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NOTES FROM WYOMING: THE WRANGLERS AND THE HORSES…






I set my alarm to wake me (too) early this morning so I could catch the horses as they were being driven from their nighttime grazing pastures into the corrals down at the barn.

I thought maybe I could get some really dramatic photos of the stampede of hooves thundering through the gates with their chilled breathe blowing in the crisp air…  You know, the kind you see in Cowboys and Indians Magazine.

As if.

But, that’s what I was thinking last night when I padded around my room, preparing the coffee so I would only have to flip the switch while I sat in bed for a few minutes longer, waiting for it to brew.

I woke up early to photograph the horses

I woke up early to photograph the horses

THE ALARM WENT OFF!

I nearly fell out of bed the alarm was SO LOUD and ill-tuned to some scratchy 80s rock station.

Why was I getting out of bed? I couldn’t remember as I flipped on the coffee.  Oh yeah, I’m going to photograph the thundering herd.

So, I pulled on my sweats. With mug in hand, I stepped outside.

And then stepped right back in.

OMG!  Brrrrrrrr!

Who opened the freezer while I was sleeping?!

No wonder nobody lives in Wyoming… Here we were in the apex of summer, and this morning, I could hang meat off of my front porch swing.

OK, regrouping – I put on all of my clothes and walked outside to meet the early morning hours in horsegods playground.

The sun was rising...

The sun was rising…

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It is like living in a postcard.

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Photos don’t do it justice.

THE THUNDERING HERD

As I made my way to the R Lazy S Ranch barn, once again I was struck by the majesty and awesome presence of the Tetons.  I had to take some photos.  The hard part was that the photos don’t appear the way it really is here.

I feel like I’m living in a postcard.

Anyway, after I tried to capture what master photogs have been trying to photograph for a hundred years, I turned my attention to the Thundering Herd which should have been coming around the bend at just about any moment now.

I could hear the Wranglers whoop whooping and cracking their bullwhips to move the horses into the work corrals.

Whoop!  Whoooop!  Ai Ai!  Yip Yip!  Crack!  CRACK!  Whooopppp, Whooop!

And then they came…

The Thundering Herd of… one.

Then another.  Then a few more.  I counted four.  4 sets of walking hooves sauntered into the corral.

Horses (strolling by as I hung on the fence):   What?!  Yeah, we know where we’re supposed to go.  We do this every single day.  What’s the big rush?  We’ll get there.  Hold your drawers on.

Me:  That’s it?  I wanted THUNDERING HOOVES.

Horses:  Well, you came to the wrong place.  We don’t do thundering hooves.  We’re ranch horses.  We save our energy.

Me:  Where are all the others?

Horses:  They’ll be here.  Eventually.

Me:  But… what about all the whoop whooping and cracking of the bull whip…?

Horses:  We think that makes the Humans feel like cowboys but we just ignore it, pretty much.  Mostly we trot a little to humor them.  Then we walk in and some of us hide.

Me:  Hide?

Horses:  Yeah.  It’s fun to see how long it takes for the two-leggers to find us.  When they do find us, we rush out and hide somewhere else.  So. Much. Fun.!

The thundering hooves of... one.  And he was walking...

The thundering hooves of… one.  One horse, walking.  And he stopped just as I took this photos.

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Ho Hum. Another day at the office.

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A couple more saunter in.

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Not quite the stampede I had pictured in my mind… more of a single file workaday thing…

Yup.

After about 20 minutes, the entire herd had casually walked into the corrals.

So much for that.

These horses are fat, happy and been there/done that.

I walked away smiling to myself…  that was funny.

THE ASSEMBLY LINE

One of the wranglers was talking about the ‘chute’ with me.  I had no idea what she meant.

I had asked her how they could possibly get 35-40 horses ready every morning.

She said, “Oh, the chute makes it so easy to get the horses ready for the guests.”

Well, today, as I was waiting for the herd to crawl in, I noted the chute.  It was basically an aisle with gates on both ends and three tack/med rooms in between.

The chute

The chute

It just so happened that Sky was moving through the shoot right as I was studying the system.

I took photos but basically, the wranglers have a big chart of which horse goes with which guest and what tack that horse will need to wear.

The main Wrangler, Dan, mills through the mostly sleeping horses (yes, they all, I swear, came into the corrals and promptly started sleeping.) and pulled out who was needed, one by one.

Sky was chosen.  He walked through the first gate and it closed.  Sky knew what to do.  He walked to the first open door.

Sky went into the chute

Sky went into the chute

Sky moves to be groomed

Sky moves to be groomed

Saddle pad on

Saddle pad on

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Saddle on!

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Sky moves out, another moves in

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Sky looks at me as he is being bridled, “Hey Human, are you sure you want to ride today?”

