A Cowboy Vacation
Are you ready for a Cowboy,s vacation? Why not take a cowboy vacation on one of the many ranches throughout America. There are also many horseback vacations over the rest of the world. Just think riding a horse western saddle over the plains, across the streams and over the mountains. If fresh air and wide open spaces is what you are hankering for a dude ranch may be just for you! Are you ready for the perfect experience? Let me tell you a tale”�.
Jumping into my western wear pulling on my cowboy boots and putting on my hat, causes my blood to stir. Today is my first time in a bunk house but I,m not alone. There are fifteen other greenhorns or tender foots with me. Most of my comrades are city folk. Sure we,ve all seen a horse but it was on TV or at the parade. Today we get to experience the real thing. The question that flashes through my mind is whether I am ready to learn to saddle that wild snorting beast.
The door opens and in steps the lead hand. He says “the first order of business today is to head of to the corral for a lesson on saddling our horses.”� So off we go. I look for the smallest beast I can find, which is over in the far side of the corral. Yup that one is for me. As I tip my hat and approach the small gray mare grazing at the feed trough I”m a little surprised.
Well actually it”s more like I”m shocked. That small gray mare stands over a foot taller than me. Wow! now what to do. After all who am I kidding, I”m no cowboy. But with some help I managed to saddle the monster. Swinging up into the saddle my mind drifts to a western movie with me as the trail boss setting off on a cattle drive.
Suddenly with the movement of my steed I instantly come back to my senses to realize this beautiful beast is walking out of the corral and I”m about to experience my first adventure. After many miles of riding along a cool grassy plain our group of tender foots comes upon a small steam. Perfect, it”s time for a rest.
I swing out of my saddle. My legs and rear end feel like they”ve had had the flesh peeled right off of them. The excruciating pain leaves me moving pretty slow. It seems to take an eternity to be able to sit down on the cool grass. Wow I must be a wuss I think. Even with my aching body I feel an exhilaration like I”ve not ever felt before.
Looking at the other riders it appeared that they too had suffered this same fate. Yet even with this new found pain there is a smile of contentment on all the tender foots faces. As we stretch out and relax we realize the power of nature that is forgotten in the city.
My wild snorting beast is down at the stream drinking water with the other horse. After the horses have a rest it”s time to get back on the trail. Mounting my horse was as pain full as the dismount was and I cringe as I struggle into place.
My gray mare refreshed from her break was ready to go. But with each step we took on the slow ride back I was reminded of the tremendous beating my back side was taking. The chaffing of the in side of the legs were almost as bad. I was certain I was going to be a raw piece of meat by the time we returned. Looking back at the old cowboy who was our guide I saw a relaxed toughen real cowboy. I wondered how it took him to toughen up.
Back at camp after a slow dismount and some slow stretches it was time to find some grub. Funny by the time we sat down to a heaty meal the soreness had began to pass and each of us was looking forward to the next days adventure. Perhaps it didn”t take that long to toughen us city folks up afterall.
Conversation was hearty and load at the table as we busily exchanged ideas about our first day as a cowboy on the trails. There was excitement, pride, and an over all feeling of accomplishment. So this is how the real cowboy”s felt after a day on the range. Perhaps there really was something missing in city life.
By the end of my vacation the gray wild snorting horse turned out to be my greatest companion on all our daily rides. The name of the gray is Calaway. If you ever get the chance to ride this horse you will be pleased with her steady but gentle manor. Even my red western wear shirt, tan boots and my large white hat never spooked her. After all she is used to carrying and caring for plenty of want to be cowboys and cowgirls giving each a story and adventure all of their own.
If you ever get a chance to take a cowboy vacation on a Ranch you should. I guarantee you will not be disappointed! It will be one of the best experiences you”ll ever have, leaving you with the memory of light blowing summer breezes, soft scented wild flowers, deep blue crystal clear water, and gently sloping mountain trails.
The life of a cowboy may be filled with hard work but it”s a lifestyle that no other can compete with. There are few cowboys that would be willing to give it up. For just a couple of weeks you too can enjoy the life of a cowboy.
By Tom Strayhorn
About the Author : Tom Strayhorn is one of the few real cowboys left.
Horse Riding Basics
Here are some basic horse riding tips to orientate yourself and to help prepare you for that horseback riding adventure. For more complete instructions, be sure to checkout The Beginner’s Guide to Horseback Riding.”
