Trail Riding

It was a beautiful fall weekend at the ranch and to celebrate roundup and the change of the seasons and friends and horses and kids and ranch life in general our community got together for a trail ride.

The Blue Buttes Trail Ride is a tradition that has been organized on and off for years in this rural “neighborhood” that spans a circumference of 30 some miles.

When I was growing up this event was the like Christmas. The opportunity to ride my horse across pastures all day alongside my best friends made me feel grown up and capable and wild and free and a million things that a little girl wants to be when she’s 8 or 9 or 10.

Sometimes it snowed. Sometimes it rained. Sometimes the wind blew and sometimes we got all three. But regardless of the weather, the neighborhood showed up. They showed up with their horses and wagons and drinks and snacks and kids and they rode together on a trail mapped out weeks before that stretched for miles across pastures and cleared fields, through coulees and along fence lines and roads.

I don’t remember anything from when I was a kid about the route we took or the weather really, I just remember being so excited the night before that I couldn’t sleep. I remember riding my old mare, Rindy, kicking my feet out of the stirrups during the third or fourth mile, swinging my leg over the top of my horse’s neck and thinking I was cool.

Thinking that there was no kid in the world luckier than me.

And so this weekend, almost twenty years later (20? REALLY?) I saddled up again to hit the trail with my neighbors. And I have to say, aside from a little horse malfunction due to all of the energy in the air on that warm fall morning, it wasn’t long before I was feeling all those things again.

Cool? Well, maybe it was more temperature related than attitude, but capable and wild and free and lucky?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

And really proud of my community and how they’ve held on to this tradition despite a changing world.

Proud of how they’ve kept their kids on the backs of horses and encouraged them to run.

Humbled by how they swing ropes and hitch up teams of horses to wagons.

Proud of their potluck dinners and generosity and enthusiasm for a lifestyle that is unique and important and tested by the modern world every day.

For twelve miles I sat on the back of a good horse and rode next to a friend. We talked about life and house building, husbands and pets, horses and work.

And we observed our world as it played out before us, young kids, their stirrups barely reaching the bellies of their mounts, kicking and flying back and forth across the pastures as fast as their horses were willing to take them.

Those kids would have gone faster and further if they were allowed.

And we watched families connected as they talked and laughed and moved through the pastures and gates. Old friends catching up.

Sisters laughing and joking.

A big extended family loaded and bundled up in a wagon sharing snacks and stories.

A husband and wife riding quietly side by side, helping one another along.

Whatever’s going on here.

And my friend and I, getting to know one another and the landscape that stretched for twelve miles as Pops pointed out where his mother was born, the dam where he used to swim and the route we took nearly twenty years ago when I was 8 or 9 and knew nothing but those miles and the back of my favorite horse.

Last Saturday I may as well have forgotten everything I’ve ever learned and all the things I’ve seen and have come to know in those years between. I may as well have forgotten I’d ever wanted to be anyone else.

Or anywhere else.

Because I was having good old-fashioned, genuine fun.

And I was the luckiest kid in the world.