New Day Herald

Windermere Horse Clinic July, 1999

Article imageOur family has traveled from Arizona and stayed at Windermere numerous times. Each time we go we bond more with the land, the people and the peaceful purpose of the ranch. In late July we had an extra special visit. My wife Mary, and our two daughters Ivy and Katy, along with Willa Beusher, attended the four-day long horse clinic put on by IIWP and taught by Emma Dawson. My son Tom and I cooked alongside our old chuck wagon buddy Glenn Barnett—but more about that later.
We didn’t know much about Emma. In fact, we didn’t know anything about Emma. Lynn Cox recommended her. Lynn has a phenomenal way with the horses on the ranch and of course she’s always treated us like royalty (royalty with a shovel, that is), so if Lynn said she was a good teacher, that was good enough for us. “Emma lives in the mountains and works with horses,” Lynn told us over the phone back in June. I pictured a swarthy woman slugging down moonshine and telling tales of the good old days while occasionally letting loose a spit of well-chewed tobacco. Nothing could have been further from the truth! Emma is a delightful lady from England, and her infectious smile and great attitude really set the tone for a great four days in what I consider the second happiest place on Earth. During the process of signing up, Lynn asked me if I could cook.
“For me?” I asked.
“Uh—yeah, and others?” She asked quietly.
“Other humans?” I inquired. “How many?”
“Ten to fifteen, or so.” She said even more quietly.
I’m a procrastinator. Procrastinators are quick to say yes to requests because they figure that other people are procrastinators, too. “Sure,” I said in my most resolute voice.
“Great!” She said. She didn’t even think about it. “I’ll call Teresa Rodgers and ask her to help you with the menu and a grocery list.”
Discomfort is a common feeling among procrastinators when action shows up, much less a commitment. So I did what any intelligent procrastinator does when faced with action. I found help.
My son Tom is a wonderful blessing. He’s smart, big, and above all, has an abiding sense of pity for his father during times of crisis. “We’ll just cook for five and multiply by three.” Seemed way too logical for me, but I trusted his rationale.
We all woke up early the first morning full of anticipation for the day to come. The day had dawned with a blanket of fog over Santa Barbara. The whole city could have been carried away by giant squids during the night and we would have never known it. As we all stepped outside the door, the sun was just coming over the mountains, spilling out a torrent of rays on us and tingeing the fog below with a lacy pink outline. “It’s sure nice to be somewhere that is exactly where you want to be,” I said. “Let’s get going Dad,” the girls said.
Day one started with warm greetings from Emma and a chance for the participants to get to know the horses by feeling their coats, talking to them, grooming them and of course cleaning up after them. They learned how to saddle and bridle the horses. Then they were allowed to mount, ride and practice their new skills around the corrals, the oak glen above the corrals and in the arena just above the oak area.
Then they had lunch. Probably the best lunch they’ve ever had. At that point, Glenn and Tom and I had probably laughed more than anyone should. Why? I really couldn’t tell you. None of our jokes were good, even if you were there. We just started preparing food and laughter ensued. Beth Hinman was working upstairs from where we were cooking and would occasionally come down to check on our well-being. She always left with a look of puzzlement.
After lunch (they ate everything!) they headed out for more equine education and left us to the mess. We took a nap first. “I really love this Daddy!” Katy told me as they exited. “How about you,” I asked Mary. “You know,” she said, “I’ve wanted to do this since I was their age and now I finally get to.” With comments like that, we were ready to cook some more.
That afternoon the participants worked on things like posture and ‘listening’ to the horse. Horses have a unique way of communicating. “Emma has a great talent for individualizing the teaching of each person and the personality of the horse they’re working with,” Mary told me when I snuck (I was supposed to be planning dinner) down to the corrals to watch for awhile. She continued, “The horses all respond to different circumstances and each other differently. And it’s really neat to be learning how to fit your own personality to that of the horse so you can both get the full benefit out of being together like this.”
Sumptuous barbecued chicken was served that night. We ran out of ‘bottled’ barbecue sauce during the preparations, so Glenn and Tom and I (scary huh?) added some molasses, ketchup, pepper, and some fermented grape-like liquid from Napa. Everyone was quiet at dinner, but there wasn’t any chicken left, so it must have been good. Brooke (my sister—but don’t hold that against her) and Phil Danza stopped by to join us (Beth, Lynn, Emma, Willa, her mom Susan, Glenn, my family, and anyone else I forgot) for some free food. Glenn did the dishes that night. I think he’s still there.
From there, the workshop just got better and better. “I’m both amazed and proud of how everyone is doing,” Emma told me before polishing off some steak and mashed potatoes the second night. (Phil Danza made the potatoes and Brooke made the salad so they could eat again) “I don’t think I’ve ever had students do so well so fast before!”
“Probably the cooking,” Glenn commented as he poured her more delicious ice water.
“Are you liking this, Ivy?” I asked my daughter.
“What do you think?” she answered smiling. Then she came over and gave me a big hug.
On the last day, Emma had us grab a camcorder and watch her students go through the paces of their teachings the previous four days. It was really cool to watch the four of them work their horses both by themselves and individually in the arena. It looked really easy, so I knew they had learned a lot. And just like that, it was over. Since Willa was the most experienced rider in the group, I was anxious to ask her what she’d learned. “I learned a lot!” she quickly answered. She was headed off with Ivy and Katy to walk their horses back to the gate that separates the rest of the herd from the corral areas, so I took her short answer to mean just what she said.
Windermere is truly a special place. And to be there for such a special event was priceless. If you haven’t been to Windermere, you should go. Just being there is an event in itself.
God Bless, Dave Wright

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