WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #72
It was a warm and lovely say this Sunday in June. The drive
out to the Ranch was delightful. The range grass now all lush
green, the trees bloomed out, the lilac bushes giving off their
wonderful smell, the cattle with their young ones all content.
Little snow on the Rockies, soon it will all be gone as we
approach the official day of the summer season.
The temperature today was to reach into the low 80s F. I was
somewhat surprised when I arrived at the Ranch and looked on the
white board that there were not more riders coming out to trail
ride. Everyone was kinda disappointed, but such is the world
today of commercial trail-riding ranches, you just never know how
many people will come to horseback ride on any given day.
We were supposed to have an 11 am ride, two sets of
families. The one group phoned and cancelled, the other group
never did not show up. It's still a world of inconsiderate people
sad to say. Of those who, for whatever reason cannot come (after
they have phoned a booked a day and time), only about half of
them will call to say they cannot make it, the others we just do
not hear from.
We had a new "volunteer" man today. His name is Don. I made
myself acquainted; we talked about where he was from and what
work he did. Turned out he was in the music business - choir
director, played the guitar and bass guitar. He and his wife did
some local gigs. His wife he said was quite the "Celtic flute"
"Well Don, the 11 am ride ain't coming, so would you like to
ride out with me and Goldie? I'll show you the best 2 hours ride
on this Ranch."
"Sure would Keith, that would be great," Don responded.
"It's what I call the 'long fox' ride, " I went on to
explain, "most know the short fox trail but now Dan and his
staff are not here, I doubt if anyone on this Ranch know the long
fox trail, for the part that makes it longer I personally cut
through the trees, about 4 years ago."
Off we set. down through the valley to the north. Don had
many questions he asked, about the Ranch. So I spent a good part
of the early ride explaining the history and answering his questions.
Of course part of the explaining was to do with the kids summer camp,
the story as to how it got started 35 years ago, and how Betty was part
of it all from the very beginning. Had to explain about Dan, who took
over the trail riding barn when the owner decided to retire 8 years ago.
And Betty taking over the summer camp. Explained how when Betty
became involved with the Ranch about 40 years ago, there was no
barn, no houses, just a tack shed and hitching rails. And from that grew
the facilities the Ranch has today - two barns, many houses for staff,
and the restaurant and full picnic area with undercover fire grill.
Had to explain why Dan was no longer here. That he and
Betty did not get along, and the two businesses had to be split
up - Dan with his herd of horses and ponies and Betty with her
herd of horses and ponies, and one no longer was to overlap the
other. How dan, after 25 years on the Ranch finally decided it
was better for him and his staff to move on out to a new location.
So much history of the Ranch was given to Don, and he
thanked me for the history lesson.
We arrived at the gate which leads into the "crown land" and
down we rode into the next valley. As we came out into the valley
Goldie figure it was time to gallop. She was throwing her head
and jumping on the stop. I knew what she wanted. She was acting
like a wound up top, a wound up elastic. I told her no this was
not the place, this was not yet the "race track" as I call a real
nice long flat stretch that goes for about 5/8 of a mile.
It was not long before we arrived there, and now she really
was dancing and prancing.
"Don, you can see Goldie wants to race, so I'll go in front
of you 10 yards or so, you hold back, while I let my girl go for
this run she is itching for."
And with that I relaxed on the reins, but kept Goldie in
check with a gear 4 gallop. This flat stretch has a bend and I
did not want to open her up until I saw no trees had come down
over the winter time. Reached the bend, it was nice and clear.
"Okay girl," I said, as I gave her her head, and into gear 5
she flew. Wow, she was just delighted to be able to let all that
energy out, I could sense her saying, "Oh this is what I want,
this is what I want, flying free and fast."
I waited at the end of the run for Don. And we moved on into
the tree line. I showed him where the one trail turns back and
meets up with the trail we were on. But said we are going to do
the larger circle, the trail I cut, which winds through the tree
line in an interesting manner, to make this two hour trail even
Either trail bring you back to the "Texas gate" and the
trail you start on.
"We can go back the way we came now, but I like to turn
right and go on this trail you see, for it brings us back along
the fence tree line and to what I call the 'little big dipper' -
which running down can be fun for good riders, but only good
riders mark you."
I did show Don how Goldie likes to run down and up the other
side of the little big dipper. Don chose to have his horse walk
down. He's not done much riding above a very slow lope or canter,
mainly walk and trot.
We had not gone too far after coming down and up the little
big dipper, when we heard this "cat like cry" - Goldie's ears
stood straight up forward and she came to a dead stop. She would
not move one inch forward, even as I encouraged her to do so.
No way was she going any further.
"Don, I have in the 7 years here on this Ranch, never heard
such a cry. It is a fact we do have the wild cats - bobcats or
whatever - out in these hills. And that sound is certainly not
from any deer or elk, which the horses are not scared of. That
sounds like a cat of some kind."
Neither horse would move forward. They knew a lot more than
what we could see, that going forward was dangerous. Horses have
very acute senses of sound, sight, and just plain "protective
skills" build into them, they are the ones on the side of being
hunted and killed and eaten, not the ones who do the hunting and
I said to Don it was the best for us to turn around and go
back the way we came into this valley, and he of course fully
agreed. And that is exactly what we did.
We arrived back at the barn, in safety, with no wild cat
following us. Yes these hills do have some wild cats and also
bears. Most of the time - 99.9% of the time, those animals stay
clear of the Ranch and its trails. They have much deer out there
to satisfy their eating needs. But now and again we do see them
off in the distance. It could also have been the den of a wild
bobcat we had come to, it deciding to make its den close to this
trail we were on. We shall not venture on that trail again this
summer, just not worth the risk.
We arrived back in time for me to help Betty with three
small children she had out for pony lesson riding time. Kate (my
helper in the summer camp with the pony group) was out to help,
and so was Michael, Betty's nephew. It was 3 girls, for two of
them it was their third time out and the other little girl was
her second time out.
We were able today to take them down to the outdoor arena
and have them steering their ponies between the red pylons. Then
we ended up running alongside their ponies as they enjoyed their
first trotting. We have them hold the saddle horn, for safety, as
they laughing bounce up and down.
There was one more trail ride to take out before the day was
over. That one ended up being more people than was originally
booked in, as some of the parents of the three small girls wanted
to trail ride. All went nice and smooth.
Before leaving the Ranch I put hoof ointment on Goldie's
feet, it keeps them in good shape. Will need to do a little
trimming of her front feet next time I'm out. And soon, by the
end of June, will need to have her shod.
Oh yes, bought a new saddle, one of the best type roping
saddles, very well made and nicely tooled. It was a not in-
expensive, but one that will last the rest of my life, and
probably the lifetime of who will inherit it, if this age does
not come to the end in my life time. I needed to punch more holes
for stirrup adjustment and oil it down to help take out the new
leather squeak sound.
With all that done, it was time to say goodbye to my horse,
as she went with the others back out on the range, and I was
heading back to the city.
To be continued