Looking for an adventure vacation over 50? To my colleagues and fellow 50 pluses who have an adventurous spirit, a love for horses and breathtaking sunrises, you may think you are too old, you’re not! I’m going to tell you my experience and the benefit of my experience at HorseWorks Wyoming – the delight of the enormous skies that change every time you look up, the sheer glee of the outhouse, the enormous pleasure as an English rider of using new (to me) western horsemanship techniques, and feeling them actually work for you! My 40 plus years of riding and competing horses UK style had nothing on the experience of finally swinging my leg into a beautiful western saddle and putting new techniques into practice. Have an open mind, an adventurous spirit and a willingness to surrender to western experience completely. Get away! Turn your cell phone off! This is the ideal spot!
Chapter 1: The Outhouse
I was greeted at Cody airport by Laura, the ranch’s Head Wrangler (more about her later….she’s truly amazing). In a HUGE ranch style truck that could’ve been straight out of an edition of “Monster Trucks”…”Oh Cool” I thought…so from that moment my Western adventure had begun. An hour later arriving at HorseWorks, I stepped out of the truck and did what the late Professor Stephen Hawking encouraged us all to do…”Look up at the sky, not down at your feet…” What I saw left me spellbound and breathless, the stars and planets and constellations in their millions were laid out above me, it was simply spectacular….thank you, Prof Hawkings.
I was shown to my cabin, which is (as I’m still living my dream here in Wyoming as I write this) cozy, warm and extremely comfortable… I don’t think I’ve slept so well on a vacation anywhere else in the world.
For those of you who grew up glued to Little House on the Prairie and the adventures of Laura (Half Pint) and her family…or Bonanza and the Cartwright family…”Blue Boy” in particular, then you will understand my delight in this next experience. Having woken up on my first morning, I looked up at the morning sky and gasped in delight! As every cowgirl will appreciate right now, a visit to the out house was required! With my boot, I swung open the wooden door with its perfect star carved into it and did what nature intended. I finally felt like Laura Ingalls!! Here I was, outside in this perfect, rugged American West landscape, not a soul in sight, just the sounds of the silence, a bird or two soaring overhead in the vast morning sky, the horses shuffling in their corrals, the cows quietly munching their hay and me…in my boots and pjs.
I’m crying now, as I look at the photos – over a stupid outhouse! But it’s not a stupid outhouse! It’s so much more! Nonetheless, I must move on to other aspects of my adventure, so check back tomorrow for the next installment… Chapter 2.
So, I now find myself with just 3 days of my 2 week adventure remaining and my place for next Spring reserved…I simply couldn’t leave without being secure in the knowledge that I was returning. Wyoming has enchanted me…and the ethos of HorseWorks Wyoming has truly captivated me.
Friends for Life met and made:
The Head Wrangler, with the true spirit of the horse running right through her. Her knowledge is incredible, her patience, understanding and love for our beautiful equine friends simply knows no bounds. Her dedication and commitment to the HorseWorks ethos is infectious and it has been a privilege to learn from her over the past 10 days… I will miss her gentle morning alarm call, her warm smile and her lovely easy going nature as she quietly coaches both horse and rider along the trail. See you next spring my friend.
The Assistant Wrangler, what a girl! A bright sassy, clever little “Chestnut Mare” with so much talent, enthusiasm and a natural understanding of all things equine. Eager to learn, filled with the sense of the responsibility she holds as she steps into the Wrangler position. I will miss your laughter and your spontaneous joy at the world. Enjoy every minute of the amazing journey you are on, I sincerely hope our paths cross again soon…oh and “Bump”!
I feel immensely blessed to have met you, Jim, you are the peaceful, gentle presence that binds this incredible concept that is HorseWorks Wyoming, together. Kind, calm and funny you simply glow with goodness. But one word of advice if I may? Keep an eye on your bacon….Gypsy is stalking it!
You are simply the spirit of HorseWorks Wyoming, I will say to all who ask (and those who listen), “Yes, visit HorseWorks for everything beautiful it has to offer, delightful horses, incredible scenery, wide open spaces, life lessons about who you are, but know this…everything starts and is borne out of MaeCile herself”. She has quietly allowed me the space to look at my life, evaluate what is good and what could change, inspired me to challenge myself to do things differently and not be afraid to try, she has done this simply by being the utterly real person she is, true to herself and what she believes in every way and she demonstrates this through the ethos of HorseWorks Wyoming… I have never met anyone like you before MaeCile, I was clearly meant to and now I have my world is a better place.
