[Note: both of the people in this story are named Sara(h). It’s only confusing if you read it aloud. Also, this is part 3 of a series. For part 1, click here, for part 2, click here, for part 3, click here, and for part 4, click here.]
Our last full day at the dude ranch, there was an all-day ride down into a canyon, the culmination of all the horse time for the week. People packed lunches and popped Advil preemptively during breakfast. The trail was treacherous, the scenery was breathtaking, and…meanwhile, back at the ranch, Sara and I went with a small group on the shorter, less-breathtaking but still scenic ride. We made the decision over dinner the night before, when another guest said she planned to do the shorter ride because she intended to spend time riding in the arena in the afternoon. Sara, who had wanted some “free ride” time, jumped at the chance.
This shorter ride was about all I could handle, horseback riding-wise, and not from being saddle-sore. Well, not entirely. My knees hurt more than my backside; apparently, that’s not uncommon with riding but without the ability to adjust my stirrups much, I just had to stretch a bit (and walk like a bowlegged greenhorn) afterward.
We rode up to an area where we could view Sleeping Ute Mountain, which really does look like someone sleeping with his arms crossed over his chest. I didn’t wear a helmet this time, because pro. And it was listed as a gentle ride. Lacey Jo wheezed a bit more, but it was hotter and I was less inclined to stop her when she wanted to eat along the way, so that might have been part of it.
After a quick lunch when we returned, Sara and the other guest queued up to lope around the arena. The other guest went first, riding a beautiful Arabian named Missy. Sara chose to ride Opie, even though he wasn’t a show horse, because (according to her) “he’s the best horse ever” and during the previous day’s ride, he jumped what she called a ravine but what was really more of a small ditch.
I secured a spot in the grandstand so I could take pictures, and Sara worked Opie up in speed. I’m sure he was confused, since going for a ride without a designated trail has to be weird for a trail horse, but he did okay, especially when one of the wranglers rode in front of him to lead him. Sara looked like she was having a great time, and she actually got Opie up to a gallop as he passed in front of the grandstand, when suddenly he spooked, bucked twice, and stopped, throwing Sara over the front. Sara, to her credit, held onto the reins until she hit the ground, shoulder/back first.
I should tell you that she was fine, but it was really scary to witness, and for me, it seemed to happen in slow motion. Thankfully, she was wearing a helmet. After I was sure she was okay, the scene was kind of comical; she was rolling back and forth on the ground like an upturned beetle saying “I just need a minute,” and the wranglers (who ran over when she fell) were trying to figure out what spooked Opie. They came to the conclusion that it was Mason, that creepy motorboating alpaca, who popped his head over the fence when the arena ride began. Opie was still spooked, so the wranglers took over riding him to train him that the alpaca, while creepy, wasn’t worth bucking your rider over, and Sara limped back to our room.
After icing her back for a bit, Sara felt like walking it off, so we headed over to watch the afternoon paintball game. We missed the group and instead found ourselves surrounded by horses, which was Sara’s dream. This ranch turns all the horses out to pasture on the weekends, since they don’t have any guests or rides on Saturdays and Sundays. Sara brought apples so we could feed them, and we talked to the wranglers about their equine charges.
“Did we tell you Lacey Jo might be pregnant?” the owner’s girlfriend said to me. “No,” I said, suddenly feeling guilty for all the heavy meals I ate during our trip. “Lacey Jo, you little flirt.” We noticed she stayed close to Opie much of the time–perhaps that’s why she kicked him during the previous day’s ride?
After dinner, there were awards. Because of course there are awards at a dude ranch. Sadly, we didn’t win anything–not even best name(s)!–so we cut out early from the movie night under the stars and went for a well-deserved soak in the hot tub. Tomorrow: Great Sand Dunes National Park, a hot springs, and the long drive to Denver.