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Oh alright!

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Sky walks himself into the “They’re done!” corral as others are being brought into the chute.

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Sky takes his last nap before it is time to mount.

This is where the pit crew went to work.  Out popped three wranglers.  One had a curry comb, another a brush and the third was making sure there were no suspect boo-boos as he slathered on the sunscreen.

Sky then moved forward to the second door where the next pit crew sprung into action.  Saddle pad, saddle and bridle!

Except, Sky wasn’t really into having his bridle put on this morning… so he moved ahead without it.

The last Wrangler in the assembly line worked with Sky and bridled him.  Then, he tucked in all the ropes, straps and reins and set Sky loose in the “They’re done!” corral.

All the tacked horses milled around the “They’re done!” corral, looking like they were all dressed up with no place to go.  It was quite an unusual sight to see fully tacked horses wandering around with no riders…

These horses groomed each other while they waiting to see if they were working this morning.

These horses groomed each other while they waiting to see if they were working this morning.

MOVE ‘EM OUT!

Once all the horses for a particular ride are ready, the Wranglers round up the specific guests and get them onboard.

They have several mounting blocks, which is nice to see…  No newbies hanging on saddle horns.

And then – they’re off!

I have to say, the Wranglers do a terrific job.  They are all happy, careful, entertaining and they visibly like the horses and their charges.

Very nice.

This horse was super friendly...

This horse was super friendly…

TIDBITS

Spending a week here has its advantages because you get to know the Wranglers a bit.  Lots of talk happens on trail rides and although all are careful to keep decorum, I’ve learned some interesting tidbits.

–The Wranglers get here a month before the season opens.  During that time, they have to ride all day – all different horses.  They clear the trails and train/tune/evaluate the horses.

–Most of the Wranglers say that it is tough work but great work.

–The crew eats the same food as the Guests

–The crew loves their employers.

–Most of the Wranglers are college educated.  A few grew up Eventing.  A few grew up on ranches, some play polo, another grew up on this very ranch…

–The Wranglers start work at 6:30am.  They get two days off a week.

–Sick horses are laid up and tended to either there or on WD’s ranch a few miles away.

–They have 2 babies a year.  These babies live in the front pastures and the guests love to watch them grow.

–The donkey, Angel, has been on the ranch for at least 25 years.

–All the equines winter several miles away in Du Bois.  (much lower in altitude)

–Only some of the horses are suited for wrangling.  Independent horses who don’t fret when their friends run off are the best wrangler horses.

–Wrangler Dan has been matching horses with guests for 30 years.  He can probably do it in his sleep.

This is Angel, the donkey.  She has been here for over 25 years.

This is Angel, the donkey. She has been here for over 25 years.

 

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Notes from Wyoming… Days 3/4: New Friends, OMG BEARS!, and Boy do I miss my saddle….






On Tuesday morning, I snapped this shot… so peaceful… gorgeous.  A perfect environment for… B-E-A-R-S!!!

LA LA LALALALA LA... Tuesday morning, I was skipping around and took this lovely photo... little did I know - ...

LA LA LALALALA LA… Tuesday morning, I was skipping around and took this lovely photo… little did I know – …

Yup.  BearS (plural)

Not one, 2.

The first one was only little (which made me wonder where Mama was…) but I was told that this little cub was right behind my cabin.  I wasn’t there at the time, thank horsegod.  One of my new ranchfriends snapped this photo.

Yup.  A baby bear.  I was told he was right behind my cabin but I'm not sure if they were trying to scare me or if it was true.  I wanna know where Mama was hiding!

Yup. A baby bear. I was told he was right behind my cabin but I’m not sure if they were trying to scare me or if it was true. I wanna know where Mama was hiding!

We came across the other bear during our trail ride.

Uh huh.  On the trail.

Here’s how it went down…  Our group came upon another group who was just standing there, ogling something.

Being humans, we stopped and ogled, too.

“BEAR!”

Sky and I heard the cry of “BEAR!” and we looked at each other with huge eyes!… If at that moment either of us had flinched, I think we would both be in Cleveland by now…

Anyway…

SKY (getting all sideways and dancey on me) “Should we make a break for it?”

ME:  I can’t even see it… where is it?  If it is anywhere near us, I think we should make a break for it.

ME (calling out to the crowd):  WHERE IS IT?

Crowd:  It just jumped in the river and it is swimming across!  Isn’t that terrific?!   How lucky we are to see a bear, let alone a bear who is swimming so closely to us!

ME:  Uh huh.  Is he on the other side yet? (Clasping my hands together in prayer.)

Crowd (cooing):  Awww, look, he just got up on the other side.

