Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Oldest Horse on the Ranch

This summer has been so very bittersweet.

On one hand, I have been stressed and exhausted and worn down and burnt out. On the other hand, I've gotten to have lovely little adventures with my family that have kept my spirits from sinking for too long.

For the 4th of July holiday, my cousins were in town from California. The three young ones had never really visited Texas before, at least not what they could remember, and so they were looking for a true Western experience.

I live in the heart of Texas, where tall trees are sparse and the sky is bigger than you've ever seen.

A few Texas Panhandle activities were a must, such as kite-flying in the windy weather, visiting the most popular restaurant in town, making homemade ice cream, buying fireworks, and eventually venturing out to Cadillac Ranch. 

On the morning of July 4th, we decided to drive a ways and head to the edge of Palo Duro Canyon, where we would ride horses.

Trail rides tend to offer horses that are worn down and over-worked. However, these Quarter Horses are working cattle horses that are excellently cared for, come from champion lineage, and are well-trained. During the summers when there is little work to be done, their owners will allow them to be ridden by people wanting to explore the edge of the canyon. This keeps the horses trim and used to following commands.

If you remember my experience on the island of Antigua, I enjoy riding horses, but I have my anxieties, so I always tell my family beforehand that I'm crossing my fingers that I'll be matched with the most elderly horse of the bunch. Surely an old-timer will be less likely to run away with me.

We gave our heights and weights over the phone and were matched with a horse before we even arrived at the ranch.  The youngest kids were given their horses first, and then a buckskin horse was led my way. "Emily, this is Bucky. He's the oldest horse on this ranch: 28 years old." I was thrilled. On Antigua, I was given the oldest horse... and in Texas, I got the senior citizen once again!

Although Bucky is 7 years older than I am, he sure did not act like it. During the times that we were riding in a line, he would attempt to weave his way to the head of the pack. Although he was gentle and obedient with me, Bucky liked being in charge of all the other horses.

The trail ride was beautiful in a completely different way than Antigua was. The grass was pale green, the sky was pale blue, and the entire world seemed to stretch out before our very eyes. Cattle grazed around us while cowboys in our group would occasionally wander off to herd them in the right direction.

We reached the edge of the canyon, where the earthy colors fanned out before us like spilled paint.

Looking around at the great expanse of the Texas horizon, I could not help but imagine what life would be like as one of the first explorers in this part of the world. What was it like to see the second largest canyon in America without ever having expected to find it? What was it like to stumble across thousands of buffalo grazing in waist-high grass? What was it like to be among the first from across the world to admire God's vibrant sunsets in the vast Texas sky?

The beauty in this part of the world is a unique beauty, but it is beautiful all the same.

Riding horses is such a wonderful glimpse into the history of this state, as well as the perfect way to have spent the start of Independence Day. I heard a quote once that said, "When I ride a horse, I borrow freedom."

I may be timid, inexperienced, and a little worried when it comes to riding horses, but there is a beauty that horses bring to a landscape, and I was happy to be a part of that.

Three years ago: My Bucket List
Four years ago: 40 Reasons to Eat (Part 5)

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