Category Archives: Virtual Rides

Step up into the stirrup. Sniff the wind. Feel the rhythm. Let the horse carry you. Ride along from the comfort of your computer. No previous horse experience necessary. Just an open heart and an expanding imagination. Enjoy!

I Was a Teenager Again, Today . . .


This has been a season of very little riding, compared to the rest of my years — years filled with all-out endurance trail riding on some of the best horses, best trails on the planet!

Am I just getting old? Why don’t I ride as much as I used to???

My Wise-Woman Hawaiian friend, Wendy, suggested, “Perhaps if you had someone fun to ride with, you would ride more.”

Perhaps — but who?


So, as today was cool, my time was free, the horses shod and ready — I called up Hollie and asked if she’d like to ride.



She met me in an hour, and up we saddled, and off we went. Off into the woods. Into the wonder of riding a willing horse . . . She on Lad, me on Aria.

(Turns out, she hadn’t ridden enough, on her horses, either. And her horses don’t have the same trail access as mine.)

So she clamored up onto Laddie, all 16+ hands of him, quite a bit larger than her two, and onto my Aussie “guest saddle”, perfectly fitted to her size.

Off into the woods we went, happy girls, happy horses . . .

Laddie Light Seymour Canyon

“I’m so jealous of this horse,” she said of Lad. “He’s PERFECT! You’re so lucky to have him!!!”

Yes. I really am!

But without Hollie, who last rode with me and my daughters almost ten years ago, I wouldn’t have giggled, laughed, whooped, full-out-galloped, and had the AMAZING RIDE we had today!!!!!


Feeling the exuberance of horses! (see photo credit below)

Although she’s young enough to be my daughter, too, — today there was no age difference between us.

We were two teenagers again, Little Dawn and Young Hollie, riding to our heart’s content on Aria and Lad — the horses both completely willing and into it.

Swooping round the loops and bends of my secret “Sneaky Trail” — Hollie and I, whooping and loving it.

So rare to find another human who can meld with a horse, with my horse, without complaint. Flying across the earth at endurance-pace speed, tireless. Free!

Once we hit the galloping place, Lad, lagging a length or two behind, as usual, suddenly poured on speed — and overtook Aria and me — lunging with leaping strides into all the dignity of his Arabian-cross ancestry. Draft-horse-genes be damned!

He rose to the Endurance Arab in him, and FLEW out in front. So great to see :))

Aria fleet, airborne. Her gait fluid and swift, like silk, and satin, and velvet. Covering the ground in effortless flight, carrying me back to my teenage years of all those horse dreams I lived for. (see: Laddie, Light my Fire)

Perfect Shadow :))

There, on the ground, on the trees, I saw my shadow, the same one that accompanied me on all my childhood rides. How could my shadow look so young? So nimble?

With motherhood and all the years since, my shadow still rides, upright and strong, firm in my Western-Australian saddle.

Bold Shadow


So if you find yourself lagging in your adventures, putting off the rides you know you love — is there someone fun you could call up and ride with?

I certainly hope so!

Hollie and I hope to arrange more of these “spontaneous outings”.

Because we both LOVE the thrill of riding perfect horses.

And we both LOVE the feeling of being teenagers, again!


Frilly Horse


Copyright 2019

Photos: Dawn Jenkins

More on photo of Alice Sisty jumping a Cord car:


Ella at Fuji's -- Dreaming

Please also visit my Life Blog, Journal of Dawn ,

for Strategies and Insights into the

Journey of Life


Fae, Rick, Pinos

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




October 8, 2019 · 11:35 pm

Horse High :))

It’s a wonderfully recurring theme throughout my Horse Life . . .

“The more I ride, the more I want to ride! The more I ride, the more I must ride !”    DawnHoof 

The more I ride, the more I experience that effervescent, single-minded, can’t-wait-to-do- it-again, fluttery feeling:  Horse High!!! 

On the Trail

Enjoy this post I wrote last fall. My wonderful ride on Fae in our woods tonight brought back my Horse High, and I decided to post this now, in honor of all the Great Rides we Horse Humans live for . . .    DawnHoof

It’s the Horse High that keeps me a Horse Girl.

Not just my owning, caring for, and feeding my horses every day . . .

Not just that I can ride.

But that I do ride!

Again. And again.

And again.

Side by Side

Not a Given . . .

Yet sometimes the High alludes me.

Occasionally, rides go bad, or leave me flat.

Sometimes it’s tough to get out and ride at all!

Be it weather — too hot, too cold. Conditions — too slick, too much snow. Time — too little daylight, too much work. Or my own energy levels — too tired, or just not quite “up”.

But most of my Horse Adventures fuel the High I feel today, from all the great rides and carriage drives I’ve experienced recently :)) :)) :))

Laddie in Cart

Keeping Stats :)) 

You may not know, but I log every ride! Like in my old days of piloting airplanes, every hour spent in flight, every destination, every landing, recorded in flight logs.

I record my rides in a series of yearly At-A-Glance type organizer books, (going back more than twenty years!), along with my day-to-day work, travel and activities.

Rides are circled and flagged, so they stand out and can be tallied. Time, horse(s) and destination, all recorded.

Magical Jeep Odometer :))

Spirit of my Jeep :))

I treasure these records, as they paint the overall picture as to how my Horse Life is playing out, over the larger scope of time.

Going back through the years and adding up my number of rides and hours spent in the saddle — I’ve noticed, as I’m getting older, the numbers tend to shrink.

You might be tempted to think, “One day, when things slow down — I’ll live the Life of my Dreams.”

Oh, so naive.

You might find, as you age, you won’t quite have the energy levels you have now.

(Like our vehicles, our own body mileage starts piling up, and we require more maintenance to perform at previous levels of expectation :))

“A good reminder to you younger folks — On with it! Get out and get on with your Dreams! Find a way to manifest the Life you’ve always wanted . . . right now.”    DawnHoof

Magical Odometer

Magical Truck Odometer :))

The Urge to Call it Quits . . .

In fact, from time to time throughout my more difficult years, when the High has partially alluded me, I’ve actually considered finding a new home for my herd.

This happened a couple years ago. My rides had gotten less frequent, and some of the thrill had gone.

“If I’m not riding as much, and not enjoying it like before,”  I asked, quite seriously . . . “Would my horses be better off with someone else???”

Sample Mind Map

Sample Mind Map

Mind Mapping my Solution

So I did what I always do when faced with a Life Dilemma:  I got out felt markers and poster board, and started a fresh Mind Map to explore the topic.

I Rode.

I came home.

I Mapped.

I rode again.

Over the course of a week, I had my answer:

  • No, I don’t need to re-home my herd :))
  • I am an excellent horse owner — but my Life has shifted at this stage, and my horsing must now adjust
  • So, rather than find faults, change my expectations and enjoy the phase I’m in now
  • Create joy in all that I do with my horses, whether I ride, or not :))

In shifting my approach, I’m happy to report, my Horse High, which powered the dreams of my childhood, has returned! 🙂 :))

Little Dawn with Horses

Little Dawn with Horses

Altering my Expectations

I reset my goals and expectations to include accepting a bit less time in the saddle, yet allowing myself to enjoy this “golden autumn” phase of Life and Horse . . .

(Like the colors and light that grace the fall equinox season.)

From my Mapping, I discovered that my Horse High shows up most when I shake up the usual mix :))

  • Hauling and riding somewhere fresh
  • Inviting a friend to join me
  • Making some daring change to my everyday routine

Shadow Puzzle Surprise :))

Road Trip!

So recently, I took action — and loaded Aria and Laddie in the trailer, and headed toward Lockwood Valley.

Earlier this summer I joined an endurance-riding neighbor for a big evening/moonlight ride (4.5 hours!) up Seymour Canyon, an old haunt I hadn’t ridden in years.

