Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hank, And The History Of Horses, Part 1


Ahhh, Hank....Where do I begin. The beginning, one would suppose.

Let's see, Sara began taking jumping lessons waaaay back (I'm guessing around '98?) after about a ten year break from horses. Heck, it was fine by me - got her outta the house. I'd go along occasionally to watch and maybe help brush. I had ZERO interest in horses. I appreciated their size and gracefulness in spite of their size, but that was it. I even got up in the saddle a few times, but was not really doing it out of any idea of mine, if you know what I mean. Well, next thing ya know, we're booking a trip to a dude ranch. Yep....me, a saddle, and a horse....for seven days....yeah right!

When deciding on which one to stay at (and there are many), I only had one stipulation: It had to be "in the mountains". Not at one of these dry prairies with tumbleweed and snakes and a view of mountains on a sunny day some 43 miles in the distance. I wanted mountains all around. And rivers. See, I'd go fishing; Sara would ride off into the hills. At the end of the day we'd have a glass of wine and share our adventures of the big one that got away and the hundreds of trout that I did catch and the grizzly bear that I scared off. And she'd tell me about her day bouncing around on a hard saddle. Sounded like a plan - if I'm going to a dude ranch, I'll make the best of it. Fish, read, drink some Scotch, do a little (very little) light riding.

So Sweet Grass Ranch in Melville Montana is our destination.
Reservations are made. To prepare, I buy some really nice new flies and string new line on my poles. I get a new fishing hat. I check into the out-of-state fishing license. I'm ready to go. Nope, not yet, gotta take riding lessons. You just can't run off to Montana without lessons, that would be akin to travelling to Jamaica without tanning first.

I got to ride a handsome Paint whose name I can't recall - Bo, I think. He's a gentle enough boy; stands when I brush him and ready him for the saddle. You see, I'm instructed in not only riding, but grooming, saddling, and cleaning feet. Cleaning Feet? What the hell? That's like renting a car, but having to change the tires before you drive it...What? So I'm taught to pick them up and scrape all the stinky gook from the nether regions of a horse's foot. For those of you not attuned to that smell, imagine rotten lawn clippings, mud and shit, all nicely fermented together. It's not any more or less unpleasant than changing dirty diapers, I assume. One gets used to that, right?

So the lessons go on. I took four, maybe six lessons. It went well, and my riding instructor couldn't have been better. In addition to cleaning feet, I learned how to stay on a horse that saw ghosts. Turns out old Bo was a tried and true lesson horse, but every now and then he would scoot to the side about 4 feet for no apparent reason. That in and of itself was not so traumatizing, but the thought of my Montana Dude Horse doing that same thing as I perch perilously above a five thousand foot abyss had me in some serious worry. "Not to worry", I was told, "Bo sees ghosts sometimes and just gives a little spook". Now here's something funny: I'm new to this horse stuff, and I don't know if Bo is unique with his sixth sense, or are all horses "gifted" like this. That abyss I mentioned now has a river of fire at the bottom. I'm not feeling any better about this.

Sweet Grass was spectacular. And mountains! The Crazy Mountains, no less. The ruggedness and awe and serenity that being near mountains imposes is indescribable. Sigh....
After checking in and meeting many of the other guests, a well weathered wrangler approaches and quietly asks of each of the guest's riding ability. I proudly raise my hand and almost shout "I've taken lessons!" Not one of my coolest moments. Rates right up there with the time I walked into the ladies restroom....

I get paired up with Spencer, a rather aloof buckskin. He really couldn't care about humans. But he was sound and safe and didn't see one single ghost. And we saw mountains and rivers and streams and snow in June and huge herds of pronghorn and walked up on three big
muley bucks napping in the long grass and saw black bear and we helped herd 200 blank Angus cows with babies at their sides thru 30 miles of rough terrain and we went on a search and rescue for a missing calf and we rode and rode and rode.
All seven days.

My fishing gear never left the truck.

The love affair with horses began in Montana with a stubborn buckskin named Spencer.

3 comments:

Jen said...

Felt like I was right there! I WANNA GO NEXT TIME TOO!!!!

Susan said...

Camp Girl from Midwest Horse Talk -- thanks for sharing your blog with us! Love it. Horses, fishing, reading, drinking wine and the occassional scotch -- you're a bird of a feather! :)

Pam said...

PJ from Horses Midwest- Loved it!I usually don't read blogs but yours was great. Makes me want to drag my hubby and see if we get the same results.