Chapter Eight: Student Teaching

Lynx is rapidly making the switch from learner to leader. My confidence in him—and his in himself—is growing by leaps and bounds. He is even starting to demonstrate a bit of unflappability. His two latest adventures involve changing roles and becoming the teacher; first he helped me do a “horsemanship day” in the mountains and next he helped a very green filly work through some of her fears. This he did after being laid-off for three weeks while I was on the road.

Early one Sunday morning (real early, as in 3:30a.m.) Claire and I loaded Lynx and her horse Quill in the trailer and set off for the Big Horn Mountains where I would conduct a sort of modified, one-day clinic for the guests of Double Rafters Cattle Drives before they headed out on their own adventure. (By the way, if you want the trip of a lifetime look these folks up. It’s extremely well-run and the scenery is stunning. (Just ask Lynx—elevation 9000’—yikes!) I wasn’t sure how Lynx would handle it. He’d be unloaded in a strange place after a long trailer ride and thrust out in front of 25 strange horses. There would be an even larger number of people to go along with it and the requisite pack of camp dogs eager to help out as only they can.

I needn’t have worried, Lynx did great. I’m actually starting to think he might be a bit of a show-off. It seems he rises to the occasion when things get the toughest. Perhaps it is just his nature but I think too, that all the adapting he has done to compensate for losing his eye has made him stronger. Either way, he’s turning into a worthy and dependable guy.

His next adventure came about three weeks later after I’d returned from some clinics in California. A new filly, a two year old, was waiting for me at home. It was time to start her under saddle. I often do some of the ground work on green horses from the back of a more experienced horse. Seeing one their colleagues in close proximity being ridden and being okay with it, is often a big help to a green colt. 

I hesitated before using Lynx to work this filly for the first time. It did not seem like she would be a pushover and not only had Lynx never done this before, he’d been out of a job for quite a long time. But…sometimes you have to stretch a little to grow. Lynx grew. I think perhaps he remembered this from being on the other end of the lead rope not so long before. I warmed him up with a few minutes of trotting then took the mare by the halter and pointed Lynx’s nose at her hip to ask the mare to step her hind quarters over. Lynx stayed nice and soft, in a good, round arc, until she softened too, and yielded her hind quarters. We switched then and leg yielded toward her front quarters until that end stepped over as well. Having gotten both ends to move on one side I backed Lynx up and tossed the filly’s halter rope to his other side and repeated the process. It wasn’t long before Lynx’s calm demeanor reassured her and we could move in close against her ribs and lean over her back to pet the other side. This will be a great help when I ride her for the first time. (Well…at least I hope so!) She will have seen a human above her and felt me touching her on both sides at the same time; all while being exposed to Lynx’s good example.

For Lynx there was a lot of good in it too. After spending most of his time on the bottom rung of the hierarchy he got to spend a little while at the top. And there was something in it for me as well. For one thing, it exposed a hole in my work with Lynx. When we had to back up to switch sides, my one-handed backing job was not as pretty as I’d have liked. It needs a little honing. That and I got a chance to marvel once again at Lynx’s ability to adapt to his handicap. It is nothing less than remarkable. When we changed from the right side to the left I forgot he no longer had an eye to use. He had only his instincts to guide him and I could feel no difference. Apparently, neither could that mare. 
Lynx is really starting to fit in.

Next week – learning the ropes (I promise)

High on the mountain

Proof that we work long hours on this outfit