Now I set out for an encore ride of just the lower, easy part of Seymour, riding Laddie and ponying Aria.

Aria with Light Orbs

Golden Seymour Canyon

Up, up we rode.

Up the dirt track.

Past the dried creekbed.

Silhouetted trees.

Exposed roots.

Magical Sunbeams :))

Tree Roots

A single doe,

Large eyes and ears,

Paused. Looked —

Leapt off into

The underbrush —

Laddie’s neck high,

Eyes following.

Twisted Roots

Upward. Onward.

Past ramshackled remains

Of previously inhabited

Trailers and outbuildings.

Abandoned gravel pit.

Grass-lined, dried-out ponds.

Thirty-mile vistas.

Trail Vista

Up, up, ever up —

Winding past private

Fenced-off areas,

Along the forest line.

Outside the fence,

Outside of time . . .

No! Trespassing

To Golden Seymour Flats,

Ablaze in once-a-year

Perfect fall glory.

My saddle warm,


My horses eager.

Forward. In sync.

My body fit, fine.

Seymour Flat Shadows

Walking, swinging.

Trotting, loping,

Galloping into freedom —

One-and-a-half hours

Of constant, fluid motion.

On the Trail . . .

Heading back,

End-of-day light.

Satisfied. Complete.

High on Horse!

High on Nature.

High on Life :))

Fall Ride Evening


The day after a big ride, my lower back, neck and shoulders wake up stiff.

But they work out of it . . .

More powerful than that, my Soul wakes up refreshed, yearning for more.

Dreaming. Recounting. Re-living —

Bursting out in an effervescent, obsessive, Horse High!

Magical Light Beams on the Trail

:)) :)) Old Fashioned Horse High :)) :))

So today, all I could think was:

  • Where to go next?
  • What day could we go?
  • Which horses should I take?
  • How far shall we ride???

Distant Hills

High, Again :))

So I rode again, tonight —

Another hour-and-a-half,

In the moonlight.

Nearly Full Moon

Gliding. Floating.

One with my mount.

Aria Shadow, Pinos Ride

Dreaming again now —

Where to go next?

Which horses to take?

What’s up for the rest of the week??? :))

Susan's Clay Rider


Please visit my Life Blog, Journal of Dawn ,

for Strategies and Insights into the

Journey of Life

Cosmic Clouds


Copyright 2019



















































July 31, 2019 · 10:34 pm

The Life of My Dreams . . . I Believe in Magic :))

Ah, the frailties of our human Lives . . .

How do we know if our Life will work out?

How do we cope with the hand Life seems to deal us?

What do we do about uncertainties???

“Do you believe in Magic? (Like the Lovin’ Spoonful song from my 60s childhood.)

I have to say, I do!”  DawnHoof

Rainbow Statue

Reflections . . .

Twenty eight years ago, something wonderful happened — Starboy, my Horse-of-a-Lifetime, was born, in my arms, outside my dome house, up a canyon, in Malibu.

Yet that same night, twenty eight years ago, something awful happened — my (then) marriage fell apart.

chicks preening

So much uncertainty. So many questions.

How were my two young daughters and I to make it? How would I feed and care for all the horses? How would our lives work out???

Mentor Looking

Flash forward . . .

To tonight — Starboy’s twenty eighth birthday . . .

When I rode my same Horse-of-a-Lifetime into the forest, into the moonlight (aligned with Mars, no less!) under the vast canopy of September 19, 2018 stars.

Full Moon Pink Eclipse

Starboy Moonlight Ride

Long shadows

Dipping. Drooping.

Dark across the forest floor.

Starboy’s hooves, resound

Upon the path, like heartbeats —

Steady. Musical.

Twenty eight years

His melody strums the earth,

Graces the moonlight,

Carries my weight, still.

Twenty eight years

Starboy’s movement, rocking, 

Swaying. Dancing moonbeams

Sparkling off his flowing mane.

Filling my heart with peace.

Wonder. Love for Life.

Like that first night

When he was born —

With so much promise,

:)) Fulfilled :))

Starboy's flying mane

Yet alongside the joy,

I remember the sorrow.

The uncertainty. The loss.

And I realize — WOW!!!!

All is well!  Everything

Turned out beautifully!

My children:  Grown, happy.

My horse dreams:  Fulfilled.

My (now) marriage:  Deep, fulfilling :)) :))

Our home:  Beautiful.

My Life:  The Life of my Dreams.

I achieved the accomplishment

We all wish for — hope for.

And I marvel — at the Magic!

And I thank God . . .

And I thank goodness.

And I smile :))

And my gratitude runs deep.

And strong . . .

Like Starboy!

Sombrero Starboy :))

Señor Starboy — camp clown  :)) :))

What about you?

Is this Magic limited to just a few? Heck no! I believe it’s truly available to us all.

Where are you in your Life right now? Joy? Sorrow? Uncertainties?

Pray. Do your best. Follow your dreams. Look up.

Make your best decisions whenever you come to a crossroads.

Dust yourself off when you fall. Get back up and go at it again.

And you’ll get there. It might take a while.

But be encouraged — you’ll manifest the Life of your dreams :))

Golden Rays

Do you believe in Magic?

Do you believe in magic in a young girl’s heart
How the music can free her whenever it starts?
And it’s magic if the music is groovy
It makes you feel happy like an old-time movie
I’ll tell you about the magic, and it’ll free your soul
But it’s like trying to tell a stranger ’bout-a rock and roll

If you believe in magic, don’t bother to choose
If it’s jug band music or rhythm and blues
Just go and listen, and it’ll start with a smile
That won’t wipe off your face no matter how hard you try
Your feet start tapping, and you can’t seem to find
How you got there so just blow your mind

If you believe in magic, come along with me
We’ll dance until morning till there’s just you and me
And maybe, if the music is right
I’ll meet you tomorrow, sort of late at night
And we’ll go dancing, baby, then you’ll see
How the magic’s in the music and the music’s in me

(The Lovin Spoonful, 1965 — lyrics)



Palms over Moon

Please visit my Life Blog, Journal of Dawn ,

for Strategies and Insights into the

Journey of Life

Kissing Cousins


Copyright 2018




September 20, 2018 · 2:47 am

Touchstone — Full-Gallop!!!

Aria Running

Aria Running

“I became a young girl again, flying full-speed through the woods — One with my horse –”                                         DawnHoof


When was the last time you ran — flat out — FullGallop!!! ?

Heart and hoofbeats teleporting you straight back to

Long-ago youth. Back to Days when horses and cowboys

Filled the dreams of everyday girls and boys . . .

Carousel Girl

I was all teenage again tonight, this ride on my AMAZING Aria,

Fleet and fit and flying across the forested earth . . .

Flushing birds of prey from their evening roosts, soaring above us,

Startled by our roiling, energetic blast.

Rainbow Horse

This full-out ride a Touchstone to the best and fittest times of my Life :))

Back to my childhood first-horse, Rebel, Galloping the endless

California chaparral. Alone. Lithe. Energized. Elated!

Back to Fanta (Aria’s Grand-dam). Bold. Big. Inexhaustible.

Grace, Beauty, Spirit, Freedom

What other mechanism can do this for me?

Safe in my saddle. Hooves pounding. Exuberant! Free!

Fluid on the back of my own swift-moving childhood fantasy —

The culmination of my Life-long dreams :))

Disneyland Rides!

Delivering the rush and speed of downhill skiing.

The thrill of bobsleds at Disneyland’s Matterhorn Mountain.

The rocket-propelled thrust of jet-fired engines . . .

Combined with the heart and love of the line of horses I bred —

Filly Aria

Filly Aria, 2007

Aria — the horse I raised, trained and nurtured. On hooves

That I learned to nail with high performance, precision horseshoes —

Preventing overreach — enhancing her natural movement :)) :))

My same saddle I flew with Fanta, Mentor — holding me again. Safe. Secure.

