you prepare for something like that???

Ladie and Hoku looking

~~~

First Time Up

We first hop on their backs, unsaddled, in the yard, after they are relaxed from a good workout — one of us standing at his head, helping the other on.

No stress, no drama.

Quietly up, praising and scratching.

On and off both sides.

Invariably, they reach around with their neck and sniff and chew at our feet, as if to say, “Hey! What’cha you doing up there Ma???”

Layer by layer.

All this prep takes place over the first several years.

~~~

First Ride!

When it’s time for their first real ride, we utilize the herd again. Horses do better in a group than by themselves, so we capitalize on this instinct.

For his first ride we took Laddie out, running along with us for over an hour, working his exuberant youthful energy down — swift-moving through the woods, up the wash, past the galloping place, to the turn-around . . .

My brave daughter, Ella, hopped on bareback and rode without a bridle, just a rope halter, for a good forty-five minutes — Lad, flowing along with the group, not at all concerned about having a rider on his back.

Instead of continuing back toward home, we turned up a side trail, now cantering, riding farther away from home so he wouldn’t be in a hurry — again working with his instincts.

Then she hopped off and back onto her horse, letting Lad run home free, with the herd.

Thus he learns the A B C’s of carrying a person, and doing our bidding as a trail horse — organically, by degrees.

~~~

Saddled Rides

The early saddled rides out from the barn can be interesting. The horse can get ‘sticky’ at any point — get confused, and not want to go. Or turn and bolt . . . with a big leap to the side.

You plan, as best you can, to have everything work in your favor.

Calm day. No wind. No barking dogs or speeding cars or new dumpsters or the like, but even on a country roadway, so much is outside of our control.

My first saddled ride on Lad involved twilight and a nearly full moon, a dark shoulder-less dirt roadway. All going well — then, surprise! The roar of an engine grinding towards us . . . headlights shifting through the willow trees. Face-to-face with the local septic pumping truck — the Big Rig, no less!

But because of all we’d put into him, Laddie handled it beautifully. (His mother, Fae was the one who spooked and pranced in place that night!)

And Laddie’s come along really well. Strong leader. Retaining what I put into him.

Still a bit spooky and sticky and hesitant and green. But smart and smooth — growing in confidence. And willing . . .

~~~

Stylized -- Laddie, McGill

~~~

Laddie, Light My Fire!

So when Laddie finally gave me his speed, his strength, his willingness to carry me without hesitation tonight (and on a solo ride, no less!) it signaled a milestone. So many years in the making!

And I praised him.

And I stroked his big neck.

And I whooped and hollered for joy!

And we flew through the woods, into the realm of Pegasus.

And I heard the Doors, and I felt the rhythm:

The time to hesitate is through
No time to wallow in the mire

And I rose and fell with Laddie’s swift and powerful movement . . .

And my eyes watered with the speed.

And a GIANT SMILE spread over my now-wiser, horse-satisfied face . . .

Come on Baby light my fire!
Try to set the night on fire . . .

AAAAhhhh! You’re AWESOME, Lad!

How FANTASTIC is that!!!!

~~~

Listen to more of the Doors here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ed9BjZcoXM

Rick Riding :))

Postscript:  Laddie continues to mature, AWESOME — turning eight this year. He happily carries (and cares for) those fortunate enough to ride him :))

Join Dawn for a Soul Horse Ride!  Experience the thrill of becoming one with your horse . . . Join Dawn and her homegrown herd for a  Soul Horse Ride in the Frazier Park Outback!

Call to book your Life-Changing Adventure today:  (661) 703-6283

Dawn & Laddie -- McGill II

Like what you’ve read here? Visit Dawn’s sister blog: Journal of Dawn

Kailua Ferrari

~~~

Copyright 2013, 2016

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4 Comments

April 22, 2016 · 9:40 pm

4 responses to “Laddie, Light My Fire!

  1. eineachain

    Thanks for being a Teacher and Educator! Your words express beautifully your care and love of horses. See you at the stables, graham

  2. Such wonderful photos and a feeling of your love of horses, past and present. I’ve known a few great horse people in my life, and you are right up there with the best ~ an amazing spirit you have. Wishing you a great summer ahead Dawn.

    • Aaaaaahhh, thank you Dalo so much :)) Shimmering green leaves grace the cottonwood trees, cool breezes kiss our forest, and summer season rides await us . . . Laddie is currently in carriage training, back home the end of the month, ready for sterling adventures in hames and harness — can’t wait! Are you coming home to the mainland for summer? Remember your standing invitation to ride here in the forest with our herd :)) Dawn

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