Approaching Your Horse
Always approach your horse in a calm and confident manner. Horses sense when a rider is nervous or scared and the way you approach can greatly affect your horse’s attitude. It is unlikely a horse would hurt you intentionally, but you still need to use caution to prevent the possibility of injury. Always have a clear path to get out of the way of your horse should unexpected circumstances cause him to panic.
Mounting Your Horse
In order to sit properly and have a comfortable ride, check the stirrups to make sure they are an appropriate length. To do this, simply place your arm on the saddle. Grab the stirrup and put it under your arm. The stirrup should be the length of your arm. The length of your arm is also the length of your leg. A proper mount will go a long way in establishing trust between you and the horse.
You should maintain good posture, and your legs should be relaxed so they can move easily. Pull your spine and lower back in slightly, but make sure you are not sitting too stiffly. You want to be able to maintain balance without clamping down hard on the horse with your legs or having to grab the saddle horn.
Your knees should lie flat against the saddle. The balls of your feet should rest on the stirrup with your toes pointing slightly upward, with the heels down. Your feet need to be able to fall out of the stirrup, so you can land free of the horse should you be thrown.
Hold the reins loosely down and over the front of the saddle. Don’t hold the reins tightly as this will only confuse the horse making him think you want to stop.
Walking Your Horse
Many horses are trained to respond and move based on the pressure applied by the rider’s legs. Because your leg movements can confuse a horse, be sure and keep your legs relatively still and only use them to provide signals to your horse.
To get your horse to walk, squeeze both legs against the side of the horse. As the horse starts to move, relax the pressure of your legs. If your horse does not respond, you can give a gentle kick into his side while making a clucking sound with your tongue.
Your horse can be thrown off balance when you go up or down a hill so you will need to adjust the way you sit in the saddle. When going downhill, you need to lean back in the seat, and you need to lean forward when you are going uphill.
Steering Your Horse
A majority of trail horses are trained to neck rein. This means you hold both reins in one hand. Then when you want the horse to turn right, simply pull the reins to the right, so that the left rein lies across the left side of the horse’s neck. To turn left, pull the reins to the left so the right rein lies across the right side of the horse’s neck.
When turning your horse, you may also need to apply pressure from your right leg while pulling the reins to the left to signal your horse to move left. Likewise, apply pressure from your left leg while pulling the reins to the right to signal you horse to move right.
So in other words, to turn your horse right, you will be applying pressure on the left of your horse’s neck and side (using the rein and your leg), and will be applying pressure on the right of your horse’s neck and side to turn left.
Or maybe another way of thinking is you apply all pressure to the outside of the turn.
Stopping Your Horse
When you want your horse to stop moving and stand still, simply pull the reins firmly back toward you, and say, “Whoa.”
What to Wear
Select clothing that will help ensure your safety. Your clothes should not get in your way or be able to get caught on anything, such as a branch or saddle horn. Your clothes or anything you wear should not be able to flap around to avoid scaring the horse.
Avoid wearing dangling necklaces, purses, scarves, bracelets or anything that can get caught on the saddle, in the horse’s mane or tail, or branches, and also to avoid potentially scaring the horse. Horses have extraordinary peripheral vision and any flashing jewelry from the sun could startle them. Also if you have long hair, you should tie it back to avoid it from flying around in the wind.
Wear your shirt tucked into your pants to avoid it from flapping in the wind or getting caught. Loose and un-tucked shirts have a tendency to get snagged on the saddle horn when mounting or dismounting, or when leaning down to avoid getting hit by a branch. A button shirt is preferred because if you do get it snagged on something while the horse is moving, and for some reason you are unable to stop her, the buttons would come off to help free you.
Do not wear shorts. Wear long pants made of tough material, such as jeans, to avoid getting scratched or gouged by branches, and to avoid tearing. Your pant legs should be long enough so that they do not ride up when you are mounted on the horse, and your legs stay protected.
Most importantly, wear the correct type of footwear when going horseback riding. Sandals simply are not a good choice! Your entire foot should be covered to avoid any injury, such as getting stepped on by a horse. Your footwear should also have a heel to prevent your foot from accidentally sliding through the stirrup and getting trapped – it’s possible you could be dragged if you were to fall off. Boots are preferred as they also offer protection around your ankles and shins, should you brush up against a tree or post.