Kailua Ferrari

Flying now, across the forest — Touchstone to my younger Days.

Timeless. Free. Galloping my way across the Story Line of my Life :))

Energized. Alive! No matter what my age :)) :)) Tonight, running —

Flat out — Again! On my Amazing Arabian-cross mare.



Copyright 2018


Vantage Point

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


Ella at Fuji's -- Dreaming

Please also visit my Life Blog, Journal of Dawn,

for Strategies and Insights into the

Journey of Life





June 26, 2018 · 10:46 am

Dancing in the Light

This time of year, long evening shadows grace our valley, our woods.

Drawing out the shapes, the colors, the motion of our end-of-day rides.

Long Shadows



Creating a certain nostalgia.

Projecting glimpses onto ground, grass, bark, leaves . . .


Here, a tail wisping — just a glance — against a pinon.

Now, legs lurching — a brief peek — then gone.



Highlighting our ride. Illuminating the periphery —

Calling my eye, my heart, to ponder.


Feelings flood back — barren winter.

Reminding me of how long it’s been since the warm shadows last appeared.

Now, the shape of my horse’s head, ears, mane — glints from another pine tree.

All of it dancing, moving.

Creating the feeling of Spring.

Projecting light-art, the original motion picture — only seen quite like this, when the sun comes round the mountain, this time of year.

Laddie Tree Shadow


As we leave the woods, off to the south — a long, golden shaft illuminates greenish-to-rust-toned foliage.



As if it will never end.

Like Life. Like our Ride.

As if the green grasses will never wither — never fade.


But this — illusory.

Day is done.

Sun setting, westward.

All seasons change.

Like the years. Like the moonlight.

Calling me to take comfort in the Dancing Light of my Ride — today.


Aria, Ella and Hokuleia

Aria, Ella and baby, Hokuleia.

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


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

Copyright 2017


May 27, 2017 · 9:33 am

Time Traveler

How many of us have the good fortune, throughout the span of our lives, to re-visit the best of our emotional childhood?

That passionate inner space that stirs your heart to overflowing . . .

Which touchstones open your vault of stored memories?

  • The fluttering silhouette of leaves and light on a curtain?
  • The beach? A hike? Petting a cat, or a dog?
  • The smell and the sounds of the day shifting — from morning . . . to afternoon . . . to evening?

Throughout my life, my access point remains the same: Riding my horse into Nature!

I entered that portal yesterday, and I danced, once again, between worlds.

* * *


All my hopes and dreams for you have come true!

You are my Starboy’s next generation. Starboy, yet bigger, younger. (See My Horse is So Cute! as well as Search: Starboy on this blog for more :))

  • Gliding gaits, smooth. Exuberant.
  • Responsive. Sensible.
  • Every horse-girl’s dream :))

You carried me into dreamland yesterday. And I loved every step . . .

Full. Rich. The emotions stirred deep inside.

Bubbling. Roiling.

Like the ocean waves that serenaded my early childhood years. Growing up on the sand, in Malibu, on then-pristine Trancas beach.

* * *

Maybe it seemed more poignant yesterday because of winter’s intervention.

(This being a snowy, wet and cold one up here in the mountains, I’ve only ridden once since November.)

So absence, indeed, made my heart throb fonder.

As I entered the forest gate, I entered my Time Traveling World.

* * *

All the forest seemed alive, calling back folders of stored emotions. Like a personal file cabinet, from which my entire life opened, and flowed . . .

Lacy shadows cascading across green spring grasses.

I’m riding Rebel, my childhood horse again.

Young. Strong. Filled with hope.

Cool breeze accompanied with warm sunshine, the perfect combination.

Malibu. Elementary School.

Easter time. Wind and warm.

All the world alive, fresh, new.

Yellow blossoms erupting along the Pacific Coast Highway: Clusters of Giant Coreopsis, fields of mustard and Oxalis, bush sunflowers, tidy tips, sticky monkey flowers.

Springtime’s fragrant scent.

Blue sky, fluffy clouds. Hovering, floating.

Teenage again!

Riding Rebel behind Will Rogers State Park in the Pacific Palisades.

Endless sky. Endless opportunities.

My life as endless as the horizon surrounding me . . .

Towering Ponderosa tree, here, just off the trail. Still healthy and full and alive. Handsome Granddaddy of our woods.

Motherhood  now. Two lovely daughters.

My girls would ride into the forest here when they were young, tie up the horses, climb into this tree — sing, and play their flutes.

One day, they reported to me: “Mamma! We watched a calf being born in the woods today. We were up in the tree. The cow was in the bushes, near the wash . . . ”

In my mind, I see that calf being born, each time I ride past. I see it again now, and I see and feel the amazement of new life, once again, in my daughters’ eyes.

Across the way, the spot where my daughter, Anna’s, hair was caught by a snag and pulled from her Shetland pony, Silver.

The pain — how she cried! How hard it was to console her. Pulled from her pony by her hair, by a low-hanging finger of a tree.

Up from the wash, into the meadow now. Yellow carpet of Gold Field flowers, tiny blossoms painting the ground in swirling, creamy hues.

I’m here again, the first time we discovered the meadow in full golden bloom, when Fae was young, green, her maiden voyage that Spring. Anna, teenage now, riding her bareback.

I had my camera that day and I photographed the gangly forms of horse, and rider.

I see it again now: Anna sliding off, picking a tuft of yellow florets, and placing them in both her own hair, and in the forelock and browband of Fae’s bridle. Her long legs hopping, stretching, leaping back on again, in acrobatic precision.

Our cantering spot. Our Toodle Canyon . . .

The pond, dried in the drought of the past several years, now full, heart-shaped, inviting wildlife to sip and horses to spook at their smells.

I’m here again, with my girls — long-since moved away. With my horses — many now, passed to the other side. With my faraway Malibu childhood. Juxtaposed in emotional envelopes, side, by side, by side . . .

Alive again. Decades past.

Time travels. Flashes back.

      Re-living all the feelings. Again.

          Timeless. Alive. All without end . . .

Like an endless loop. Like “The Song That Never Ends”. Playing and re-playing over, and over, again . . .

And all along our ride: The Silent Sentinels (dead trees). Once majestic. Now sliver.  Aged. Wise.

My favorite one, still standing. Broken off at the top. Burned and hollowed below by some long-ago fire. Surrounded by fallen comrades. Twisted, faded.

Enter the longings of Grandmother and Mom, Grandfather and Dad.

Age and wisdom. Hope and loss.

Guideposts of Spirit and values. Philosophy and goodness.

Once here and viable. Now fading. Yet watching, still.

And right along side the bygone, the Old — sprouts the next generation: Fresh. New. Growing.

Encouraging, even in their decay. Our ancestors understand far more than us youngin’s Life’s endless cycles, and wherein we play. In. Out. Endless. Timeless.

All this to the music, the metronome, of my horse’s dancing mane. His flowing neck, swinging. Ticking off each stride.

Each hoofbeat, each memory, each emotion . . . connected through the stride and the dancing mane of my most amazing, time-traveling, doorway to another world: My horse!

* * *


* * *

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

* * *

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

Copyright 2017


May 4, 2017 · 2:32 am

Praising Starboy

Yes, the day is balmy.

Yes, my horse is fresh.

And though we haven’t saddled up since November,

I’m riding Starboy, today, at his best!

* * *

He feels like we’ve never waited

For winter’s snow, mud, ice, to end.

We’ve picked up where we left off,

Starboy, my timeless friend.

* * *

Gliding in perfection,

Flowing with his every silken move —

All, with nuance, dance today

In horse and human groove :))

* * *

How the woodlands beckon,

Starboy’s pace abounds.

Praising precious Starboy,

Hoofbeats, smiles, resound :))

* * *

Awesome, wondrous, synchronized,

How best to describe the day?

