"Go ahead and give him a kick with your heels and he'll go into a lope."
The words floated across the barren sage-brush pasture. Troy Lake, a long-time cowboy by evening and white-collar high school principal by day was the orator. I was pupil. The horse below me was my bridge into the cowboy way. I had arrived at the moment I'd long thought about in theory.
A trot took me to the edge of the smallish pasture (though nary any grass budded on this bleak semi-arid terrain).
I slowed my steed as I performed a right-hand turn, learned only moments earlier (it's kind of no-brainer, honestly). I am an obvious novice though. Noticeable principally to Blue, the wondeful eight-year-old Quarter below me donating his time and effort for my personal glory.
He staves a glance over his shoulder and our pupils meet briefly. I chuckle, embarrassed at my incompetence. He mutters something under his breath. I swear it's "amateur."
So there we were. In Wyoming. In October. As the sun set on the WIDE OPEN Western prairie, with more horses in the immediate area than homo-sapiens. No wind (remarkable for Wyo). No distractions. Practically no ambient noise.
Horse, saddle, jeans, reins, man. Nothing more.
I dig my heels in and say "get up!" Magically, that's just what happens.
And while there are countless other impulses that register to a first-time rider, I'll simply state that I completely understand, after only one ride, why there exists in the wide world so much lore surrounding horsemanship.
The delight of a loping saddled steed on a warm Western day, as my backside smacks the saddle and my hat nearly loses its lofty grip will long be with me, whether I ever ride again.
And certainly there's much to perfect in my shade-tree riding technique. Much to learn about communicating with a living animal that is carrying you about hither and yon(der). That's a relationship new to me, certainly.
And wow. I totally understand why chaps were invented. Holy icy-hot overdose, Batman! Whoever says the experience of riding a horse is over once you de-saddle obviously didn't live to the morning after his chafing experience...
But let us peruse the photo documentation, shall we?
Pre-ride with my Quarter horse steed 12 Bar Blues (or just Blue). Horses always have cool names.
Learning how to steer. Blue is perhaps the most docile horse I've ever seen. His owner, Troy, said he's super lazy and tends to get pretty chubby if not exercised frequently. Figures. I get the slow, chubby horse. A novice's friend though, no doubt. The Wyoming governor rode this same horse in the State Fair parade back in August, so I felt pretty good about my chances of staying on the brute. (...and go SOONERS!)
Troy cleaning out the horse shoes. Blue is on the right. That's Troy's son Jake tending him. Notice the array of animals. Classic cowboy scene. Ha. Love it. Multiple horses and 6 dogs to boot, little puppy wieners included. Side note: puppy wieners LOVE to eat horse poo. fyi...
Most worthless cow dog ever. But still pretty endearing. The big dogs keep them in their place, Tami, don't worry.
End of the line. Not a bad scene to close out the day. It can be cold here, certainly (tho the worst is obviously still to come), but there's always sunshine aplenty out here, and heaven knows there's not a tree for miles to block a single ray of it.
Thus ends Lesson 1. Stay tuned for lesson two: learning to gallop!