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I woke up aware that the holiday was starting to draw to a close. Three days left and two days of riding and that would be it for a few months. It was a feeling that I had suffered before and I know I will suffer it again. There are worse things to suffer, obviously, but it’s still not a feeling that I look forward to. Also something that I wasn’t going to look forward to during the day was waking up to find that I have been bitten on the joint of a finger. This was now irritating and was in a bad place for riding. The extra set of gloves that I had bought were going to come in useful after all.

With another set of goodbyes in the morning my imminent departure was also brought back into focus. Thankfully I also had something new to look forward to today as there was one of the rides that I hadn’t done previously. However more about that later.

Today was going to mix a fast ride and a slow ride, the last slow ride I would be doing, but a slow ride out of necessity and when I come to the afternoon ride, all will become clear as to why it is a slow ride. However first up was a fast ride and one that I had done before, so I knew what I was letting myself in for. Suicide Pass was waiting. As always, the fast part of the fast mountain ride is purely for getting out there and back again. The mountain bit itself is walking, most especially with a pass of this name. To be honest it doesn’t hold the mystery that it did on the first occasion, but I am still well aware of the potential dangers of such a steep and narrow pass on horseback.

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Sun through the branches while waiting for the off on Suicide Pass

This time around it proved more of a challenge than usual and again, being awake and alert at all times when on horseback proved to be essential to my survival. We had just gone through the gap in the mountains that makes up the pass and started the steep and tricky part of the descent when Amigo started to create a real fuss, not bucking, but kicking out a bit. Looking round I discover that a horsefly has landed on his back and understandably wants it back off. These things are big and they just love to sink their teeth into the horse when they get the chance. Removing it in a way that would not cause Amigo to buck or speed forwards is not easy, as if you slap too hard where the horsefly is to try to kill it, the wrong signal could be sent and loping down a steep ravine is beyond my capability. Sadly I missed, only just, but I did enough to get the horsefly to move on, and thankfully no damage was done. Well when I say that, no damage was done then. Upon arriving back Amigo managed to find my foot again, reminding me once more that horses are heavy beasts. I’m sure it had nothing to do with not managing to terminate the horsefly. I think!

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Heading up to Suicide Pass (yes there is a path there!)

There was a bit of spare time in the day to watch some of the wranglers at work.  Something that is not on the daily timetable, but you might catch at the right time is some of the horse training.  The ranch aquires a number of horses and it can often be quite time time before they would be riden by the guests.  The training that goes on is varied and while I had seen horses being training so they are more ridable (some of the horses the ranch gets will not have been treated well), what I got to watch today was something I had never seen.  With just hand gestures, the wrangler was able to convey to the horse exactly what was needed.  This included speed changes, direction changes and a lot more besides.  Sadly I can’t remember the name for that training, but I’m sure its well known.  It was an extra treat to witness and helped me to appreciate even more just how talented the wranglers are.

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Horse training by a wrangler.

Lunch was its usual enjoyable event but I didn’t have time to relax as I had less of a gap than usual as my afternoon ride was departing earlier than the fast ride. It was also being carefully timed to ensure we didn’t get back for the fast ride. This was because it was the beer and Cheetos ride. Again, a ride that I hadn’t done previously, so was interested to see how it went. Possibly because of there being the other groups at the ranch this time around, there were only a handful of us on the ride, but that lead to a fun atmosphere and with it being mainly people that knew each other already, everyone mixed in well. By necessity, it’s a long winding route out to where we stop for a break and a shorter ride back. However things nearly got changed by accident as the route out takes us past the cook out spot and they had begun to set up there. However this was a mistake and they had to pack up and move everything out to the ‘alternative stop’ out by an old broken windmill where there’s a place to tether the horses and have sit down. The beers and Cheetos were free, but given the need to ride back, the absence of ‘facilities’ and the heat, over indulging is never a good idea. After a good laugh, some interesting and informative chats and a few beers it was time to head back. A slow walk back was all that would happen, but I had to wonder what my horse had been doing, or rather drinking, while I’d been supping the beers. While I may well have been keen to use the facilities back at the ranch for the last half of the ride home, it seemed, from the number of stops we had to make, that my horse had been drinking more than I had!

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Heading out on the Beer and Cheetos Ride

Coming back shortly after the fast ride had departed meant that I had more time at before dinner than usual, and while some of that was spent at the pool, it was also going to be a good opportunity to start some packing to make life easier on the last two days. By this point in the holiday some of the riding clothing had gone through its maximum rotation of wear, so there was no issue with it being put away properly for the long journey home.

One of the highlights of the ranch entertainment is a critter show. I have to recommend it as I’ve have enjoyed it on the occasions I have gone. Tonight was another critter show, but one with a difference. Rather than this being about desert creatures, it was more about rescue animals and some of the issues with creatures that affect urban life. There were some on display, either in cages (due to their venom or rarity) but some of the rescue birds were allowed out, if not to fly given the confined space. It was interesting to see how there were parallels to some of what was happening in the UK with foxes becoming ‘urban’ and desert creatures in the US doing the same. Interesting also that in the US this is actively dealt with, whereas the opposite seems to happen in the UK.

A few more drinks (have I mentioned the Prickly Pear Margarita is wonderful?) and a couple of games of pool and it was time to call it a night. I had one more day of riding left and I didn’t want to waste it.

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