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Horses have played a pivotal role in Jody Carman's life

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EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of The Daily Times “In their element” series. On the last Thursday of every month in 2015, we’ll publish a profile of a Four Corners resident who embraces fitness or the outdoors. Read more stories at daily-times.com.

AZTEC — Although Jody Carman grew up in the city of Chicago, she remembers a passion for horses starting at an early age.

"My mother said I was drawing horses at the age of 3," Carman said.

While the 59-year-old didn’t become a full-fledged horsewoman until later in life — she bought her first horse at age 55 — Carman has now found a way to surround herself with the animals. She and her husband own two horses and are active in the local chapter of the North American Trail Riders’ Conference, a competitive trail riding group.

Despite her early interest in horses, Carman didn't work with the animals until she was in college. Then, about 10 years ago, she helped a friend feed and take care of horses. As Carman's interest grew, the friend insisted she take lessons.

That, Carman said, is good advice for anyone interested in being an equestrian.

"Lessons build a foundation," she said, adding that lessons from local trainers or riding stables are critical for safety.

For years, Carman rode other people’s horses, buying gear along the way. It’s not a cheap sport, she cautioned.

Bloomfield horse trainer DeLaws Lindsay, who has worked with Carman, echoed the notion of working with someone else’s horse first “to learn about them and their care.”

He suggested volunteering at Four Corners Equine Rescue, a nonprofit he works with to rehabilitate horses that have been abused or were born in the wild.

"A beginner should take lessons and be around horses," he said.

Horses also played a role in bringing together Jody Carman and her husband, Bob.

They became acquainted in 1997 when Jody visited friends on Catalina Island off the California coast, where Bob worked at the time. The island hosted week-long equestrian camps, and the couple often rode together. They married the following year and have lived in Aztec for about 12 years.

Bob Carman, who has ridden horses since he was young, has also supported his wife’s passion for horses. About four years ago, they brought home Rambler, a Missouri Fox Trotter.

Now, Carman's horse and her husband's, Nathan Arizona, who joined the family about three months ago, live together on the couple's land outside Aztec. The couple jokingly tell people their "backyard" includes all of Hart Canyon, which allows them to ride their horses from yard to wilderness for hundreds of miles.

Nathan, a Rocky Mountain breed, is fast, solid and smooth but can also be stuffy and prim, explained Jody Carman, who works in marketing and public relations for the city of Farmington's Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs.

Rambler, on the other hand, "is smart and can untie anything he is tied to. His gait is odd, though. Rambler’s emotional intelligence is highly developed and he is social and good with children," she said. In fact, Rambler is so reliable that earlier this year she brought him to the Riverside Nature Center for the Year of the Horse celebration, so children could experience a real horse.

Both animals are trail riding horses, which dovetails with the couple’s love for riding in the outdoors.

The couple ride in the North American Trail Riders’ Conference, which sponsors competitions in trail riding, said Juleen Feazell, president of Region 3 of the organization.

"There are three divisions: novice, competitive pleasure, and open division for more skilled riders. The San Juan Valley Trail Riders are very active, with four rides per year," Feazell said of the local chapter.

She said novices are encouraged to ride with a mentor and "become a partner with your horse."

Many riders enjoy that connection with a powerful animal. For Jody Carman, horseback riding can be boiled down to her joy of riding Rambler.

“He connects me with Earth and sky, and we can go to beautiful places,” she said.

Virginia A. Jones covers the outdoors for The Daily Times.

5 Questions for Jody Carman

1. What basic equipment do you need if you’re interested in riding?

"Basic equipment for a horse of your own consists of a saddle pad or blanket, a saddle that fits the horse, a breast collar, head stall with a well-fitted bit and reins, and a helmet for rider safety."

2. Who is a person you admire in the horseback riding community?

"DeLaws Lindsay is really gracious to new riders and has such a gentle, effective way with both the horses and riders. He helped me over a few ‘humps’ with both of the horses."

3. What special adventures have you had?

"When we are out in Hart Canyon, we can track mountain lions or be tracked by coyotes. Coyotes may track and hound you. They even go after the dogs sometimes. Rambler is unusually brave and will actually chase them and pounce at them."

4. What is one way you’ve learned to ride better?

"Besides lessons, I’ve learned a lot through (North American Trail Riders’ Conference) trail rides. They sponsor four to five events each year between April and early October. We have learned a lot and will undoubtedly be participants in many more events."

5. How can riders use their horses to help out in the community?

"The San Juan Sheriff’s Posse is a channel for people who like horses and want to make a difference."

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