SKY (back-pedaling and bumping into the horse behind us):  Is it gone?  Should I bolt?  What is everyone looking at?  What’s a ‘bear’ anyway?! I can’t see!  YOU are making me very nervous, Human, with all of your praying and twitching!  Stop it!

Me (sheepish after being chastised for being skittish by my skittish horse…):  What??!  We’re good.  C’mon…

My wonderful ranch horse, Sky, who is skittish, new to the ranch and quirky - just like me!

My wonderful ranch horse, Sky, who is new to the ranch slightly impatient and quirky – just like me!

Yup.  A bear.  A bear was on our path but evidently he was more upset to see us than we were to see him.  He was so upset, he ran into the river and swam across.

I had just finished reading BEYOND THE BEAR, which didn’t help.

…By the way, when we saw the bear, our wrangler pointed out wolf tracks…

“Probably why we aren’t seeing any elk…”, he said dryly.

Prob-ab-ly.

Not the best book to have recently completed...

Not the best book to have recently completed…

OTHER LOVELY BEINGS WHO LIVE HERE…

Another new and kind ranchfriend sent these shots to me…  She is a photographer (the kind with the big camera and really long lenses) who seems to be at the right place at the right time.

I’ve seen nothing except the above bear and a zillion ground squirrels.  But for her, in one outing, she saw a band of elk, deer and the river looking mysterious.

Here are her shots:

photo 4

Young Buck

photo 2

A huge ‘nursery’ of elk. That’s what they called it… a nursery.

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A closer shot of the elk nursery. Many of the babies were nursing.

The Snake River

THE RIDES…

One of the many convenient and accommodating amenities of the R Lazy S Ranch is the ability to choose how much and how often you’d like to ride.

For me, I’ve chosen to ride a lot and often.

So, Tuesday was my first All-Day Ride.  They told me to show up to the barn at 9:30.

I did.

The horses were already loaded.  I swear, this place is a well-oiled machine!

As I waited to load myself into the truck, I noted all the kids awaiting their rides for the day.

When I arrived for my all day ride, the horses were already loaded!  That is Sky looking at me in the end position.

When I arrived for my all day ride, the horses were already loaded! That is Sky looking at me in the end position.

KIDS’ PROGRAM

As an aside, I gotta tell you, the Kids’ Program is incredible.  Kids aren’t allowed to have any devices on the premises (in the cabin is OK).  And, every minute is filled with fun activities – trail riding, tag on horses, kickball, talent show, rodeos, gymkhana, inner tubing on the river, fishing, a trip to the lake… it goes on and on.   All the kids eat together in their own dining hall… they have their own wranglers and counselors… it is incredible!  The kids are dirty, tired and happy at the end of the day.  Exactly like summer vacations should be…

The Kids' Program is amazing... so many activities and no devices allowed!  The kids are dirty, happy and tired at the end of the day!

The Kids’ Program is amazing… so many activities and no devices allowed! The kids are dirty, happy and tired at the end of the day!

ALL DAY RIDE (To the top of a very tall place…)

Four of us plus a Wrangler piled into the truck hauling the horse filled trailer and traveled somewhere inside Teton Park.  We parked.

Wrangler Maureen offloaded the horses and prepped them for us.  Everything went smoothly – except for Sky.

Um Hmmm.  MY HORSE was putting up a fuss about being bridled.  Probably because his nose was sunburned – but poor Maureen was doing the bridle dance backwards, for a long time, as we all held our breath trying to figure out if we should jump in to help or if that might just make a larger heap of bodies in the end…

Finally, he let her win.  Atta Boy!

And then he started hollering.  And hollering.  And hollering.

Sky hollered and hollered and refused to be bridled.

Sky hollered and hollered and refused to be bridled.

Poor Sky.  He is new to the ranch and new to the herd and he just feels insecure.  Kinda like me.  And, the Arab in him was front and center.  Well, not all front and center since he was still standing there, but at that moment, his quarter horse portion was not in attendance.

And then I got on.

Dancity Dance Dance, Dancity Dance.

I wondered to myself if he was under control or just about to blow…

Dancity dancity dancity, bucky kick reverse and spin.

Lordy Lordy (as my new Alabama ranchfriends would say…)

We are A-L-I-V-E!

And then we were off!  Sky settled in and the ride was gentle, sweet and gorgeous through water, open meadows, single tracks and god’s country.  What could be better than traveling on horseback through heaven on earth?

We went to the top and ate lunch.

Lovely.

We came down through lush green forests that reminded me of Oregon.

A perfect day.

Lunch in the wildflowers.  The Alabama new ranchfriends are sitting in this pic.  The horses are in the shade of the trees.

Lunch in the wildflowers. The Alabama new ranchfriends are sitting in this pic. The horses are in the shade of the trees.

scene

My photo doesn’t do justice to the view from up there.