To the girls that I have been lucky enough to spend time with as participants over these 2 weeks…Sarah and Summer, you have provided laughter and delight in your youthful exuberance and outlook on the world. You are brave young women with so much life and love in you…I have watched you learn and grow in this short time and it has been fantastic for me to be part of your journey.
Much of what you will experience at HorseWorks Wyoming centers, quite rightly, around horses and natural horsemanship. Having been an English style rider for almost 50 years, the Western style was a completely new learning experience for me. From the fitting of the first head collar to placing the most beautiful Western saddle on my first horse my learning had begun, and although there are comparisons and similarities (all saddles need a girth/cinch and a bridle has a set of reins) between the Western and English styles, this was all fundamentally a very new experience, one that I feel I am beginning to get the hang of under the careful, patient tutorship of the wranglers.
Of course I have been watching cowboys ride for most of my life: Bonanza, The Virginian, High Chapparall, to name but a few…but goodness, they make it look easy!
The concept of a “loose rein” had me for a couple of days…we English riders become obsessed with “contact” and however gentle we might think we are in our hands, I don’t believe there is one single person with English style training who hasn’t leaned on their horses mouth or allowed their horses to lean on them…? None of that here…not once has one of these wonderful horses leant or pulled on my hands, they have taught me how to achieve the most wonderful lightness of hand…the concept of “pressure and release” is one that simply works – and you can read as many Monty Roberts books as you like but until you’ve actually experienced it in the here and now you will never truly feel it. My beautiful Warm blood Splodge is in his early 20’s now….but I really wish I’d been aware of some of these techniques as he and I were growing up together…and I firmly believe there are some trainers that I have encountered during my years as a rider that really and truly need a dose of HorseWorks Wyoming, simply to learn kindness, patience and the understanding that a horse should not be bullied into submission! You know who you are….!
Equine friends met and made:
So this brings me to introduce you to the incredible horses I have been privileged to ride and get to know. Each one of these beautiful animals has left me with something to remember, something learned and without doubt, something to smile and feel joy about.
Cavalier: Dark, handsome Mustang boy…with the kindest eyes and a wonderful sense of responsibility about him. My first trail ride here was on Cavalier, memorable for its spectacular mountaintop scenery and the fact that this lovely, gentle horse was my first western-style ride. I have watched him ridden by others during my time and he has a so much to offer – forward moving enough for a more experienced rider, clever underfoot on the steep mountain trails and a perfect gentleman responsible for the less experienced rider to enjoy.
Bamba the Magic Mule: another first for me and what a fantastic experience she is! My first trail lope (canter) was on this incredible, big-hearted lovely girl…she simply loves life and this joy is infectious as she carried me across some quite tricky terrain, her beautiful ear pricked and her lovely little feet merrily picking out the safest route. Everyone needs the Bamba experience to lift their heart!
Poncho the Appaloosa legend: Any horse that can complete the 2192 mile Mexico to Canada trail ride joins his Cowboy legend Nate Brown in that hall of fame. If Poncho could speak I think his story would be worth a listen. This beautiful, gentle, wise horse has every single quality required to instil confidence and sheer joy in any rider. I feel honoured to have sat on the back of this glorious animal.
Tina: As much as I love and revere the beautiful horses I have mentioned above – Tina “I have something to say about it” the Appaloosa Mare is hands down my ultimate favorite riding horse here. Feisty and funny, filled with attitude and does something for you because she’s considered it and agrees…..for now! Little girl you have made me feel 10 feet tall every single time I ride you, you have boldly and with so much sass, carried me across some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen, you have shown me the way up and the way down the mountainside in your own perfectly confident style and when we loped up the path together – the smile on my face could probably be seen from Space!
Thank you little mare.
As much as I knew I would probably fall in love with a riding horse or two…inevitable for any horse lover, I guess I didn’t really think about the effect a certain young colt would have on me….until I locked eyes with him on about day 4! Big deep pools of liquid brown stared straight at me, beautiful little brown ears pricked forward he stood firmly in the middle of his corral and watched me from under his baby hair forelock. I was utterly under his spell…I mean completely captivated. Over the past week I have spent a little time with this beautiful boy, I successfully haltered him – however, he’s managed to wriggle free of his halter on 3 separate occasions (so clever!), I’ve fed him his grain from a nose bag and he’s allowed me to scratch him and stroke him – although potentially all on his terms….He is simply gorgeous and I have named him “Wyoming Spring”… He has summed up my experience and my adventure here so perfectly, and I know when I visit next Spring he will be bigger, bolder and just as beautiful.