The Joy of the Journey

Mystic took his first road trip in mid-August; he was in excellent hands and company, traveling on James and Kate’s trailer with their horses, Kleo and Moonshine. I was nervous about how he would do with trailer loading, but he was a trouper.

The occasion was a Cooler Horsemanship clinic at Shangrila Guest Ranch in South Boston, Virginia. I had a blast because the weekend brought together my favorite people, James and Kate and Shangrila owners Gary and Julie Holmes, along with a good-natured collection of natural horsemanship enthusiasts. Two couples hauled their horses all the way from Maryland, while one auditor hailed from Georgia.

Spectators at the Cooler Horsemanship clinic at Shangrila

Dozens of locals turned out for the Friday night demo, in which James showed some Cooler Horsemanship fundamentals while Kate did groundplay and saddleplay with Kleo. Mystic and I demonstrated a few basics as well, as we slowly turned orange from the rising red clay dust in Shangrila’s arena. People asked James questions well into the evening, while fireflies emerged and the air cooled and softened.

The next morning, I woke up early and snuck out to saddle up Mystic for a solo trail ride, our first beyond the confines of Fiore Farms. Gary caught sight of me and teased me later: “You looked like a kid waking up early on your birthday, too excited to wait to open your presents.”


I’ve been dreaming of taking Mystic on new trails ever since I discovered how much we both love wilderness adventures. He didn’t disappoint: by ourselves, on an unknown trail, he headed forward with confidence and curiosity.  Later I snuck out for another trail ride, meeting up with Gary and Julie’s neighbor Robin and her gorgeous Morgan, Ranger.

Robin and Ranger

All of the clinic’s participants, plus Gary and his intrepid four-year-old son, Dillon, ended the day with a trail ride. We threaded our way through narrow paths, across creeks, up and down gullies, and Mystic was a gem throughout. Given that it was his third trail ride of the day, he had a right to complain. But he didn’t.

Kate and Cali bringing Mystic the wanderer back for a trail ride

Heading out for the trail

Sunday was a rainout, so I’m glad Mystic and I squeezed all those rides in on Saturday. He traveled back to Fiore Farms on Sunday afternoon, and, according to Kate, unloaded easily. Remembering what an anxious, shutdown horse he was when I first started working with him in April 2011, I know without a doubt that his smooth trailer ride and confident trail attitude are due to what he and I have learned from James and Kate. The journey we’ve been on for a year and a half prepared us for the journey to South Boston.

Here’s to more journeys, new trails, and a wonderful weekend at Shangrila.


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