Finding bliss on Starboy —

Then feeding his dinner hay :))

* * *

Long Shadow Starboy

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

– – –

Copyright 2017


April 5, 2017 · 9:42 pm

I Ride Into The Painted Desert

Join Starboy and me on a ride from 2009, at the wild rim of Southern California’s Antelope Valley desert — where mountains, trees, and sagebrush encircle the vast desert floor. Breathtaking!

I went to that area today and photographed some of the scenery.


Desert Vista

I ride into the painted desert, along the rim.

On my Bay steed, my companion.

Willing mount who trods wherever I bid.

A massive gray thundercloud, miles-wide — hear the clap — marches our way across the barren expanse.

Dark wisps of raindrops, like a moustache, drape downward, with a twirl, never reaching the distant desert floor.

Beside the solemn advance looms a white swath of creamy cloudtops punctuating the adjacent darkness.

The depth, the contrast, the subject, reminds me of a painting by one of the masters.

Remington couldn’t have captured it better.

Trees atop the rim

I stop the Bay to breathe in the sight.

Oak trees line the nearest hillside.

Sagebrush paints the meadow pale green.

All draped in the deepening drama of the approaching darkness.

A cool wind whips through the Bay’s tangled mane.

Starboy Mane Silhouette

Up here in the foothills, we create our own artwork.

Little buckwheat flowers paint a burnished backdrop to horse and rider.

I watch his sleek neck move against their endless faces, picking his way across the wash.

Finding the single track trail, we wind up a steep section, turn back on ourselves at the Manzanita bush, and keep climbing.

Here at the ridge, the trail looses clarity. Animal paths are easy to confuse.

Buckwheat on the Rim

We pick what appears to be the best one, and I lose my hat, plucked by scrub and fallen steeply below.

I’m lucky I don’t lose my neck!

The brush is grown over — a deer trail. Not tall enough for horse and rider.

We follow their rut into a scratchy branch that comes to my chin.

The angle of the slope, the agility of my mount are hard to describe.

Almost defying gravity!

At this point, there are few options of retreat. We’re in too deep.

Buckwheat flowers

The Bay waits as I manage to contort and duck beneath.

Picking our way, pushing branches, my arm bleeds in the process.

Ah, reuniting now with the bigger path. Out of the brambles.

The trail drops down the steep grade, but my Bay keeps his steady, light pace.


Listening for my coaxing.

Starboy's mane

Climbing toward the next ridgeline, we traverse another falling-out section.

Then onto a jeep trail headed below.

A wizened drop hits my arm.

And another.

As much as the desert, straining upward, wants a drink, this cloud fizzles.

The darkness engulfs us now, sputtering.

Yet the brightness stays along side, illuminating hope.

Silver Lined Oak

I decide to go back and retrieve the hat. My new red one.

We head back up to the ridgeline.

I dismount and lead the Bay down a narrow furrow —  my but he’s agile.

We come out above it, have to drop down.

Bend down.

Arm stretched.

Got it!

Trees and scrub


I ride into the painted desert, along the rim.

On my Bay steed, my companion.

Who listens and keeps good care of me.

Into vistas of vastness and landscapes of eternity.

It really doesn’t get much better than this!

Desert Vista


Copyright 2009, 2014



June 30, 2014 · 12:44 pm

Riding: The Allure, The Passion, The Obsession…

Horses and riding have always allured me, and the intellectual side of myself has, from time to time, tried to figure out — Why?

What calls my Soul to horses? Why is it that nothing else will quite do?

Join me on my quest to discover what it is, and why, us horse people must ride. 

Ears Listening


California: Pacific Crest Trail, off Liebre Mountain Springtime, 2002.

Buckeyes are just beginning to pop with small brilliant lime-green ‘palm trees’ bursting out at the end of the branches.

The tree we pass now is overgrown and grabbing for my face; I duck hurriedly and just miss it.

Now we glide past gooseberries with stalks of shiny green leaves and delicate red florets. Now more buckeyes. Now a grove of clustered, densely-packed oaks with textured gray bark and bluish leaves.

This is one of my favorite places, a steep incline at the Northern reaches of the Angeles National forest, above the vast Mojave Desert and the great Tejon Ranch.

Time stands still on this edge of forest rim, except for the constant changing drama of the seasons.


Now, we approach the ‘digger pine’ forest eerie enough to also be known as ‘ghost pine’ so thickly wooded you’d think someone had planted it.

But nature herself did, decades ago, when the first football-sized, sap-laden cone scattered its seed and took root here.

Usually solitary sentinels on a north-facing ravine, this grove is most unusual.

The lighting changes under the labyrinth of the trees, filtering through millions of dainty six-inch long gray-green needles, and creates an atmosphere unique to digger pines alone.

I glimpse inside a small level opening in the midst of the grove where a picnic table slumps, wooden benches warping. 

And I remember the times we’ve dismounted and eaten a snack here . . . 

We ride our fit horses at endurance pace fast — not because we prod them but because they want to.

We float through the towering overgrowth, as in a tunnel, following the ever-climbing path upwards. Browned needles carpet the undercover and further dampen the light.

The wind is quiet here with the cover of the trees, and we race toward the arch-shaped opening at the end of the wood, bursting out into a long, slightly uphill straight-away.


We really fly now, dodging stray ceanothus branches and suddenly smelling a strong scent of sagebrush.

Up, up, up we venture, horses sweating and breathing harder as we hit the steeper section of trail.

“Branch!” I manage to shout back, as I push aside and dodge another one. “Thanks!” I barely hear in muffled, groaning reply.

As we approach a six-inch wide rain rut in the climbing narrow trail, I become aware of the precision of Starboy’s hooves:  wide black blurs flying out in front of me.

Mechanically, perfectly, he straddles the rut, deepened from winter’s runoff. His nose inclines toward the earth, nostrils flaring, deftly picking his steps.

I hear Fanta behind me, wheezing, surging in Rick’s hands, pulling at her bit. Wanting to burst past us, to show how much better and faster she could take this stretch . . .


Finally, we come out to the brief level straight-away at the top of the long climb.

I catch a quick glance of what remains of my favorite old, gutted-out, Valley Oak tree.

The bark is gone, exposing the gnarly and swirled, marble-like underwood. Its great trunk stands, perhaps thirty feet tall, the top long ago severed by snow, or wind, or lightening.

Although we fly past it at a gallop today, I remember the time when I stopped to marvel at it. I took my mental picture that day, and decided it was grand.

I see this picture now, and smile, as we whirl past; a quick mental wink.


Starboy Mane Flowing

All this makes up a ride. The adrenaline flowing between horse and rider, the beauty of the horses and their movement, the changing textures and beauty of Nature.

And the newness of each ride dwells along side the old. One ride juxtaposes itself upon the next in a matrix of memories, creating a rich history.

Sometimes I find myself re-living a section of trail from a long-ago ride I thought I had forgotten.

Lying in my bed, somewhere between sleep and awake, a vivid tape replays itself and I see the trees again, see the winding contour of the trail, feel again the surge of the horse, and the excitement of the moment.

Starboy on Pinos


Like Woodside in ’85 riding with my new friend, Terry, and her Morgan mare, Velvet, when I was first introduced to the concept of “endurance riding”.

I had always preferred the freedom of riding trails to the confines of riding circles in an arena, which made me stand out from the other girls at Cory Walkey’s English Riding Academy in the Pacific Palisades.

My cheap western saddle and scrapping roan gelding, aptly named Rebel, separated me from the English jumping clique.

I lived for Rebel throughout my tentative junior high and high school years — long arduous solo rides throughout the Santa Monica Mountains being my special favorite.

I had no definition for what I did until I met Terry. “Endurance riding.” I liked the sound of that.

