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trail riding riding the grand canyon of texas where the trails are

By Kelly Hurd © 2014 Riding at the Grand

Canyon is a dream of mine and on my bucket list of places to see from between my American Indian Horse’s black tipped ears. This past June, we hauled to the next best location, the “Grand Canyon of Texas,” Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Palo Duro is the second largest state park in Texas and the second largest canyon in the United States. Encompassing over eighteen thousand acres, the park is 120 miles long and 800 feet deep. It is an eyeful of brilliant shimmering col- ors and geologic wonders to behold; a stark contrast to the surrounding Llano Estacado. Entering Palo Duro Canyon for the first time is a shocking experience of converging land- scapes. Imagine the sheer force of water creating such artistry out of what once was a little gully.

Duro” is Spanish for hard wood, which Native Americans used to make arrows from Juni- per tree branches in the canyon.

The name “Palo

The park’s history was a big draw for our little riding club (NETASA) of Spanish Mus- tang/American Indian Horse enthusiasts. Arriving on a full moon was carefully planned in hopes of witnessing the legend of Indian Horse spirits run- ning free through their canyon home on moonlit nights. These mustangs were massacred in the Red River War. Over one thousand Southern Plains In- dian mounts were shot dead by order of Colonel Ranald Mackenzie of the Fourth U. S. Cavalry after the battle of Palo Duro Canyon in September of 1874. Our full moon arrival also happened to land on Friday the 13th

skies turned a vicious red and ominous clouds hid all celestial bodies after we settled in at the Canyon’s floor. The night was full of lightning, thunder, and rain. In the early morning hours the weather cleared and a full moon beamed proudly just above the canyon’s rim. The moon’s glow was true and full for all to see the remainder of

. On this evening the

our stay. During the nights at Palo Duro, I heard a frightening rush of wind pouring down from the rim and crashing into the canyon walls creating an eerie sound, unlike I’ve ever heard. Could it be the Indian Horse spirits or was it just the wind?

group was ready to hit the trails despite the slippery red mud from the previous night’s rain. Temperatures were uncharac- teristically low for the month of June due to the blessed rain. Our horses were fresh and ready to get moving due to the unusually crisp air. We soon learned that in order to get anywhere, a creek crossing was inevitable. The hard rains made this normally simple task a challenge as the creek banks consisted of thick mud. How- ever, our sure footed American Indian Horses prevailed in no time. The following day I had the pleasure of tagging along with Palo Duro regulars Chris and Christie Shippy, who showed me the rugged unmarked southwest trails. We rode to Cactus Rock, and then on to Tub Springs to see Native American Pictographs, and at last came to a grass filled meadow that the horses truly enjoyed. Christie is also one of the talented wranglers in “TEXAS”, an outdoor musical production in Pioneer Theater. I’d recommend making time to see this show while visiting. The outdoor theater with its natural 600 foot canyon wall is what makes all the visual effects a great success. Be pre- pared for heart pumping canon fire and brilliant fireworks. The park offers ap-

Kelly Hurd and her American Indian Horse, Angel, admire Capital Peak in the dawn’s magic hours.

proximately 18 to 20 miles of designated equestrian trails. Trail riders are allowed only on the following trails: Equestrian

The next day our

Trail, Juniper Cliffside Trail, and Lighthouse Trail. All of the trails are spectacular with regard to scenery. My favorite ride was heading out solo at dawn up Juniper Cliff to Light- house Trail. The sun bathed Capital Peak and Lighthouse rock formations as the moon still hung translucent in the blue sky. Angel and I shared the trail with the park’s natural inhabi- tants; only until our ride back to camp did we bump into a few park visitors. I believe my mare Angel enjoyed the peaceful ride and scenery as much as I did. I felt a strong connection with her as we savored our freedom on the trail. Riding during the magic hours of twilight or dawn brilliantly highlighted the canyon as sunrays projected

a horse of course By Don Blazer © 2014

harder, you’ll get better,” I said to Walter - a horse, of course. “You work a little

harder and you’ll get better,” he replied.

about me getting better. We’re worrying about you getting better,” I answered, politely. “I’m good as I want

to get,” he said, sliding to a stop. “Stop pushing me.” “Walter”, I said,

beginning my explanation, “there is very little progress without a lot of determination.” Walter began his own

explanation. Humans, he said, think they know things, and they tell themselves they know things, and they invent all kinds of human rationale for doing things. According to Walter,

explained, horses do things for one of two reasons. “We either avoid pain, or we seek comfort. That’s it.”

