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My last full day at the ranch had arrived and it was important to ensure that I didn’t waste any of it. So it was, that without an alarm clock I suddenly realised that I was in grave danger of missing the first ride of the day, having overslept a little. Now I know what you’re thinking. Riding out without breakfast! Be assured that wasn’t going to be the case as it was another one of the breakfast rides. So, rushing to get ready (clothes already out and ready to just through on) I sped over to the corral to await my horse. Thankfully there wasn’t any imagery of trying to get the shoes on and tripping over myself, but I think I was still sorting out my shirt upon arrival.

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We may be heading for breakfast, but the horses were having theirs delivered.

The ride out to the cookout location was rather uneventful compared to earlier in the week. Nothing trailing us and no surprises, we arrived, small as our group was now with the some of the groups at the ranch not attending in good time and with plenty of food to spare to fill ourselves for the days riding. Today I wouldn’t be returning to the ranch until quite a bit later in the day as I was doing a ‘continuation’ fast ride, so heading out from the cookout to other parts of the ranch before heading back. It’s a ride I’ve done before and involved both fast riding and mountain walking (for the horse). A good deal of the walking involves going alongside the mountain range and it’s the ride I always feel, for the way you pick you trail along the side of the mountain, would be the closest to what you see in the films and how things used to be in the days of the old West.

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Panther Peak, the view from the start of the fast ride.

So, nicely filled and looking forward to the ride, I saddled up and prepared to head out. Sadly this was where the problems started. I was riding with some people that I knew, but also a couple of people I didn’t. These were a father and adult daughter and sadly they were going to mean the ride was not as enjoyable for the rest of us as it should have been. The danger signs were there from the start when the wrangler, who knows the horses well, put us in order. This though wasn’t acceptable for the father and daughter. Neither wanted to be up front as requested and they also insisted on riding after each other. This mean, that despite not being on the fastest horse, I was to take the lead. This lead to no end of complaining that I wasn’t fast enough, but then I could have told them that from the start. Eventually they relented and went in front. Unhappy, but at least in the order we should have been. As an aside I did spot my missing glove on the ride and while the wrangler offered to go back for it, I said not to bother as we’d had enough hassle and delay at the start.

As the ride went on, we entered the mountains. This was walking territory and thus not an issue for anyone. Speed wasn’t important as it was merely a case of picking our way through the cacti and staying on the trail. However eventually this part came to an end and it was time to start the journey home. I remember a quote from a TV show (Babylon 5) when a character, in response to a rather bullish military commander says ‘arrogance and ignorance in the same package, however efficient’. This was about to be shown to the amazement of the majority of us. It was noticed on the first lope home that the father was both pulling back on the reins and using the crop to speed up the horse at the same time. Obviously that was sending mixed messages to the horse and there was the risk of it doing something unexpected (or expected if you know horses well!). The lope was stopped and in a very gentle and kind way the wrangler tried to deal with the issue. It was at this point he was informed that he didn’t need to waste his time as the rider knew what he was doing and didn’t need advice! Clearly not the case, but the wrangler had tried his hardest. To be fair the mistake from the rider wasn’t repeated, but it was a shame that the person didn’t have the grace that the wrangler had shown. I wish that had been the end of the troubles, but incredibly the riding from these two was about to get worse.

As I will have mentioned in previous posts, from previous trips, the horses know where the lopes are better than most of the guests. They also know from the wrangler’s actions when they are about to start, and they all sense it from each other. It’s therefore important when a lope starts that everyone gets up to speed as quickly as possible as not doing so makes it difficult for riders behind you. In third place I was behind the daughter. I’d been warned by others who had ridden with them earlier in the week that she had a nasty habit of not starting when the lope started and waiting until she was ready. This, you can imagine, caused issues for me and those behind me. The first time was a surprise and I had to do some considerable reining in to ensure that I didn’t ride into the back of her before she had got going. From this point on, knowing when the lopes were going to come, I started to hang back so that I could start on cue but not risk having a problem. To my amazement this didn’t seem to make a difference as she seemed to wait longer and longer each time. Not only was this spoiling the ride home, but it was getting dangerous as well. However there was very little we could do as she was also refusing to not ride behind her father. All of this became minor though when on a lope, going round a corner she suddenly stopped with no warning. Thankfully I was able to stop in time, as were the people behind me, but the decision to stop having just rounded a corner was madness and asking for trouble. For one in the party it was the last straw and once back at the ranch made it very clear that these people had spoilt her final ride. It wasn’t the wranglers fault and this was accepted, and I suspect they were leaving at the weekend as well, but I can only say that I hope I, and others never have to ride with them. Maybe they wanted to ride by themselves with no others in the group. Well if that was their intention they are well on the way to getting there. They are repeat customers; I just hope they don’t come back when I’m there again! For a place that is known for a friendly, mix in atmosphere, these two didn’t at all. I don’t think I saw them speak to any other guests once during the week they were there, even at dinner!

Anyway, arriving back later than planned with all the stops and disruption, we just about made lunch and after that it was time to hang around the pool for a bit. The last riding of the day was to be team penning and I couldn’t think of a more fun way to finish the week.

With even more people at the ranch there for corporate events, the numbers for the penning were seriously reduced and we were down to 4 teams. This meant that we got a wonderful 6 rounds to penning in. More than I had ever had before. There was a stranger in our midst at the start, a photographer taking pictures that he hoped to sell to a travel agents brochure in France. Hopefully we gave him plenty of good shots. With the smaller numbers we were able to have a bit more fun with the penning as well.

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Bringing in the cattle.

Half way through the cattle were changed and we had some much more troublesome steers. For me that was more fun as you do more riding when then don’t happily plod to their destination when you get to within 10 meters. Also joining in was a team of wrangler and it was great to see both sides of penning from them. When they were good, they were very very good and you could see the excellent horsemanship on display. However when the cattle decided to be bad, it was nice to see that they could struggle in much the same way that the rest of us would.

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The Wranglers Showing Us How It Should Be Done

It was the last night for a number of us and this time it was also mine as well. There was a singer put on for our entertainment and as so many of the nights at the ranch end, the day finished off with fun and laughter. Tomorrow I would be making the regrettable journey home, though I would at least have the morning there before I would be taken to the airport.

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