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I would be lying if I said I woke up totally refreshed. I’ve travelled enough to know that one good night of sleep, and it was a good night of sleep, will not counter an 8 hour time difference. That said, I woke up feeling good and ready for the day ahead. I knew what would be in-store for me, to a degree, as the programme of riding doesn’t change. That might sound boring, but actually it works very well and when you have found something that works well, why change it!

It was time to meet my horse! Last time I was on a horse called Chief. He was full of character and I would have been quite happy to have been on him again. That was not to be though. It wasn’t a disappointment, they have about 150 horses on the ranch and rotate them. He could easily have been ridden the previous week and was getting a much deserved week off. Alternatively he could be being kept for someone more of my level from 6 months ago. My new charge was Ice. I’ll tell you more about Ice in a future post as it wasn’t until the next day that I looked him up in the ranches guide to the horses and I don’t want to jump the gun.

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I immediately felt comfortable on him. A larger horse than I was used to back at home, but by no means the largest available. Nicely settled I headed out of the corral with the group I was in and out into the desert. The first ride is always important. It’s a slow ride and while I didn’t have to do it, it’s a good way to get to know the horse. It also enables the rider to set the guidelines and let the horse know what you expect. This was easy enough just making sure that he knew that when I had asked him to stop he wasn’t to carry on walking. The horses at the ranch are well trained and a simple pull of the reins was enough and I knew from that point on that he would be a fun horse to ride out on.

Another nice feature about the slow rides is that it gives plenty of time to chat to both others in the group and the wranglers at the ranch. This will always bring up some nice surprises and one of these was that yet again, despite travelling over 5000 miles there are people there that are based less than 50 miles from home.

I like to think that I’m quite observant and I had spotted someone walking around the previous evening with a nice camera but on some rather odd tripods. Putting on my detectives hat, I found out that it was a ‘film crew’. Now this is a slight overstatement as it was a team of 3 who were on the ranch producing a tape to show what happens at the ranch with a view to a sort of reality show. I’m not totally sure if the idea will take off, but they were a nice bunch with lots of stories connected with the music and film industry.

A long lunch chatting with new friends it was time for a dip in the pool. The Tucson area had recently had a few days where it was hotter than expected for the time of year and given that it would normally be in the 30s, that would have been warm. There was still some heat left over from that spell and while it was cooling down as the week would carry on, there was no doubt it was hot! No way near as hot as the summer months would be, but noticeable and given I was going to head out into the afternoon sun later on, something refreshing was almost compulsory.

Changed and ready to ride I’d elected for the fast ride rather than the team penning. I enjoy the team penning a lot but wanted to try something different and there would be ample opportunities for team penning later on this trip and more so on my next! This fast ride would affect me for the rest of the holiday, but not in the way that I had planned. Possibly I had forgotten some of the essentials of riding western style in the saddle, but I personally think it was more the rookie mistake that I made by having my wallet in the back pocket, but at the end of the hour I was very very sore and a large plaster (thanks again to the office team) would be in place for the rest of the week. I would clearly have to sign up for a lesson the following day to see if I needed to correct things! I would discover from chatting to the wranglers later I the week that Ice had a very different loping style (and trotting style) due to his history. I’ll still blame my wallet (pretending that it’s so large that it caused the issue!

After dinner it was the critter show, which I’d seen before, so I decided that chilling out, having a beer and chatting to new friends for a bit was better. Ended up staying up later than planned, but such is the way of things on holiday and it’s nice to get to know new friends well over a beer, regardless of what the body clock might be telling you.

Eventually we all decided to call it a night and headed to our rooms. Tomorrow would be an interesting day, especially with my new injury.

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