After yesterday’s exertions, taking it easy was a priority. It was another mountain ride day and as before there was the options of a fast or slow ride. For both of our benefits, I opted for the slow ride. Time wise it just means I’m out on the horse a bit longer, but it’s very relaxed and for my ability I can be very lazy in the riding, knowing the horse knows the trail better than I. I’m sure Ice appreciated the break as well, though to be fair, mountains weren’t his forte.
Suicide pass is a name that sounds bad. However in reality its nothing that the horses, even Ice, aren’t used to, or would have been over countless times. This was my second time, having done the fast ride to it on my previous trip. (For the mountain bit itself it is strictly walking only for the horse. This time around the pass didn’t seem as bad. Possibly knowing what was coming has helped diminish it, I know know. Maybe I was just better at encouraging Ice to keep going so he didn’t stop as often.
The pass successfully negotiated and a nice lunch digested, it was time to relax for a couple of hours before what is always considered one of the ranch’s most fun activities, but one that I had not been able to do until now. Bring on the team penning.
There are a number of things that I enjoy about the team penning. Primarily is the sense that this is just good fun with a competitive edge. No one takes it too seriously and even the times given seem somewhat random. There is the fact that it is one of the few times where you have total freedom as to how you guide your horse. No trails to have to stick to and the need to be able to make quick turns to counter the herd is different to the trail riding. And finally there is the total ability for the cattle to make life very difficult for guests and wranglers in terms of penning them.
We had our team of four, gathered from dining companions having convinced our forth that they would enjoy the experience and they wouldn’t be letting us down. I would like to think that I was right on both counts, but I’ll stand to be corrected!
Despite there being a large number of groups we were still able to have 4 rounds of penning as opposed to the expected 3. Times we had heard from the previous days penning were very short indeed. Clearly they had different cattle on this occasion as we were all a lot slower and the cattle were misbehaving, in all sorts of ways, not just darting away from the pen. At times one almost felt you should cover your eyes! It was though great fun and being complimented by the ranch owner on the control of one of what he described as a ‘difficult’ steer was certainly a highlight.
I had brought along a different video camera to film the penning and had set that up in advance. With the battery and memory card in there I could have filmed for 3 times as long as I needed to, so I had placed the camera high in the stands. Despite sitting next to it and being there when I set the camera up, I still managed to get someone’s head bobbing up and down. Annoyingly this was also during my stint with the ‘difficult’ steer. When I get to review the tape I home that some of it will be salvageable. That though is a project for the future.
The penning involved more active cattle than these!
I mentioned earlier that it was a highlight to be complimented by someone as experienced as Russell, however it was not the only highlight of the day. As I had strolled around to set up the camera, I saw an odd bird that I hadn’t noticed on the ranch before, which upon seeing me sped off on foot very quickly. Sadly too quickly to take any footage. I had just had my first encounter with a Roadrunner, and having been a fan of the cartoon as a child, seeing one in real life was amazing. I can see why the coyote struggled so much!
After another long dinner conversation it was time for some star gazing. I was slightly surprised the person was still there as we had, once again, talked and laughed round the table for so long. But he was and once more I was privileged to see some incredible stellar views that are a good reminder as to how large the cosmos is.