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STUCK IN THE MUD

Don Jessop

Early in my career, before I knew much about horse training. I was an endurance rider. I remember one particular training ride when I was nineteen years old riding a beautiful twelve year old Arabian gelding named Prince. I'm a tall person so I always felt too big for Arabians. But not this horse. Prince was a powerhouse. He not only won major endurance races, but he could climb a mountain without thinking twice. I mean that quite literally. In fact I don't think he ever did think twice. He seemed to have but one single thought. And that was "GO!!!!!"

I liked him. He didn't hesitate during tough situations. But he was also challenging that way. Which means he didn't hesitate to get in to tough situations.

One warm summer day, Prince and I were trotting a less traveled trail into the Montana wilderness when we came across a small silvery lake, nestled into a meadow with tall pine trees nearly surrounding the whole thing. It was breath taking. We stopped and stared. My friend Joe came up from behind me on his horse and we both sat silent on our steeds, enjoying the beauty of nature.

A thought crept across my mind. And the exact same thought crept across my friends mind. We we're alike in that way. I looked at him and he nodded his head with a big smile. "Let's do it, he said!"

And with that we both started marching our horse to the waters edge. It was a hot day, and swimming with horses can be an exhilarating experience. We'd done it before, in a pond nearby our home and felt confident our horses could swim.

Prince, being the braver horse, stepped right into the cool water. The footing seemed soft, but reasonable enough to hold our weight and we took a few more steps. Joe's horse didn't quite feel the love. He paused and waited to see the outcome of our first few steps.

"The water's fine." I called out. Now standing in water up to my horses knees. And with that I urged my horse a bit further in. But something wasn't quite right. Prince wasn't himself. He hesitated. Prince never hesitated!

I looked down to see if something was wrong when I noticed we weren't standing in knee deep water anymore. The water was clear but I couldn't see his feet. They we're gone. Sunk well below the floor of the lake. We we're now nearly belly deep. I gasped. "Oh shi........taki mushrooms!" I shouted. "I think we're sinking!"

Joe just stared, mouth open. There was nothing he could do. And all I could do, was rely on my instincts and Princes strength to get us out. I imagine drowning my horse and possibly me too. It wouldn't be long before the water was touching his nose. I pulled on the rein closest to the shore and squeezed with both legs in hopes he'd realize I wanted out of dodge city and the shore was the only way back to life.

Prince got the hint. He wiggled his legs to almost no avail, then realizing the predicament, he lunged. Olympic jumpers would be proud. We made one solid jump back to shore and paused again. We made some progress but not enough. We we're still nearly belly deep and something new caught my attention. There was blood raising the surface amidst the newly darkened and cloudy water. "Did my horse break his leg? Did he wedge his foot between a couple rocks and rip off his hoof wall?" I began to fear the worst and my panic set us both into forward motion again.

I squeezed my legs tight around his belly with my wet shoes. Prince gathered his strength and jumped again. This time we made a few more inches progress. I could see we were slightly closer to shore. Without looking down, I asked him forward again, fearing I would lose momentum. I knew if worst came to worse, I could jump off him and swim to shore. But that wasn't a particularly safe option for either of us. Prince could follow me and drag me under his feet in an attempt to safe his life. Anything could happen. I chose to stay on board and keep up our momentum and finally it paid off. We made it back to shore.

There we stood. Shaking. Dripping... Heaving!

In the scheme of things. We must have been stuck for no longer than two minutes. In my mind we we're stuck for half the day. It seemed to be getting dark outside. But I know now that I was experiencing the first signs of passing out from stressful exertion and worry.

When I had settled emotionally, I jumped off my horse to assess the damages. I remembered the blood. What I found was a deep gaping wound. Somehow he'd cut himself near his shin bone. At first I couldn't understand how he got the wound, but as the water began to clear, I saw a series of pointed sharp rocks just barely protruding from the muddy lake floor. Those rocks must have been much larger than they looked and hidden beneath the clay.

His injury was bad, but not so bad we couldn't make it back home. I wrapped his leg with some vet wrap. Something I always carry on rides. And we started our journey home.

In spite of the wound, Prince was his normal self all the way home. Full speed ahead. I had to rein him in nearly the whole ride back. But I found comfort in that. I had my horse back after a near death experience.

Experiences like that, bring riders and horses together in ways you can't imagine. The bond you create with an animal that has been to hell and back with you, is a bond that cannot be replaced. Prince is long gone now. He lived a long healthy life and I owe him much. He was the horse that taught me I don't know everything. He was the horse that made me want to learn. He was the horse that started my journey to mastery with horses. I'll never forget him. And even though I felt stuck in the mud, literally and figuratively, that time passed and a new season of growth began.

Speaking now in the terms of life and progress. I wonder... do you feel stuck in the mud? Are you willing to do what it takes to get out? Did you know there are resources available today that can ensure you get out and start making progress? Do you feel that following your dreams, is not something you should do sooner rather than later?

I want... Actually, we (my horses, my family, and my friends) want, you to succeed! 

The pictures below are Prince and I on the journey to mastery: 1 year after being stuck in the mud! Seeing these pictures remind me how much I truly miss having him in my life.






Don Jessop - Blog Welcome

Hi! I'm Don Jessop

With Mastery Horsemanship

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