I awoke slightly early, but that wasn’t too much of a surprise, I had changed time by 8 hours so there was bound to be some adjustment!
I had a nice walk about and managed to take some nice early morning photos.
Breakfast was a combination of cereal, continental and cooked, and you could have as much or as little as you wanted. The special was steak and eggs for breakfast and I couldn’t resist. As expected, the steak was wonderful. I don’t know how they do it, probably experience, but they always seem to get it right.
So after a wonderful breakfast, it was time to meet my horse for the week. Chief was his name, and I did wonder whether it was also an indication as to who would be in-charge!
Immediately I noticed the difference between riding in the UK and the US. First of all the saddles were more like armchairs. Massively deep and very comfortable. The chaffing that people warn about wasn’t going to be an issue. The second was the stirrups. Much longer, further forward and for me, more comfortable (again). So, mounted up, we headed off for an introductory walk through some of the ranch trails in the desert. This was a great way to get to know our horses. And it was good for me to get to know my horse. He was generally well behaved. However he was a ‘nibbler’ given half the chance. Too close to the horse in-front and he’d try to take a bite. If he didn’t have that option, then my shoes would suffice! This was a nice relaxed way to start the holiday, and something we all had to do, so as a group it was a good way to get to know people as well. After an hour in the desert, it was back to the ranch and a chance to see if I was good enough for the fast rides. This would have a big say on the rest of the holiday. If I passed the test, I could do the fast rides and something called team penning. The issue was I hadn’t ridden at that speed for about 30 years.
Much to my amazement, I passed first time. I would now have a lot more freedom to choose different times to ride and travel further afield. And without a break, just before lunch, it was off on a fast ride though some of the desert. This was great fun, if somewhat terrifying at times and there were moments where I was hanging on with my spare hand to the saddle horn to keep my balance.
After lunch with my new friends we talked about what to do in the afternoon. We had all passed the loping test, so could do a fast ride, slow ride or team penning. Somewhat nervously it was decided we should have a go at the team penning. This was new for all of us so we were all in the same boat. The ranch owner, Russell was on hand to explain what team penning involved and to help us get into groups. I stuck with my new friends and we formed two groups. I was so glad we chose to do this as it became not just the highlight of the day, but of the holiday. Chasing cattle around an arena to get them into the pen was good fun and everyone had a good laugh.
We then had an impromptu lassoing lesson one some of the practice dummies with plenty of mistakes and lots of laughs and cries of ‘I’ll get it right this time’.
Dinner was outside in the warmth (as it was everyday) with a wide selection of food and drink. Sitting with new friends we relived the day and all commented on how it was difficult to believe that we had only had one full day and that we all felt like we had known each other for so much longer than 24 hours. However this was part of the feeling that the ranch helped to create.
I skipped the evening entertainment, it was painting and I’ve never been an artist and I was quite tired from a long day and a bit of jet lag. If the rest of the holiday was going to be this good, leaving would be a problem.