When I met her, Terry was conditioning for the grueling 100-mile Tevis ride in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. She had selected Velvet from an endless pasture of horses at an aunt’s ranch somewhere, for the virtue of the mare’s large, ground-covering trot.

(My Appaloosa mare, Fanta, whom I had bought several years after Rebel, had to canter to keep up with that trot!)


So, some years back, I found myself in that state between sleep and consciousness, when the clearest recollection of my first big ride with Terry, out of nowhere, flashed back full-bore.

Like a dream, the ride returned to me.

There I was, riding Fanta, trotting down the east side of the mountain trail from Skyline to the bottom, in Woodside.

Since then I can re-live that same ride at will, as I have, numerous times throughout the years.

First, there was the certain little winding section of trail, and the chatting, and the laughter. The tall redwood trees creating a canopy, with smaller growth by the trails edge.

The bottom section where we let the horses drink, willow trees in the cool rushing creek. I could hear the water, smell the moist soil and rotting leaves.

I saw, also the top section of the trail, when I learned by watching Velvet that a horse can actually hop over a chest-high fallen tree from a standstill, if taught to do so.

A graceful athletic thing to watch; a painful, jarring thing to actually do.


And then I flashed on the blossoms of a plum tree in springtime, at the edge of a wonderful old ranch there, on the dirt road where we would ride by.

And when the fruit came to ripen in summer, I remembered stopping to feed Fanta plums . . .

I didn’t dismount, but picked them while still in my saddle. Fanta careened her silken neck and reached over to my hand, with anxious lips, as I stuffed her mouth with the delicious morsels.

She slobbered frothy pink plum juice which dribbled onto hands, saddle and pad, as she gorged herself.

I whispered sweet nothings to her and rubbed her mane.

She spit out the pit and bent back her neck for more . . .


Digging the Ride!

Horses and riding have always allured me, and the intellectual side of myself has, from time to time, tried to figure out, Why.

What calls my soul to horses? Why is it that nothing else will quite do?

Family Shadows


In fact, as I write this, I realize that the ride with Terry that day was different.

Not only was it my first big ride endurance conditioning, which opened the doors to the possibility of trotting over endless distances.

And not only was it my first time on the redwood trail that was to become my favorite haunt — the big two-plus hour ride I had always dreamed of when I bought Fanta as a yearling, and had to wait for years until she was ready to finally ride, train, and enjoy.

But I can now recall the conversation we had on the winding stretch of trail that has become so memorable — the subject of the laughter.

Lone Jeffry Pine


We asked ourselves why! Why do we do this? What is it that makes horses and riding so alluring, so all-encompassing to our Souls?

As “horse people” we spend small fortunes keeping our horses. We feed them and nurture them and sacrifice for them.

We become truck drivers and hay haulers and fence builders for them.

We become mothers and medics and slaves to our horses, who munch their hay and carrots and grain contentedly, not seeming to have a clue that we have altered our lives to accommodate them.

Some of us have even lost marriages and friends over them — putting them above all else.

Why? Why? Why?


On The Trail

Terry and I defined it that day, yet it is a definition ever redefining itself.

* We ride for Freedom. The freedom of youthful abandon, heading out and letting the wind direct our path for the day.

* We ride for Nature. Riding puts us in places outdoors we wouldn’t get to any other way; the trees, the trails, the wonder of being out in the great wild.

* We ride for our Horses. They love the rides even more than we do, picking up their pace and sniffing the wind, legs flying, experiencing their own form of freedom. Willing companions, partners, Soul mates . . .

* We ride for our Souls. Riding feeds us. It puts smiles on our faces and a lift to our gait. It gives us depth of character and heightened experience our Souls crave.

Limber Pine Tree

Riding, the allure. Riding, the passion. Riding, the obsession. The more we ride, the more we have to ride.

“One good ride begets another.”


Vantage Point

Someday when I’m old, bedridden, feeble-bodied — the rides will be there for me.

Woodside. Malibu. Hawaii. Mt. Pinos. Pacific Crest Trail. Vivid and clear, each bend in the trail. Along with each horse I’ve loved and trained and mothered.

I had a mantra that got me through junior high school . . .

“I’m always riding Rebel.”

Starboy Silhouette

No matter how lonely it got on the upper patio during lunchtime at University High, I would mentally repeat, “I’m always riding Rebel.”

Because the times that mattered most to me were the times I spent with my horse.

Those were the times I used my mental camera.

Those were the times most memorable to me.

I took stock of those times, and they always returned and freed me — and fed my Soul.


For me, riding is my outlet. It is my Passion. I has become me.

Starboy Silhouette


Copyright 2002, 2014



March 31, 2014 · 11:36 pm

My Horses ~ My Art ~

* Canvass:  The forest

* Paintbrush: My saddle, my bridle Atop four willing hooves

* Medium:  My horse


Fae Shadow Trail


My horses ~ My art!  

My living, breathing, finely-sculpted, fluid-formed expression  a palpable, pulsing artform on four hooves.

To me they symbolize something even grander and more elegant than the amazing beings that they are.

My horses carry me into their realm. Into Nature and Freedom itself.

Fae Shadow Tree McGill


Together, we become part of a living painting, with changing light, shadows and shapes, back-dropped by trees and earth and scrub — all kept in constant motion by the ever-beating metronome of hooves and lungs and heart.

Like the famous works of the Masters, my horses free my passions and feed my soul. They take me higher, deeper into a greater world than I would ever reach alone.

Hokuleia in tow


As I watch my horses frolic in their pasture, I delight in how they move and respond one to another. Like a grand living organism, each seems to know his position in the herd and accept, or challenge it.

From my vantagepoint, I observe the antics, the movements, the intentions played out in the acre-sized fenced framework before me.

Hokuleia Tin Shadow


I interact with the art and the art interacts with me. My presence alone draws the horses to the fenceline, curious, creating both jealous displays of temper, as well as outright outbursts of fun. 

Apples tossed into the boundary cause a scurry of activity, each seeking a tidbit, oftentimes challenging a herdmate with ears pinned and hooves threatening. But soon, outstretched necks and gaping mouths chew contentedly, dropping frothy morsels from sticky-lipped muzzles.

Hokuleia Shadow Horse


Ropes and halters lead them out of the field. Obsidian eyes, soft necks and tangled manes follow closely. Dusty dappled coats receive brushing, blankets, saddles . . .

My tack, my gear, another aspect. The lines, the shapes — pommels and cantles, stirrups and reins — curved leather cradles of tradition, function and fashion. Colorful conchos. Riveting rosettes. Little details that make up the ambiance of the whole.

Colorful Rosette /Concho


Once in the saddle, my rides into the wilderness become my paintings. My masterpieces. And I paint them again and again. Each one unique.

A ride never really repeats itself, even on the same horse, same trail. Each adventure offers a fresh approach, a new angle of light, arc of color. The result keeps me riding, ever renewed, in this life-affirming endeavor.

Forest Sunbeam


I ride astride my horse, her dark mane pumping, flowing, as we float across the vast reaches, ears pricked forward, ready to greet the ever-unfolding scenery. I inhale the wildness of the place, adding to the intoxication, fragrant blossoms, vanilla perfumed pine, the earthy scent of amber leaves.

Others from our herd gallop alongside with flaring nostrils, dancing hoofbeats and outstretched tails, painting a fast-flowing portrait of joyous abandon. Embracing freedom with every stride.

Fae up McGill


My trails become my canvass. Texture and color, line and space, light and dark punctuate the endlessly pulsing pace.

The sagebrush in the valley floor greets my eye with rumpled heaps of widespread welcome. Once in the forest, gnarled-branched pinon pines become ghostly gatekeepers with brilliant lime-colored lichen “fringes”, their eerie moanings all but audible.

Contained in the images of the forest blurring past are flashes from my childhood the daydreams and horsey yearnings from monotonous schooldays past. Now, I live those dreams, I breathe them. 