Walter went on, then they might be smart enough to understand that “no pain, no gain” might be all right for a human, but is definitely all wrong for a horse. As Walter pointed

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out, exercise is touted by shoe companies, body-building machine makers, fashion designers and thirst-quencher salesmen as the greatest thing you’ll ever do. They are appealing to your ego, he said. They want you to sweat, groan, moan and comfort your darkest demons. Then, of course, they want you to take some pills for the headache, some fluids for the dehydration and finally rub your aching muscles with a cream which has no odor.

view,” Walter said, “the craziest part is that they want you to do it all over again the next day, and you do. Someone has convinced you it is the smart thing to do. Your ego has actually bought into the idea of “no pain, no gain”. According to Walter,

you can’t get a horse to buy into the idea.

smart as you think you are, you won’t try,” Walter added.

not among the two reasons horses do things, Walter reminded me. You might convince an

“No pain, no gain” is

intelligent human he or she should suffer muscle soreness, tendon pulls, strains, blisters, aches, cramps and the tearing of tissue so eventually they will look better and feel better, but you won’t sell it to a horse.

a horse suffers the pain of over use, too much exercise or forced labor-camp work, the horse will respond to more of the same with the phrase, “No way!” Of course, Walter

added, many humans take that response as a challenge instead of common horse sense. First,

Walter told me once “And if you are as “From my point of If humans knew that, “We’re not worrying “If you work a little

Angel, enjoys Palo Duro Canyon’s scenery.

onto colorful million year old layers of geological history and glistened off the shiny gypsum hills. Although the campsite is primitive and the biting summer flies are persistent, don’t miss an opportunity to visit Palo Duro Canyon, as the scenery far outweighs any small annoyances.

Attitude avoid pain, seek comfort*

the human gets angry because that “dumb horse” doesn’t want to “gain from pain,” and then the human decides to show the horse who is boss. Out come the more severe bits, the bigger spurs and stronger whips.

that if you let a horse refuse, he wins, and then you can’t get him to do anything,” I asked? “Total nonsense,”

recommend?” I questioned. “Restart the horse’s

“So what do you “What about the belief

replied Walter. “Humans are supposed to be smarter, not more forceful.”

exercise program the way a horse would”, Walter recommended. “We get our exercise

horses don’t think they know things – they just know. Science calls this knowing “instinct”. You see, Walter

fantasy with a movie star.” “What’s that mean?”

Walter asked.

this,” I said. “Association is where you focus on the pain and by concentrating on the pain you get through the toughest times.” “Yeah, right!” he

“Forget that and try

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snorted. “Tell me one thing that the no pain, no gain theory has done for mankind that couldn’t have been achieved in another way.”

with anything instantly. “Well, try this,” Walter

playing,” he explained. “And when we get tired, or we sense we’ve had enough, we rest, take a breather, kick back. When we feel good again, we play again.” “Good idea,” I said.

I couldn’t come up

said, “without the no pain, no gain theory, horses grow up strong and fit and healthy and happy and ready to contribute to the good of the herd. We run fast, jump high, slide stop and spin. We are athletes supreme.”

“Horse trainers should adopt the idea and instead of forcing the issue, redirect the plan to give the horse exercise in acceptable amounts.”

Walter said with a little smirk. “If both the horse and rider look good and feel good, then the gains come without the pains.” “Well, I said to

Walter, “mankind believes in the no pain, no gain theory so deeply that we’ve invented mind games to help us get through the unbearable.”

mind game of concentrating on something other than the pain. You are supposed to think about your work, or a vacation, or a

“Disassociation is the “Oh, you’re so smart,”

make you a better horse,” I said. “The idea that there has to be a little pain associated with gain is just a human quirk, I guess. After all, there are a few differences between humans and horses.” “Viva la difference!”

Horse, of Course) Spills the Oats” Copyright©2000 by Don Blazer. Published by Success Is Easy.

training horses without pain, enroll in the online course “Training Performance Horses” taught by Cathy Hanson.

more information please visit

awarded at buckskin show Dakota Smith won the Don Blazer Trail Schol- arship at the October 11-12 Texas Buckskin Horse Association ABRA & All Breed Show held at the San Antonio Rose Palace. The award was presented to Dakota by Eleanor Blazer.

Don Blazer scholarship For To learn more about *From “I was just trying to

Walter shouted. Then he walked away mumbling something like, “You are a pain in the…”

“Walter (A

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