(Photo: Wes Walker)
The Daily Rally

Emmie Sperandeo Will Be Great—or She Won’t

A ride on a wild stallion teaches the adventurer that the best reason to take a chance is not knowing how it will turn out


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Emmie Sperandeo shared her story with producer Tanvi Kumar for an episode of The Daily Rally podcast. It was edited for length and clarity.

It was just this insane experience where I’m nervous and this horse is nervous and I’m on a completely different continent—like the other side of the world. I have to accept the fact that this is just all out of my comfort zone, and I’m going to do it anyway.

I grew up in central Florida. I had never left the continent before, and I haven’t traveled internationally much. I never had the confidence or money or time to do it before.

I traveled to Namibia for the month of April and went to go work on a ranch out there. I got there and was walking around with one of the ranchers one day. And they’re like, there’s this wild horse. He’s young, two, but he’s a stallion. He came in with their herd and just kind of joined their ranch horse herd. And she was like, if we can get him in a pen, this is your project while you’re here. You can train with that horse. And I was like, I don’t know if I’m even qualified for this. You sure?

It’s definitely not normal for a wild horse to choose to be domesticated, which is what makes this story kind of unique and funny. But it is normal for a horse to eventually get kicked out of their herd when they’re a young stallion, because the older stallion is going to say it’s time to go. Basically a parent kicking their kid out of the house. And if they’re not strong enough when they’re out on their own, especially in that landscape and with that wildlife, they’re not going to survive. And he ended up just bonding with the horses at the ranch and just stuck around and went into the pasture with them one day and never left. He could have left many times, and he just decided to hang out.

I named him Kibo. It’s a peak in Africa, because Kibo had a mountain range on his neck. He was a paint horse, so he had all of these really beautiful markings and some of the markings looked like a pointy mountain range, like a peak.

I had never worked with a wild horse before, and especially one that’s used to such different wildlife than the wild horses in the U.S. They’re super reactive and ready to fight all the time.

I wasn’t even sure if I could do it. I was the first human interaction this horse has ever had. So I had to make sure he was okay with a human being that close to him. Basically, I had prepared him the best I could, but I also didn’t have a whole lot of time, like 30 days. I would usually take a lot longer for that whole process, but I only had a month there.

I don’t consider myself a horse trainer, but I’ve trained horses. And I’m always nervous for that first ride, just because you can prepare them as best as you can, but it’s also a really unpredictable situation. It’s frankly dangerous. And I knew in my head that I was eight hours from a hospital on the other side of the world, and that really added to the anxiety. But I knew that it was something I had to do.

I got on him and kind of started going through the motions of what we had been practicing on the ground, which is like, move your hind end for me, flex your neck around, be soft in the halter. Then we worked on forward movement. It was going really well, but he just spooked at one point when I pet his neck while I was on him. That’s something that he needs to get used to, so it was necessary to touch him and get him used to everything going on above him where I’m out of his line of vision. But for a wild horse whose number one predator is a leopard, their first thought is, oh, a leopard is attacking my neck. So he spooked, and I just flew off and landed right on my tailbone. I immediately knew it was fractured. But I think overall it was still really good first ride.

Getting Back on the Horse

I got on him again the day before I flew out because I didn’t want my last ride on him to be me getting hurt.

It was one of those lessons that taught me that I can do really hard things.

I was never even one to want to travel that much because I just got so in my head about it and didn’t really like to take risks because I didn’t trust that I’d be able to handle a lot of situations. And not that I hadn’t been in them necessarily, but I never even let myself try in a lot of circumstances: try to figure it out, try to get myself out of those situations. I was always just waiting for somebody to save me. And it’s the same kind of thing as where I was waiting for somebody to go with me and to start traveling the world.

We’re all capable of way more than we think, and way more than we give ourselves credit for. That’s something that people say to me all the time. They’re like, no, I could never do that. I’m like, you’d be amazed at what you can do if you just give yourself the opportunity.

I don’t like think about the poetic phrasing of the things that I use to hype myself up a lot, but I just always tell myself: it’ll either be great or it won’t. It’ll either be the best experience ever or the worst experience ever. And either way, I’ll figure it out. I adapt. That’s what I do now.

Emmie Sperandeo is a ranch hand and Western cinematographer. She lives in her horse trailer and goes coast to coast with her horses, dog, and currently a bison calf. She also travels internationally to explore agriculture around the world. You can find her on TikTok @steadyrein or on Instagram @emogoatmom

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