I served my time back then, so that I can ride my time now — and paint my present, my future, with horses.

Top of the World


The outer reaches beckon. Up, up we plunge, forward into the landscape, into greater veils of wonder the farther we venture from home.

Here the light shifts, takes on new meaning. Instinct calls us, drives us on. 

Up in elevation, to thinner air and vistas of grandeur.

Top of the Moon


Past fatigue, past complaint, into the outer reaches of what we are capable of — for therein lie the prize portraits, the Art Nouveau, the Renaissance of distant reaches afar.

Shadow Horse Full Moon


My painting complete, inspiration fulfilled. Back at the ranch, bridles, saddles removed. Backs and legs groomed. Yummy cookies eagerly consumed, lips licking a long time afterwards.

My treasure trove of horses, back in their field, happily chewing hay.

I live. I thrive! Ready to “paint” another ride. Another day . . .



Starboy and His Girl

Copyright 2014

Photos: DawnHoof (Dawn Jenkins)


View of Little Dume Beach

Please also visit my Life Blog, Journal of Dawn,

for Strategies and Insights into the

Journey of Life



January 3, 2014 · 11:45 pm

Wonderful, Willing Starboy

From my JournalAugust 14, 2009

Starboy mills ‘round his paddock, head low, rubbing his face to his knee, swishing flies.

All day long he lingers, contentedly, with sister Angel by his side, strolling toward the neighboring paddock, toward the water trough, toward the feeder – awaiting his next flake of hay.

I give him my kisses, and go out of town, on business, leaving him.

While I’m away, I return to his paddock in my mind, at will, and there he is in my mental peek, content again.

And when I return, he whinnies at the sound of my car’s engine, at my whistle, and trots up to greet me – no guilt trip.


I walk inside the paddock, rubbing faces, removing fly masks, reuniting with the herd.

I halter and lead him out, tying him to my horse trailer.

Brushing off the dust and shedding hair coat – sleeking him out – I plop my blanket, my saddle, onto his back, and slowly cinch up.

I offer him the bit, and he grabs it, like always, from when he was small, when I raised him.

In my younger years, I leapt into the saddle.  Now using a small step-stool, I clamor on.

Starboy braces, politely, for my middle-age weight to descend upon him. I find my off-side stirrup, gather up my reins, and move my body slightly, as signal to walk on.

Out to the road, off the property, he effortlessly, willingly, goes. Wherever I point him, Starboy cooperates – and travels at whatever speed I ask.

What kind of relationship can be compared to this?

He serves, without complaint, at my beck and call. And I serve him, in return, for nineteen years now, like his mother and sire before him, making sure of his pasture and hay.

Few people can boast three generations of home-bred horses, but those who do, understand.

As long as you’re dealing with good genetics, there’s nothing that compares.


Out on the trail now, Starboy surges forth, my stiff lower back complaining. I rein him in a bit slower.

The trail gains ground into the forest now, into the wonder. Trees tower above us, in the twilight.

The feeling of magic overtakes me, and Starboy trots lightly on.

No coercion, no domination, merely a suggestion that we speed up, or slow down – my body shifting ever-so-slightly in the saddle.

A quiet cluck and inclining forward of my reigns enough to squeak him into a smooth canter . . .

I smell the vanilla of pine bark now, nighttime descending.

And I marvel, again, at Starboy.

And how well he behaves since I’ve been gone.


Starboy in Sunlight


November 26, 2013

Here I am, marveling at Starboy, once again. I wrote this sweet little piece four years ago, in 2009. Since then a few things have changed:

Angel is gone now, on the other side of the Rainbow, even though she was Starboy’s junior by a year.

She had Cushing’s syndrome and passed away at nineteen – the very age of Starboy when I wrote this piece.

And Hokuleia was born August, 2012 – our fourth generation! And she has Angel’s energy. And she has Angel’s love.


And I am changed – I’m very happy to report – for the better.

After a bad injury and much pain (at my doctor’s recommendation), I went gluten-free in December, 2011. Turns out this incident was a major “Blessing-in-Disguise”.

By changing my lifestyle and diet, I lost stubborn pounds of middle-age weight. But that’s not all:  I ALSO LOST MY JOINT PAIN!

In fact, as I read over this piece I feel badly for the “old Dawn” – who was exhausted and who ached – and who weighed down her wonderful horse.

I’m happy to say, “No More!”  : ~ ))


A spring has returned to my step – I no longer “clamor on”. Now I lift myself up into the stirrup, the saddle, with joy’! Pain-free!!!

My back no longer complains. My knees, my hips, my neck ride along with Starboy like they did in my youth.

So there is hope when it comes to pain, to injury, to age!

Now the healthful micro-nutrients and herbs I take – turmeric, hawthorn berry, ginger, boswellia, cinnamon, fenugreek – can work to rejuvenate my cells without the burden of fighting the inflammation brought on by the gluten (found in wheat and most grains).

Now the vitamins and supplements – B-100, Vitamin Code Multi’s, thyroid, and adrenal support, Perfect Food (green powder) – can work their nutritional wonder.


Now Starboy, twenty-three years young, carries my lighter profile.

We rode three hours recently, FLYING, like in our days of youth – striding out, floating, galloping – breathing-in the fresh forest air.

Discovering a brand new trail in the process – trotting, twisting, surging, dipping, along the contours of the rapid single-track.

Now Starboy lingers in his paddock with sister, Fae, and filly, Hokuleia. Happy, content. Yet a bit wider at his middle-aged girth than before.

Wonderful, willing Starboy. Ever ready, ever up for the latest adventure.


I’m fresh back in town now, from a business trip. And finally, we’ll be riding tonight . . .

Soon I’ll smell the vanilla of pine bark, nighttime descending. And I’ll experience his smooth canter – on our latest adventure, into the forest.

And I’ll marvel, again, at Starboy.

And how well he behaves since I’ve been gone.


Starboy at Sunset


Oh my – reading this over just now, I have tears! For how long will he be with me?

Wonderful, willing Starboy – I treasure you all the more as you grow old. For our time together here won’t last forever.

But our years have been full. And our love, complete.

And I’m filled to the brim by our love.  : ~ ))

And when the time comes for us to part, when you go over the Rainbow to join the others – I’ll be here waving, loving, cheering you on – tending to the herd, here on this side of the veil.

I’ll take care of Fae, of Aria, Laddie and Hokuleia.

And I’ll cherish my love for you, like the others.

And I’ll wait my turn . . .

Until my time over the Rainbow arrives.


 Sunset Flame

Copyright 2009, 2013


November 26, 2013 · 10:36 pm

Adventurer of the Night

Come ride with me and my mare, Fae, on this Magical Mountain Adventure! 

Originally ridden/written July 2009. No camera that night; Rode Laddie now 5  up the same trail recently. Photos: July, 2013.

Ride on! : ~ )

Stylized -- Laddie, McGill

Far from the city lights, high up in my California mountains, Paradise calls.

I am one of the very lucky ones – I, and the pilot who flies a lone plane overhead – hear the engine, see the strobe.

I wave and tip my mental hat, passing along a greeting to my fellow Adventurer of the Night.


Into the twilight, early July, my first high-mountain ride of the season, I ride my Mare past the portal of McGill Trail, up, up, into the wilderness.

Even though risks lie in steep drop-offs just inches beside me, here, I am always welcome. Always safe.

Up, up, we stride, into the comfort of the falling curtain of night.

Setting Sun -- McGill I


A burnt orange halo sets off the Western horizon, graced by a silhouetted treeline across a vast ravine.

This ragged wilderness stands as it always has, some fifty miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, jutting to nearly 9,000’, separate from the farther inland ranges.

This, Mount Pinos (the television depiction of “Walton’s Mountain”) – my mountain-brother, my protector – defines the landscape here and holds at bay the far-off city lights.