TUESDAY EVENING  Purdied-up TIME!

People can do whatever they want in the evenings… but it seems that someone always shows up for Happy Hour which is hosted by whichever guests feel like attending.   They bring a libation, share, visit and learn about each other.

At exactly 6:30 sharp, the dinner bell is rung (yes, there is a dinner bell) and all the guests make their way to the cozy lodge for ranchgourmet (fancy, good food) dinner served family style.

After dinner, the guests sit on the lodge porch, which looks out to the Tetons, until they are done with wonderful conversation.  Last night, they played cards.

I mostly keep to myself after 8pm.  I kinda turn into a pumpkin.

But I know that friends are made here – lifelong friends.

In fact, one 25 year veteran of this ranch told me today that when he had an issue with his heart, he called his good friend, the cardiologist, that he only knew from this ranch.  They had never gotten together outside the ranch, but the friendship they made here, entrusted one life in the hands of the other.

WEDNESDAY AM TROTTING RIDE (OY) AND PM WALKING RIDE (AHHH)

I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do on Wednesday so I decided on a morning ‘trotting’ Breakfast Ride and then I was going to go on an afternoon ‘loping’ ride.

The morning Breakfast Ride was your typical Breakfast Ride with way better food.

You know, where you meander all around so the guests have no idea where they are – but in reality you end up not far from the kitchen so that hauling all the stuff to the location isn’t a huge deal.

Anyway, gorgeous setting on the ranch.  Beautiful. (I’m sounding redundant but I’m running out of descriptors.)

New ranchfriends at one of the Breakfast Ride tables.  Great food!

New ranchfriends at one of the Breakfast Ride tables. Great food!

There was a professional photographer there who took shots of us guests on our horses and family shots of the guests with the Tetons in the background.

The photog took family photos against the Tetons... most use these for their Xmas cards, I heard.

The photog took family photos against the Tetons… most use these for their Xmas cards, I heard.

THE TROTTING PART…

Oy.

Sky is more fine than most of the horses here.  And his stride is shorter.

He desperately wants to keep up with the lead horses – and he gets pissed when he can’t and a horse comes up on his tail.  He knows he’s slower but he doesn’t want to be reminded!

That’s all OK buuuuuuuut, his comfortable trot is the slower one.  And he won’t stay in that slower trot unless I make him.  But I didn’t want to pull on him the whole time so…. I let him trot faster than was comfortable.

For the entire ‘trotting’ ride, I was trying my best to post an equine jackhammer and failing.

Eventually he got tired and forgot about keeping up and the ride was much better but…

I miss my saddle.

’nuff said.

Sky is smaller than most of the horses and his comfortable trot can't keep up with them.  So, we rode in his not so comfortable trot...

Sky is more finely built than most of the horses and his comfortable trot can’t keep up with them. So, we rode in his not so comfortable trot…

THE LOPING PART..

Having concluded that the trotting wasn’t my favorite thing, I decided to save my internal organs and try a loping ride.

So, Wrangler Maureen brought me into the corral to watch Sky and me lope together.

By this time, I had such a headache from the organ reassignment trotting epic ride (and the altitude combined with a glass of wine the night before…), that after I passed my loping test (I ride like an English person trying to be Western – not pretty but it’ll do…), I decided to forget the loping ride and take an easy walking ride.

The walking ride turned out to be an excellent idea; it was gorgeous, easy and both Sky and I were grateful.

We were both tired, Lawd knows! (as the Alabama ranchfriends would say).

A quiet walking ride.  So soothing.

A quiet walking ride. So soothing.

AT THE END OF THE DAY OF RIDING

At the end of the day of riding today, the Head Wrangler, Dan, asked me how I liked Sky…

WD:  How’s that ol’ Sky workin’ out for you?

Me:  I really like him.

WD:  That’s good.  That’s good.  We like him, too.

And as I write this, I can hear Sky hollering in the huge pasture.  I wonder if he got separated from his two friends.  I hope he is OK and I look forward to rubbing his neck tomorrow morning and telling him, “You’re alright…”.

And, he is all right…this week, he’s my family.

Sky may not know it... but for this week, he's my family... every hyper, hollering, insecure, sunburned piece of him is mine.

Sky may not know it… but for this week, he’s my family… every hyper, hollering, insecure, sunburned piece of him is mine.

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Click image to watch the thermometer rise!

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Your purchase with Riding Warehouse via this portal benefits the Bucket Fund!  Click here.

Your purchase with Riding Warehouse via this portal benefits the Bucket Fund! Click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Riding Warehouse
Your purchase with Riding Warehouse through this link helps the Bucket Fund!


Supporting The Bucket Fund through Amazon Smile
Please choose HORSE AND MAN, INC when you shop via Amazon Smile through this link.



HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!