I grew up on a horse, never one to fear getting on any horse or riding in any situation. Then in 1995 I suffered life threatening injuries while riding "Eagle Star", an adopted Mustang. After 6 months of recovery time, I realized I was still unable to mount Eagle do to physical limitations and fear.
With my body and my confidence shattered, I was convinced I would never ride another horse accept for Jake, my faithful Morgan gelding. As heart breaking as it was, I sent Eagle off to a friend who had other Mustangs and would ensure that he had a good home and would be ridden. Later we learned that anything flapping on Eagle would send him into bucking/runaway mode. To my knowledge Eagle has never overcome his fear.
I wish I had known Paul Esh when I adopted Eagle Star.
With time, I did start riding other horses, but the experiences were not always positive and the confidence loss and fear remained. My love for the Mustangs never ended and I often visited the outreach BLM auctions when they were in the area to visit with folks from the program. In one pen, labeled "yearlings", a scraggly little red roan colt decided to check me out. I immediately noted his large, kind eyes. Keeping his distance, he "followed me" with his eyes, then hesitantly step a little closer. I thought "he`s a neat little guy", I hope he gets a great home. That evening and the next day, that scraggly little red roan kept popping into my mind. I was at a horseshow but decided to go to the silent auction "for the heck of it". At the end of the silent auction, I was the proud owner of "Cherokee Spoon", a wild Mustang.
I gentled Cherokee easily and he ponied alongside Jake often, being desensitized to obstacles, slickers, other horses and learning manners. As Cherokee matured his dominance became more prominent (I`m sure he would have been the "boss stallion" had he remained in the wild). I knew Cherokee was going to need a trainer, someone who understood Mustangs and had the same respect for Mustangs as any other horse.
In 2002, when Cherokee was about 2 1/2 years old, a friend told me about a trainer named Paul Esh. I made an appointment to meet with Paul at his training center and observe him work with horses. Watching Paul doing ground work with a young horse, it didn`t take long to see that Paul had a connection with this horse. Paul knew when the horse was ready to accept him and to trust him. There is a give and take of trust and respect that Paul shares with the horse. After observing Paul work with several horses including a Mustang, I felt confidant to entrust Paul with Cherokee. Many trainers just want you to bring your horse to them, drop them off and then don`t want to see you again till you pick them up.
Fortunately for me, this was not the way Paul wanted to do business. He wants the owner/rider to observe, learn and participate in the training of their horse. I thoroughly enjoyed becoming the student with Cherokee, as Paul taught me how to properly do ground work training, gaining respect from my horse as well as giving respect to my horse. Cherokee and I learned to do more ground movements than I ever imagined, that would impact us both so much when we later became a riding team. Paul is so patient with horses and their owner/riders. He is not only an exceptional horse trainer but an exceptional riding instructor as well. I still have physical impairments which affect some of my riding abilities, but that doesn`t stop me from trying. Attending Paul`s clinics has improved my knowledge and skills as a rider and given me my confidence back and removed my fear of being thrown and injured. A recent exuberating experience for me, was turning Cherokee loose in a 200x300 arena and have him return to me, do circles, inside turns, turns on fore and hind, walking correctly with me, stopping and backing - all with hand or unity stick signals.
I`m once again a brave rider but not a foolish rider. Paul teaches and reinforces continually the "one rein stop". Since training with Paul, I can verify the importance of the one rein stop. Several times, when Cherokee found himself in a flee response to "monsters" the one rein stop brought us back to tranquility. During displays of acrobatic maneuvers, the one rein stop has saved me from unscheduled dismounts. I can now cheerfully tell the funny stories of all our breathtaking experiences and not fear getting on Cherokee. I can now ride other horses and during one of those times, riding mounted patrol during the Greeley Independence Stampede, patrolling the grounds, a sprinkler system started up with one sprinkler head being directly under the horse I was riding. Without the one rein stop, I don`t even want to imagine what the end result could have been.
Paul has worked with our mounted unit, providing instruction in ground work fundamentals and horsemanship instruction. Many members have benefited greatly from Paul`s instruction, which enables our unit to be more professional in our riding ability and accomplishing our goals.
I love to watch Paul ride Cherokee and hope that in time, I can achieve the level of performance with Cherokee that Paul does. Cherokee perks up the minute he hears Paul`s voice. He loves to go to "Paul`s place". All I have to say to Cherokee is, "Want to go see Paul?" and he`s ready to jump in the trailer and head north! Paul and his wife, Crystal are a joy to be around. Paul is always ready to answer any question one might have about training and willing to demonstrate to assist you in learning.
Paul`s stallion, Quixote, I call "The Cat" and if you`ve seen Paul on the ground working with him or riding him, you know what I mean. If you haven`t, you need to visit Esh Training Center. Someday, I want to be able to call Cherokee "the cat".