(Were it not for these mountains, and others across California, the city would sprawl even more . . . )

I moved here, years ago, from the coast, from Malibu, because of this forested mountain-brother – to be near him, sheltered by him. To ride and ski and hike his peaks and curves as long as my life allows.

Twilight -- McGill Trail


Although tonight is my first solo ride here on Fae, all our horses know this route, especially at nighttime. I’ve ridden this section for so many years, under so many circumstances, like a familiar road home.

Here, the steep turn where Prize tried to flip over with me. Fae takes it well tonight, pivoting, and climbing the hairpin crimp.

And here, the switchback where Sage got disoriented and turned around that night. He followed us, loose and free, all the way up from Mill Canyon. But here we had to ride back to find him.

I can still see him: dazed, walking alone, his gray coat shimmering white in the starlight – as if illuminated by a fairy’s torch.

And I realize that my entire herd lives-on here. Both the horses we ride and love now, and the ones beyond the rainbow . . .

As if each ride leaves an ethereal record of our passing.

Fanta and Starboy and Mentor are here. Lacey and Fauna and Angel. And Fae, little filly Fae, still follows mother Fanta, jumping the (now decomposing) fallen log in the meadow . . .

Their spirits linger, like those of the deer and birds and wildflowers that call this spot home.

Dawn & Laddie -- McGill II


So I ride alone on Fae tonight—a maiden ride of sorts after her recent foals, Aria and Laddie, one year after the other. Fae, fresh back home, ready to polish and mature.

And I remember Fae as a newborn filly in the simple days before 9/11. We had one week of bliss before the towers came down. How I appreciate that time now.

In those early days, I can still feel them, I lay with baby Fae and held her, stretched out in Fanta’s shadow, breathing peacefully, oblivious to the changing world.

I stroked her neck and whispered of the mountain adventures we’d surely have. How she’d carry me, and we’d soar, and all the wonderful rides we’d share.

And here we are, all these years later, on the dark side of the mountain, fulfilling that dream!

Laddie Shadow


Fae surges strong beneath me. Fanta, she definitely pulled Fanta, my life-long Appaloosa mare – endless energy and springy gait. But Dallas the Shire (who is also her sire) is present here, as well. Big-stepping, big-framed, big-heart.

Fae’s hooves clop the earth with draft-horse thud, yet her gait springs forward, willing. No need to prod her tonight, she flies into the darkness, ever up-ward, finding her way.

Rounding the bend, we come into the moonlight now, illuminating the valley below.

Laddie Looking -- Look Out

Across the expanse, above the inky ridgeline, a distant grid-work of tiny lights twinkle through the saddle of adjacent Tecuya Ridge: Bakersfield. “Civilization.”

Directly below, the soft glow of several dozen Cuddy Valley lights – our home included – nestle, as if hanging from a hammock between the peaks.

Surreal, almost Supernatural, the lights flare and dance – taunting in the distance, reassuring in the foreground – wagging an incriminating finger at those voyagers beyond their reach. As if their magnetism should have been sufficient to hold us, keep us in the safely lit confines of home.

But we, broken free from their gravity, stare out in amazement, as if viewing our own galaxy from a spaceship, from afar.

Dusk --Cuddy Valley from McGill


Past the lookout I stop, dismount – it must be ten o’clock – and I realize how rich I am.

Who else would be, could, be up here, in the darkness, in the wilderness, riding her Mare without a care, and sitting here by the trail, feeling completely safe and at home?

It’s a still night, not a breeze. So warm and beautiful. And I sit and lavish praises on lovely Fae, the outline of her large head darker than the shadows from the surrounding trees.

And I marvel at my life. At the freedom. At the peace and beauty of these mountains – my mountains. Awaiting me, here, in the beginning of summer, ready for my repeated return.

Favorite Tree


I look up into the sky, filled with stars, and I notice the airplane, from Bakersfield-way. I see the landing light. And I imagine the man or woman in the cockpit.

How many times did I fly over these inky mountains, years ago, in my yuppie-business-pilot-youth? Not knowing that a woman below me, and her second-generation Mare, could be wishing me farewell?

I watch, and listen until it’s no longer overhead. Until I’m no longer in the red-glowing cockpit of my long-ago plane, but rather, sitting by the trail again, holding the reins to my Mare. In the shadows, in the darkness. On the side of a 9,000’ Southern California peak . . .

I mount up, we turn back, and head towards home.

Magical moonbeams drape across the darkened landscape, illuminating spots and patches random, like an Appaloosa.

And I ride my surefooted Shire-Appaloosa Mare, homeward.

Richer, still, because of the Adventure.

Setting Sun -- McGill II


Copyright 2009, 2013


September 9, 2013 · 10:27 pm

Finding Fae’s Dream

Fae’s my horse. Fae’s my dream! My life-long horse-dream come true!

When I ride Fae, my home-bred half-Shire mare, now twelve years old, she’s perfect! Glassy, smooth gaits, willing mount, responding lightly to my every whim.

But why is it that when certain other people ride my perfect mare, she responds poorly to them? What could be the difference between how I ride her, and how another rides?

(My kids and I must ride the same, for she also glides effortlessly for them.)

And Fae’s not alone. I see the same thing with Starboy. His walk completely influenced by the rider. When I ride him, he strides out. With another, “heavier” rider – not in weight but stiffness of movement – he lags and drags behind. Oy!


Fae Shadow Trail

So I rode Fae into the wilderness tonight, free-flowing, strong, setting out to solve this mystery – paying attention not just to the jubilant experience of our swift endurance-style ride, but how was I able to get this out of her? What was my role in attaining her perfection?

I’ve named the phenomenon: Finding (My Horse’s) Dream.

Every good horse has a DREAM HORSE inside – but how do I, as her rider, discover her dream? How do I mine it? Unleash it? Coerce it out of her?

Yes, every good horse has both an indwelling DREAM HORSE and a demon – the instinctive, spooky flight-or-fight creature who resists any attempt at control.

(I say every good horse, because in fortysomething years of horsing, most unfortunately, I’ve discovered – due to limitations beyond their control – certain individual horses operate outside the realm of “normal” and pose a serious danger to whomever tries to bond with them. Certain horses should not be ridden, and are not capable of rising to the dimension of the human/horse dream.)


I’m a trail rider, an endurance rider. That means I’m an Arabian rider. And all my horses have varying amounts of Arabian blood. Arabs, as a rule, want to go – and go, and go, and goooooo!

That’s why they excel at endurance. They endure because they want to endure. Not because somebody’s pushing them!

I don’t like to have to kick a horse, goad a horse to get her to move. I like a horse that wants to move out as much as I do.

Fae, being half-Shire, a “heavy” draft breed much like a Clydesdale, tends to be on the lazy side. (She’s only 1/8th Arabian – not that much!) But fortunately she’s not completely dull. She inherited some spice from Fanta, her dam, my tireless Appaloosa/Arabian/Thoroughbred/Racing-Quarter/Endurance-Dream-Horse-Mare.

Yet in order for Fae to perk up and move out, she needs something to motivate her. So I notice with Fae that I use certain tricks in order to get her to go.

Hokuleia in tow

Strategies & Tricks:

Two’s Company

Rather than ride alone, I’ll bring along another fast-moving horse, so she’ll have a “target” to keep up with, creating a bit of competition. In this case, “ponying” along on a rope, I brought Starboy, her half-Arabian brother – another one of Fanta’s. (Starboy also happened to be in a lazy mood today.)

Say it Out Loud

I notice how much I talk to my horses as I ride. Romancing, praising, singing, in an on-going, energetic dialog.

I remember years ago observing this while watching a carriage driving competition, how verbal the communication between horse and human. Horses respond well to our speech and tone, so I use my voice to encourage her.

