Updated: Jan 31, 2022
My love for horses spans over 50 years
When my brother mentioned that he was going to build a corral for horses on his cattle ranch north of town and mentioned that he was planning to buy a couple of horses, I thought - I need to start riding and working with horses again. I'd been a wrangler on a dude ranch in my 20's and loved working with horses then. They had about 60 horses on the ranch and I rode everyday I worked there. But that was almost 50 years ago. I wasn't sure I could even get on a horse anymore, much less ride one.
Working as a wrangler at the Bar M Ranch - with Chiquita
I thought I'd start by working with them - on the ground - brushing, grooming, saddling, walking them. I found a therapeutic riding stable close to where I live that was looking for volunteers. Called Free Rein Therapeutic Riding Stables, they specialized in using horses to help clients with physical disabilities and emotional issues improve their physical and emotional health. I signed up for their volunteer training sessions and learned how to be a sidewalker, a leader, a wrangler and an arena assistant. I found out that things had changed some since I had worked with horses so many years before. Instead of a bridle with a bit, they used "side pulls" with "rainbow reins" on their horses. We had tied our horses to railings and feeders with just a rope. They used halters and aisle tie ropes when tacking up their horses. Most of their riders rode an English saddle; we had over 60 saddles on the dude ranch; no one rode an English saddle there. Even with the changes, I loved working with the horses and the other wranglers, side walkers, instructors and leaders.
To find out if I could still ride a horse, I started going on trail rides at a stable within a 20 minute drive from where I live. I planned on riding at least twice a month, even though the prices had gone up 4 fold since the last time I'd gone riding. The riding stable used mounting block for all the riders to get on the horse, so I didn't have to embarrass myself by having a hard time getting back on. And once I was on - Voila! I could still ride! Plus I got to ride several different horses, each one a bit different, different personality, different walking speeds, different bad habits, different abilities. Some plodded along, others walked so fast that I had to stop them consistently so they weren't right on the tail of the horse in front of them.
A recent picture of me riding Frances
I was glad to be back working with and riding horses. My brother and I plan to each buy a horse within a year or so - the corral fence is still being built and we're hoping horse prices will come back down to normal or close to normal. After the Covid scare, lots of people were buying horses to have something to do outside that felt healthy and fun. So horse prices had jumped to sky-high levels. On my last ride at the stables close to where I live, I asked one of the owners (he was the leader of the trail ride) how much a horse like the one he was riding would cost (a good looking red roan gelding). I guessed maybe $4000 to $5000. He said that might be right during normal times, but now with prices so crazy, he would sell for $12,000 to $14,000. I was flabbergasted. I wasn't expecting to pay for than $3000 for a well-trained ranch horse. So - we'll see how well I can manifest the kind of horse I want within the next year or so.
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