Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Time Stan Joined the Army

For two weeks in September of last year, I lent Stan to the Army.

I've been regaled with tales of a special training exercise that several of my local friends have been involved with over the past few years. The multi-week training takes place in various remote places in West Virginia during different times of the year from the hot heat of summer to the bitter cold (and snow) of winter. The trainees are both from the US and abroad and learn how to navigate through rugged backcountry terrain both on foot, on horseback, and on skis. 

When the training involves a horse component, Dan, my friend and farrier, is been one of the instructors. He's one of the most skilled backcountry navigators I've ever known, versed both in contemporary and ancient (Oglala Lakota) methodologies; to boot, he's got a very natural hand with horses. Both of these characteristics make him a perfect fit as an instructor for this specialized training course.

Dan shared with me early on in the summer that a training course would be taking place in September, and they would need more horses than usual for it. The horses would largely be ridden by individuals with ZERO horse experience and would need to have temperaments that could handle loud, sometimes unexpected noises that would occur during training. The goal of the training was to prepare the human trainees for such a time that they would need to be adept at riding a horse through rugged terrain in a dangerous environment.

I would never dream of signing Griffin or Q up for dealing with newbies in this kind of atmosphere. They do not have the temperament for such activities, and I have no desire to subject them to riders that are unbalanced and unpredictable in their abilities as neither horse has a lot of patience for it past 30-45 minutes.

Stan though? Stan is as even-keeled as they come. I knew he could handle everything with aplomb. A bonus (in my mind) was that the opportunity would also be great conditioning for him during a month when I wanted to focus my efforts solely on Q and Griffin. The only way I can keep three horses in full work is through the help of friends!

And so, Stan was drafted to the Army!

20170831_111853
Bye, buddy! Be a good boy!
RIP custom orange halter that Dan lost in the hubbub

Dan and others picked Stan up on the last day of August. At this time I was apprised of the general gist of what he'd be doing, though many details were still left out due to confidentiality reasons.
Largely, he'd be giving basic riding lessons the first days, and then would be ridden at night over rough terrain the rest of the days for 10-12 miles per night as they pursued night infiltration practice missions. The level of difficulty would increase as the course proceeded.

While Stan was away, I didn't hear too much from Dan. The area they were in is one of the most remote in the state and you have to drive a significant clip to get cell service. However, I did receive the following updates about half-way through:

Screenshot_20171228-125929

received_905719482917197
Stan is left of center between the buckskin and paint; Dan isn't much for photos and this is all he sent lol
Screenshot_20171228-125822

In case you missed it, or wondered if there was a bizarre autocorrect situation in there...

My horse is helicopter broke.

Don't believe me?

estout_010318_122442_1
Stanley is the second horse from the left

How about now? Sure, that photo has the helicopter on the ground, but during their night missions the horses had to ride to meet a hovering blackhawk helicopter several times. As Dan stated above, Stan handled it like a boss.

In fact, Stan was so outstanding during his time at this training that the experienced riders and trainers bickered over who would get to ride him. From talking with them afterward, it sounds like Willie won out a lot. Hearing this pleased me greatly because he is a phenomenal rider and I'm grateful Stan didn't have to deal with newbies too much. In fact, after many miles and hours with Willie in the saddle, Stan came back to me lighter in the aids than he's been since I've had him! Another added bonus.

Because he was Willie's horse so often, Stan led a lot of the rides and night missions. He was the first to traverse rugged terrain in low light conditions, the first to encounter loud noises and bright lights, and a steady rock for all others to follow. I knew he was solid and good, but to tackle this with relative ease as it sounds he did was news to me and blew me away.

Since the conclusion of the training, I've continued to have multiple people involved reach out to me to tell me how incredibly outstanding Stan was for everything. I even heard tales of some of the older horse-folk who helped out arguing that Stan was one of the best built QH they'd ever met. Hearing all of this made me feel so happy about my boy.

This experience was not only great conditioning for Stan, but the experience showed me (even more) what a gem this horse is. Stan is so special - a fact that is now evident to not only me as his very biased owner, but also others. I'm so grateful to have him in my life. 💙

30 comments:

  1. Mark's been talking up this eventual blog post and it didn't disappoint. So cool! File this under "things Connor would 'nope' right out of" though, lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahahaha, I bet most horses would nope right of this!

      Delete
  2. What a cool experience for Stan (and for you)! That's so awesome. I think my husband's horse would be great for something like this, but my girls would be a hard pass, lol. Very neat!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What, Cinna can't handle a little helicopter and maybe some friendly gunfire? Say it ain't so lol!

      Delete
  3. This is so. Freaking. AWESOME! Go Stan!!! I love to joke around about adding things to horses' resumes - Stan's would be pretty amazing with Special Skills: Helicopter safe!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh no kidding! But I'm not real sure how much that would help him in life haha

      Delete
  4. This is super cool! What an amazing horse Stan is! Will he go again this year?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's entirely possible. I'm not sure what months they're doing training... They do a winter one as well, but I'm not sure I want him being ridden that hard when it's cold. He's gained his weight back to a great place after competition season and I'd hate to lose it!

      Delete
  5. Stan is just the freakin coolest ever!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wow, that is so cool. I wish you had more pictures to share, but still an awesome experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me, too! Damn the government and confidentiality/secrecy/national trade secrets lol No, but really, Dan just stinks with any kind of media. Period. The man doesn't have electric or running water in his home. It's a miracle he communicates through a smartphone at all lol

      Delete
  7. I've been waiting for this forever! Eeee! Gotta love Stan! He's such a boss!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Giving a good name to QH everywhere lol

      Delete
  8. Go Stan! How many other horses can say they are helicopter proof?! Gem would be found in the next state.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, well, I think the VA state line wasn't dreadfully far from where they were so she wouldn't have to travel much lol!

      Delete
  9. I certainly wouldn't kick him out of my barn <3 What a good, good horse <3

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is so cool!

    Also, if you ever see a Stan-like horse looking for a home, let me know. I'm ready for one of those!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He does have a full brother... local, too, haha

      Delete
    2. For the "right price" he may be. Stan was for sale forever...

      Delete
  11. I didn't even realize that they did training like this! What an experience! It has me thinking - Archie would probably throw someone and gallop back to base camp, but Whiskey might be good for it? Definitely no certainties, like with your Stan. <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh I think Whiskey has definite potential! He's such a good guy already.

      Delete
  12. What a good boy, and what a neat exercise!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A very cool exercise. I had no idea they did stuff like this prior.

      Delete