I’ve been wanting to write this one for awhile, but, life! The last few weeks have been very busy with wrapping up haying, keeping up with Seg’s conditioning, moving and vaccinating 300+ calves, and of course, all those daily chores. Not to mention, I just got a new job bartending nights. Anything to afford those ponies! This summer has been so different from last summer. Even though I worked two full time jobs, somehow I had time to relax in the evening and watch series via HBO with a glass of wine. Now there are chores in the morning, chores at lunch break, and chores in the evening! Caring for animals and a household is almost a full time job in itself. I used to have time to cook meals and even work out. Funny thing is, despite my terrible diet the last few months, I think I have lost weight (sadly, probably muscle, but hey). Horses and their needs keep an owner/rider relatively fit. I can’t even begin to tell you how much of a workout it is riding Sego’s trot for several miles. They say to find a comfortable horse for endurance…. oops. Hey, she’s comfortable when she’s trotting over 20 mph and her canter is probably the smoothest I’ve ever ridden! Just more motivation to stay fit I suppose, ha. Anyways…
While I worked on the ranch and kept the household up and going last week, Jordan was in the Bob Marshall Wilderness guiding out-of-state hunters for elk and other game. They were going in horseback, and some of his clients had never even been around horses before. I wondered how they were enjoying it and whether or not they were shaking in their boots blindly following their fearless guide. You see, Jordan ain’t no regular cowboy. In fact, he’s not much of a cowboy at all. Even though he works cows often, like me, neither of us consider ourselves “cowboys”. He’s more of a unruly wild-Mongolian-jump-on-a-horse-bareback-and-gallop type of guy. If you’re going out riding with him, be warned. You aren’t going on any old trail ride.
In fact, he very well may have Mongolian blood in him as his mom is a good mix of Asian and pacific island countries. At 5’7 and 160ish lbs of muscle (seriously, no fat, no fair), he’s practically built for riding. His legs even bow out like the cowboys in cartoons, probably from starting in the saddle at such a young age! His dad bought him his first horse when he was seven years old, a not-so-charismatic appaloosa mare he called “Star”. Star would turn into a bronc whenever Jordan asked her to lope, making him quite the famous little rider in 4-H club (Jordan loved Star because all the girls doted over him for sticking out a bucking horse). When Jordan was 11, his dad bought a truly special horse… “This Cat Can Do”, a pretty tobiano Tennessee Walker gelding whom they nicknamed “Strider” from Jordan’s favorite character off of The Lord of the Rings (he was my favorite character, too!). Jordan and his dad trained Strider together, and soon enough Jordan was riding the three year old everywhere through the forests of the Olympic Mountains.
Fast forward eight years later to when I first met the strange Poly-Asian-cowboy at Utah State University. I had a fantasy of meeting a cowboy at college and so I was definitely interested in this wrangler-wearing, shaggy-haired guy. Somehow we got talking horses, and somehow, I ended up challenging him to a bareback race. I was a very confident and competitive rider, I wanted to prove to him that I wasn’t your average rosy-goggled, unicorn-loving horse girl that he had probably dated in the past. Well, he took me out to his parents’ place and brought Strider out, the 16.1hh giraffe, and put a bridle on him. Strider was the only broke horse they had at the time, so it looked like we were riding double. “Ready?” He asked. We both hopped on, me on the back and Jordan up front with the reins. We walked some at first, then suddenly, Jordan kicked Strider into a gallop. I smiled to myself… challenge accepted. We galloped through the sagebrush and weaved in and out of the junipers. Never mind that we both fell off when Strider was walking and accidentally brushed us off under a tree branch. We laughed in the snow as Strider looked at us, confused. That was the start to many adventures.
We went riding almost every weekend, and I soon learned that Jordan liked to ride where the wildlife was, off the trail and through thick brush. The arena-rider in me felt a little dazed and confused off-roading, but I got the hang of it. We did everything from climbing loose rockslides to swimming across a reservoir. One day I remember telling him that I wanted to go for an easy bareback ride. You know, just jump on bareback and walk around the neighborhood. We ended up climbing a mountain and I had to hug the mule’s neck just to stay on. We had very different ideas of an easy ride. And, it was with Jordan where I went on the scariest ride of my life on a mule I didn’t know along the red rock canyons of the Green River in southern Utah. I am pretty brave when it comes to riding, but that ride literally had me shaking. In short, we jumped down 6 ft ledges on the side of a very steep hill. Like, you couldn’t see the ground when jumping down the ledge. Oh, also, very tight switchbacks on the side of a cliff called “Shoot the Moon”. My mule liked to spin in circles on these tight switchbacks. I had never been so happy to get out of the saddle in my life!
Fast forward five years and now we have horses in Montana, if you didn’t know already. By now I am pretty well used to riding with the Man from Snowy River, but I feel sorry for new riders to join us on a “trail ride”. I also have to remind him that while Strider (who is now 17 and is not slowing down any time soon) has done this type of riding all of his life, Sego, who is only four, is still learning how to mountain climb. Before he took off for guiding, we rode part of the Continental Divide looking for elk. It was a very good climb on a very rocky trail, and yeah, we took a “short cut” back to camp which involved a few miles of very steep downhill riding (pro-tip: NEVER agree to take a “short cut” with Jordan!). Not only was it steep, but there was downfall the horses had to walk over. It was hard on Sego, I ended up getting off of her and hand leading her back to camp. When we reached camp at dark and unsaddled, I laughed. I should have known. Seg and I rested the next day at camp while Jordan and Strider hit the mountain again.
Even after five years of marriage I still don’t think I’ve ever been on an easy ride with Jordan. I have to admit, though, now when I go “trail riding” with anyone else, it’s a little… uneventful? If I’m not following the Man from Snowy River or trotting the trails at an endurance pace, I get slightly bored. I keep trying to nudge Jordan into endurance, being as he is grossly good at anything he tries (and very competitive), he’d probably win, given that he was on a good horse. Strider could have been an amazing endurance horse if he could just keep his cool and pass vet checks (he’s kind of a hot mess). I told Jordan that we should do the Mongol Derby together, 600 miles on a wild pony. Sounds just like his cup of tea. If we can round up $20,000 to do it, we just might. Ha!