Last night I began with camp songs in the meadow area outside the woods (“Just give me land, lots of land under starry skies above, Don’t fence me in…”) then Beatles songs (Norwegian Wood) as we re-entered the forest and came up and into the straight-away, gaining steam.

I heard myself repeating over and over (in melodic tone), “That a girl, Fae,” “You’re soo good, Fae,” “What an AWESOME mare!!!” – talking to her constantly in a perky, peppy way, to overcome her heavy-slow-Shire side, and bring-up the Fanta in her.

Amp Up!

I notice that my riding is very light as far as rein control goes. I’m not “on” her mouth, rather allowing her, encouraging her to move forward. But this isn’t just done with my hands.

I bring my energy UP so that she will mimic my behavior. My body rides forward and light in the saddle, encouraging her movement to match mine.

Actually, I end up doing far more “surfing” than riding! Like bodysurfing a wave in the ocean, my whole body communicates with my mare. I notice how sensitive she is, and that subtle changes in my muscle tension, incline, and cadence affect her gaits.

After all, I’m RIDING the horse, bringing the horse’s energy up – not merely sitting, kicking, waiting…

Riding’s a vigorous physical activity, and I’m often winded by the effort.

Riding Style:

1) I find that I incline my body forward, a bit like a jockey, upwards in the stirrups. This places my weight and energy ahead of her center of balance, and acts as a gas pedal to cause her to go. In this manner I either post, lifting out of the saddle with each rhythm of her stride, or I stand somewhat in the stirrups (two-point), leaning forward, letting my legs act as shock absorbers – so that I’m smooth, not bouncing.

2) I use my legs to encourage her on, but not my heels. I “kick” with my upper calves, bump, bump, bumping, in rhythm with her stride. Like a metronome, my active legs set and keep her beat. Another way of thinking of it is like pumping your legs on a swingset. Rhythmical, in, out, in, out… Bump, bump… Pumping her motion in beat with my own.

3) I strive to anticipate what she’ll do. I know where she tends to go faster, slower. At the first feel of her slowing down, I use my tongue against the top of my mouth in a tisk-tisk fashion (rather than a cluck-cluck) to encourage her on, and I do this in unison with the movement of my calves against her, which is in unison with the movement of her stride. All the while, inclining my body forward.

4) I always ride with a Dressage whip (better known as a “wand”) and only use it sparingly, as a reminder, with either a brief snap against her shoulder or flank, or series of tap, tap, tapping – once again, setting the beat. (Just carrying the wand lets the horse know I mean business – I rarely use it, but apply it as a back-up to my other aids.)

Turns out, I’m playing music. Fae’s music. My wand-baton, my legs, my body – keeping the beat – like a dance, like a drummer, like an orchestra. I, the bandleader, conducting a symphony upon her forested stage…

Fae Shadow Tree McGill


Popping out of the woods, we hit the soft-sand wash, leaping sagebrush and logs, legs flying beneath me. No need to encourage her here, as she grabs the ground and pours on fresh steam with the change of setting and footing. Fae snorts the wind and opens up, Starboy flying behind us.

On we soar, rising, dipping, until she finally slows, signaling that she’s had enough. We walk a beat, taking in the beauty of the evening. Watching the trees and brush and animal tracks that make up our wild-land home. Her neck stretching, swinging.

Out of the wash, at the “galloping place” now – onto the firmer ground of smooth-surfaced dirt roadway, slightly climbing upward – Fae, sufficiently rested, tosses her head and signals that she’s ready to roll.

I ease my body forward, no leg needed. She picks up pace now, her smooth stride heaving in a mad-dance of pure-raw-powered horsey joy!

Starboy, next to us, stretches his nose, legs flying, pouring on speed. The three of us careening forward – just because we can…

Oh the excitement of a warmed-and-ready horse – finally cut loose, galloping full-out – just for the fun!

Whoops and hollers! Exuberant hearts! Broad smiles!

Starboy bursts into a fresh round of speed. Fae following suit, with quick large strides.

Neck to neck. Encouraging one another. Taunting one another.

“Come on, Fae, he’s whooping you! Are you going to let him get away with that? No, you’re not going to let him win! You’re going to whoop his…”

Fae matching, pouring it on… Legs, hooves, blurring, striking the earth. Stretching muscle and tendon and bone.

Manes and tails tossing with joy!


Looks like I’ve found Fae’s Dream!


Starboy and Fae lounging in snow

Copyright 2013


March 25, 2013 · 3:49 am

Snapshot of a Short Winter Ride

Rode Starboy, ponying Fae, up the Snow Gate Road — until the ice, still unmelted, turned us back. My first ride in six long weeks, due to frozen weather and my routine work and travel.

I made mental notes, and I recall them now.

Starboy’s movement glides beneath me, ears pricked forward, ready to roll – Fae, following along on a rope off our left side, mirrors our pace.

We trot up the long grade to the neck of the hidden dirt road. Burst into a gallop. Then slow due to the slushy patches of ice.

Speeding. Slowing. Again. Again.

At the top of the first hill near the camp, the ice covers the road even thicker, threatening our hooves with slipping and falling.

(We’ve done that before – No-Thank-You!)

I steer Starboy off to the side, into the low brush and mud, to avoid a blunder. Fae picks her footing on the worst part of the road rut, skidding part-way, but still staying upright – catching herself just in time, like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz.

From here the iced-over road gets worse.

We can’t go forward, so we turn into the empty camp, shut down for the off-season and the cold. The camp path is damp but free of snow.

Walking, we amble past the short row of cabins. Past the mess hall. Past the fire pit.

Past the open-air amphitheater, waiting, like a movie set, for next season’s campers to fill the wooden benches that arch around the stage.

I’ve galloped past the campers before, knowing that at least a few of them must have taken note of our fleeting form, on the other side of the thicket  wishing they, too, could ride. . .

Like me, as a kid, gawking and aaahing over every horse I was lucky enough to see.


We turn now and follow a small jeep trail that leads downhill, into the woods.

Gazing upwards, native Jeffry Pine trees tower a hundred feet overhead. Other than hoofbeats, the sounds of silence surround me – not even a birdcall.

How old must this forest be? How tall are these trees? A girl with two horses seems so small, so insignificant compared to all this.

I breathe in the smells of the forest. Earthy. COLD.

Yes, cold has a smell. Invigorating. Like a walk-in deep-freeze.

Looking down, beneath me on the forest floor, short-stemmed grasses hang on to life in the mud, under the snow, waiting-out winter – ready to grow with a moment’s warmth.

Pine cones, pine needles, oak leaves dot the earth in Nature’s monotone mosaic. All of life seeming to be on hold right now, in hopes of the signals of spring.

My body rocks with the movement of Starboy’s walk. Fluid. Steady. His muffled hoofbeats treading the boggy Earth.

Fae’s big Shire feet plodding, reverberating. Her hind feet, shod, scuffing, dragging somewhat, in rhythm with her gait.

I feel the air, fresh and cool.

Yet in my coat and layers, I’m comfortable – my upper thighs and legs, warm with the friction of fabric in motion, the undersides warm from the woolen fleece saddle cover.

The only cold spot, the very-back-sides of my legs, circulating the frigid air with every swaying step.


We pop out of the woods now. Back onto the road. Below the ice. Headed home.

Past our distant-neighbor’s snorting, prancing, head-tossing herd – two pintos, two bays, a chestnut, buckskin? Can’t really tell with the mud and lowering light.

Onto the main road now, setting sun behind. Indigo shadows fill the Vee between the ridgelines. Orange-tinted pastels brighten the horizon.

Walking home, two dogs, barking, run out in greeting, still inside their fenced enclosure.

Trotting again, down the straightaway.

Starboy whinnies to his stablemates.

And we round the final bend toward home. . .


Snowy Knoll

Copyright 2013


February 15, 2013 · 3:44 pm