A Day in the Life of a Mounted Horse Patrol Horse

Dee and Shasta on Patrol

(A story I wrote for Parelli Savvy Times magazine published in 2013)

I vividly remember that gray overcast afternoon a few years ago when the stark realization came to me that if I were to continue riding my Shasta, I was most certainly going to die on her! She had just finished bolting for the umpteenth time, and this time it was close to 30 feet… “over nothing!” Reaching the painful conclusion that she was “crazy,” I figured the only solution to this problem was to give her back to the gal who sold her to me. I slowly untacked her that depressing day, and put her up. Then, feeling totally beaten down, I dragged myself over to a friend mucking her stall nearby. Peggy’s words of wisdom were, “don’t you dare sell that horse for one full year, you have not given her a fair chance….get help!”

Help to me came in the form of Parelli Natural Horsemanship! The fact of the matter was, several weeks prior to this last bolting episode, the gal who sold me my Shasta had sold her to me on the condition I study Parelli. I had only just heard the name at that time, but what I heard intrigued me, so I gave Pat, Shasta’s owner, my promise and bought my level one and two kits the night I bought Shasta. I had already begun studying my level one, but with Peggy’s words “get help” ringing in my ears, my studying began in earnest! I joined the savvy club religiously watching every DVD that came to me. I devoured both the level one and two kits, and eventually managed to get myself to a few clinics. Somewhere along the line I discovered my Shasta was something called a “Right Brained” horse, and that she was not crazy…just scared! I could deal with that, and ground games became my best friend!

Thru my Parelli journey, my RB horse who had hightailed it to the back of her pen every day swinging her rump to me for six months, started greeting me at the gate! Gradually, Shasta became an ambassador for Parelli, and I went from being the only Parelli student at my barn to having enough friends doing Parelli that we could attract an instructor weekly! And eventually, my Shasta became so solid under saddle that a couple of years ago she and I passed our four checkout rides to become a California State Park Mounted Horse Patrol Team at Wilder Ranch State Park!

As a volunteer ranger, I recently had the most challenging situation I’ve ever encountered on Shasta.

Two of my friends and I go out on a very peaceful Patrol ride. We come across exactly 1 biker, 1 runner and 1 snake. One of my friends is on a training ride this day on a RB horse not yet signed off, but she has done well. At the end of the ride we cruise on down through the barns and chickens and goats of Wilder Ranch Historical Park to return our patrol radio and sign out. As we approach the hill passing the Visitor Center parking lot we notice two tour buses have just pulled in. Then as we continue riding up the hill towards the kiosk where we turn the radio in, both busloads of tourists see us and come sprinting over to see “the horses.” Imagine 50-100 people running at you while you are on your horse….oh, and right next to us, a couple guys start yelling in Japanese and pointing at the horses while waving their arms and jumping up and down. It gets better. At least half of the tourists are carrying umbrellas for sun protection. Oh, and even better….noone that we can tell speaks English so we can’t tell them how to approach us. Shari’s young horse just starts spraying urine in preparation of fleeing she is so beyond scared. Shari hops off and we tell her move off to safety while Joyce and I wait, letting the flood come to us. We try and use body language to tell them not to go near the back of the horses…useless. Then each and every one of the 50-100 predators needs to have their picture taken next to a horse!

Oh and it gets even better! I always wondered, what would it be like to be in a Parelli spotlight with all that clapping? Would it be a disaster? Would it be okay? At one point one of the tourists tells everybody to gather in front of the horses for a photo op so they all line up in three rows about 20-30 feet long directly in front of our horses. Then he says something and they all start pumping their arms in the air in unison while yelling. Then he says something else while he is videoing them, and they all start clapping and cheering!

Not afraid of no stinkin umbrella!

What does Shasta do through all of this? Nothing. Absolutely nothing! Her head comes up when they first start running towards us. I was so focused on getting Shari and Whinny to safety that I never worried about Shasta and I. She picked up on that I guess and wasn’t worried for us either. She didn’t care about the running, yelling, umbrellas, cheering, clapping….nothing! She was curious, watching it all, turning her head to look at one guy who lowered his umbrella directly behind her during the videoing…that was it. Yes, if I thought anyone was in danger I would have taken control and gotten us out of there. But my little RB horse could have cared less about any of it! And the tourists got the thrill of their lives!

Shasta

In the end, Whinny, who in reality also has a nice foundation of games under her belt, stood quietly watching from a distance and did not go into full on RB mode after all. I anticipate her final checkout rides will go smoothly someday soon!:) And I am eternally grateful to my friend, Pat, who not only gifted me with the best partner ever, but also the Parelli program!

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