Sunday, January 20, 2013

Alaska Chick

Mountain Horses
Alaskan Wilderness Adventure
by Gina McKnight
1st Publication Going Gaited @2012
2nd Publication A Love for Horses @Jan 2013

Tiny is an ebony Alaskan range horse.  She is a working herd mare thriving in a fly-in area deep in the Chisana, Alaska interior, site of the last historic gold rush.  Tiny is a mere 17 hands, towering her peers, humans and select tundra. A docile mare, most of the time, she works for Pioneer Outfitters hauling confident guides, adventurous tourists and sometimes the occasional traditional pack commodities.

Amber-Lee Dibble is guide and Manager of Pioneer Outfitters.  Hailing from Sherman, New York, Amber-Lee was raised on a dairy farm; now, she is living her dream.  She is good friends with Tiny. They respect each other and their assigned roles as outdoor wilderness guides.  Amber-Lee says, “I am a farm girl. I have always been proud of that and loved the fact that I could say that.  While others of the same young age were partying, studying or planning for whatever future they hoped for and dreamed of, I knew exactly where I was headed and what I would do. In the Paint Horse Journal I found my dream - Alaska. An article about Pioneer Outfitters Master Guide Terry Overly was a hope and wish.” After communication with Terry, Amber-Lee was soon on her way to meeting Alaskan range horses, realizing her dream and melding with the vast Alaskan landscape.

Pioneer Outfitters offer horseback adventures for all experience levels and age groups.  Horses are their livelihood.  Amber-Lee explains, “Our horses are one of the favorite things about my life! Our horses are range horses, which means for seven and half months a year they are wild.  They free range in the enormous Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve.  They are as tough as they come.  They live in the wild, fight off timber wolves, are intimately knowledgeable of the terrain and are the most sure-footed horses I have ever experienced riding.  They carry our gear so we can offer our guests and clients comfortable camps; across rivers, through bogs, over mountains, and over hundreds of miles of Alaskan wilderness.”

Currently looking for more stock to add to their herd, Pioneer Outfitters has certain equine requirements. “We are looking for short and stocky, all ass and no body. We like mountain horses; big-footed, short-coupled, short-backed, between 900 to 1,200 pounds, 14.5 to 15.5 hands, short-necked, heavy-boned, with an average shoe size of 2 to 3.” That is a mighty horse! Their stalwart horses must brave the Alaskan flora and fauna as well as become the perfect companion for a non-native adventurist.

Amber-Lee explains that their horses are not ‘pets’.  “We like the horses that would rather not have anything to do with us, the barn and the yards. The horses are important to us, not only as an important part of the business and the history of the area, but because they are our partners. They do amazing things for us, just because we ask.”

Brawny bridles, tightened cinches, ready scabbards and anxious tourists prepare to traipse the magnificent Alaskan void. The event of a lifetime begins with a connection to your assigned horse. Amber-Lee schools visitors on the disposition of their mount as well as Alaska’s offering of cold weather, vivacious wildlife and extreme beauty.  Amber-Lee says, “A guide, whether a hunting or horse pack trip guide, has more to do with the client than anyone else.  A guide must know all options and answers. In our remote and inaccessible world, a guide must show no fear or worry. The well being and safety of the client and horses come first. Chaos does happen and the guide has to be able to react quickly, decisively, calmly and autocratically.”

Amber-Lee may be small in stature, but she is certainly big on her love for horses, her good sense of humor and strong sense of self-worth.  With temperatures ranging from coldest to unspeakable, raising a family in Chisana is as brave and vigorous as her mountain horses. She says, “I stay because of the beauty of the land, the family I have made here and the wonder of the fact that I can sit back and say this is what I do.”

Visit Tiny, Amber-Lee and the entire herd of mountain horses in the deep Alaskan tundra.  Offerings include Summer Horseback Adventures, Fall Photo Safaris, Winter and Springtime Excursions and more, all on horseback; an equestrians dream adventure.

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Gina McKnight is an author and freelance writer from USA   All rights reserved.

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