“I was born upon the prairie, where the wind blew free, and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures and where everything drew free breath.” Ten Bears
Wide open spaces, constant wind and rugged terrain were the first characteristics I noticed about North Dakota as I made my way to the Kuntz Nokota Horse Ranch in Linton. Owned by Leo Kuntz, a knowledgable horseman with an eye for good conformation and a sense for good minds (in horses and people), the Nokota Horse Ranch is truly preserving living history.
The lovely, yet tough ranch hand, Holly, took me on a sunset ride on the evening of my arrival. As the setting sun warmed us with its golden rays and the sunflowers danced gently in the breeze, I thought to myself, “This just might be heaven.”
The next day’s weather proved to be just as pleasant, making the first day of our yoga retreat a real dream come true. As I led savasana, “the boys,” as Leo and Holly refer to the herd of geldings, ventured down to us, approaching us with curious faces. The horses at the ranch are pretty much wild, although some do get gentled. Being surrounded by the herd during such a profound moment in our practice was a magical experience I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.
After our yoga class, Holly drove us around to see some of the stud/mare bands. She also showed us tipi circles, or stones arranged in large circles by the Native American tribes that used to call that land home. There was an energetic vibration to the land that I’ve experienced nowhere else. It’s like the history is almost so palpable you could touch it.
Holly also took us to the Offering Stone, where the tribe’s medicine man would perform rituals and where, today, you can leave a token, such as a coin, as an offering and ask for blessings from the spirits in return. That space somehow commanded silence, and we all stood there taking in the view and the energy for a few long moments. Time seemed to cease to exist.
That evening around sunset we strolled to a special place on the ranch where the mares and foals happened to be grazing.
Seeing them live so free and natural filled my spirit with joy and sorrow all at once, for while I gazed upon that wild herd, I also thought of all the horses whose lives are spent boxed up in stalls.
Later that night, I went out to look at the stars and my jaw literally dropped when I looked up. The Milky Way had never looked so magnificent and the sky had never seemed so big.
The weather turned colder and more blustery on Saturday. The strong wind held off until after our yoga class, but the rest of the day was mostly spent indoors. Sunday arrived carrying even colder temperatures and stronger winds, so instead of asanas, I led us in pranayama and meditation indoors. The wind began to subside later that afternoon, so I hung out with “the boys” for a bit, trying to coax Mr. Grey, my favorite, into taking a peppermint from my hand. He did place his muzzle in my hand, but he wasn’t so interested in the peppermint.
Leo cooked buffalo burgers and summer veggies for dinner, regaling us with tales from his life as we enjoyed the hardy, home-cooked meal. The next day I had to say goodbye. Mr. Grey seemed not to mind my presence and allowed me to hang out near him while he grazed. One of my favorite things about Leo is his willingness to allow visitors to hang out with the herd. Simply being in the horses’ presence can be a transcendental, yet grounding experience from which there is much to learn. I look forward to returning to the ranch next summer to lead another retreat and to spend more time with these majestic, wise creatures.
You may view a video I put together of the weekend here.