This was the impetus for putting together a backcountry horseback expedition that we dubbed “Men and Mustangs”. An opportunity to do something none of us had ever done and go to a place we had never been. Facilitating this adventure was West Taylor, horse trainer extraordinaire and owner of Wild West Mustang Ranch.
Pictured: Michael Blevins
The first day was spent getting acquainted with the horses, learning about how much they differ from their domesticated counterparts. To ride a once wild mustang is an exercise in mutual cooperation, rather than giving a command and having it obey. The wild spirit of these animals remains unbroken, which requires an uncommon blend of trust, communication, and intent. To say that the connection is spiritual would be an understatement and disservice to the raw power of the experience.
The third day we rose again after a much more restful evening, resurrected from the everyday mundane of our civilized world and modern lives. Gathering our effects, we saddled up and began our journey home. Going back a different way than the we came was appropriate, since we were no longer the same men as when we arrived. The gratitude felt for being in that place with those people and animals was nothing short of overwhelming.
After being chosen by our horses and learning to ride them without reins, we loaded up and drove to the trailhead to begin our three day adventure in the mountains. Starting at an elevation of 7,000 feet, we ascended the pass at just over 11,000 ft and made our camp by the lake below. The next day was spent recovering from a long ride and an even longer night spent huddled up for warmth through a surprise summer thunderstorm.
Part of that recovery process also included building and participating in a traditional Native American sweat lodge ritual. Another first for all of us, this intense and oracular ceremony felt incredibly cleansing and rejuvenating, despite the profuse amount of sweating that was involved. An evening in sweltering contemplation and prayer seemed a fitting way to spend our last night.
Pictured Left to Right: Michael Blevins, Sam Kemp, Josh Tyler, Roger Shulze, West Taylor, Mike Mylorie
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This may sound like the opening line to a joke, but it is in fact, a series of real events...