Phew, it's been crazy busy lately! Work has been incredibly busy and we're trying to fit more work into less daylight hours. This is also the time of year that we finally do all the chores that we need to get done before the snow flies that we have been putting off in favor of riding our horses all summer! Normally it's not a problem and we get it knocked out without trouble in the month of October but this year the weather and the heavy work load have conspired against us so that we are struggling to find the free time needed to haul hay, cut firewood and do the various stashing of summer stuff in order to prepare for the winter. Consequently our riding time has taken a back seat for the first time all year. I will admit that I've ridden only twice this month and both times very briefly. Yes, it's painful. Yes, I'm having withdrawals. Yes, I would suggest we not belabor the point!
So, this morning while we are waiting for the fog to clear so we can cut more firewood I'd like to share with you the amazing cowgirl experience I was fortunate enough to be a part of at the end of September. Every year a group of local cowgirls embark on a horseback adventure at the end of September. It's a tight knit group of girls with varying horsey and personal backgrounds with one thing in common. They all want to not only enjoy the camaraderie of other horsey girls but further their own personal horsemanship journey. There have been different focuses of past retreats, but in general we put together a series of clinics with one or more clinicians paired with a good trail ride.
This year was a great year with the exception of the lousy weather. I'll just get that out of the way and say the weather sucked almost the entire time. Cold, windy, snowy, rainy. We got a few breaks but other than that it was an opportunity for us to "cowgirl up". But for all the years this retreat has been happening, this was the first year the weather didn't cooperate!
We had three great clinicians that taught us in three small groups of six. We were instructed in working a mechanical flag and both live cattle and buffalo, basic reining and trail obstacles/horsemanship. The clinics were very instructive providing great opportunities to hone our skills on live animals with the cutting practice. Reining was a great opportunity for many of the girls to try out the gas pedal on their horses and there was a lot of whooping in encouragement coming from the reining pen. The trail obstacle/horsemanship session was fabulous. My favorite was the teeter totter bridge. For those of you that haven't seen one, it's a bridge that rocks when you walk over it just like a teeter totter. I assumed my horse would be troubled with it a bit, but he handled it very well. As a matter of fact, while he was standing in line with the other horses while I was off helping prepare another obstacle he decided to take his turn without me and went right over the bridge by himself!
Our location for the clinic just happened to be within easy driving distance of a couple of different hot springs and so our evenings after dinner were spent soaking in the hot mineral pools of the hot springs. Incredibly welcome after the frigid day in the saddle.
We had the added luxury this year of professional camp cooks who provided amazing food at a bargain price so that the rest of us could concentrate on just riding and trying to stay warm. I don't know how these woman provided such amazing food three times a day with no electricity or running water but they did. I'm sure they won't volunteer to do it next year, but so glad they were here this year!
Our final day was the epic trail ride to the ghost town of Bannock. We rode the old stage road 10 miles to the abandoned and well preserved ghost town. Part of us splintered off for a more exhilarating cross country romp through the sagebrush hills and gullies. Flying over that sagebrush at a gallop with a pack of cowgirls leaping sagebrush and gullies and flying up hills made me feel like I was part of an old time posse. Definitely one of the highlights of the weekend. Then topping the hill and looking down into the picturesque town of Bannock was like stepping back in time.
It sounds like this would be an extravagant and prohibitively expensive endeavor but it is not. The girls that work hard each and every year to put this event together do a great job of making it affordable. This annual trip has spawned several other smaller ones that focus on different aspects per the group's preference. Maybe you want something less structured, maybe you want something that's just trail riding, maybe you want to just see some amazing new country.
The point is that you should just do it. Being together with a group of like minded horsemen to share not only laughs and triumphs but encourage past snags and fears is so incredibly valuable. Learning from your fellow horseman is a wonderful way to learn. Sometimes you learn what you can do to further your learning with your horse and sometimes you learn what not to do, but both lessons are equally valuable. So, I encourage any of you horsey women out there (and men too!) to explore putting together a retreat like this. The opportunity to spend a weekend of concentrated time with your horse and some of your closest friends is a wonderful way to improve your horsemanship.
Here are some pictures of our retreat this year.
If you are interested in putting together a retreat for your group of friends, I encourage you to contact Lori Fisher at Fisher Equine http://www.fisherequine.com/ She can help design the experience that you and your friends are after.