After only a few short months of marriage, I went on a trip with my husband (rancher’s son) and his family to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A consummate workout-a-holic, with no children yet, I was in the best physical shape of my life. The horseback riding still kicked my butt.
The day began early, as all grueling events do. Arriving at one of the local dude ranches, we were met by a man who looked over the seasoned riders of my party and said, “Since you’re all experienced riders, how about I take you somewhere special?”
Experienced? At this time, my riding experience had consisted of sitting in the saddle holding onto to horn while someone else led me. But my husband and his family were so excited to go somewhere “special”, I didn’t say anything.
My nervousness must have shown on my face because my husband whispered as he checked the cinch on the horse given to me. “Just keep the reins loose and stay behind my mom. I’ll be right behind you.”
And stayed right behind me he did, though I’m not sure it did me any good, as we climbed higher and higher, traversing small ledges with our horses I don’t think I would have done with my two legs. Still I said nothing, just squeezed with my knees, kept the reins loose, and prayed the animal beneath me was a sure-footed one.
After many hours, we reached the top of a mountain so tall it had some of last year’s snowpack still on it. The views were breathtaking. I could see the Grand Teton mountain range and Yellow Stone National Park at the same time. Though my legs ached—especially the inside of my knees—I did enjoyed eating lunch while soaking up all of nature’s beauty.
It wasn’t until we remounted the gravity of the situation hit me. You know the old adage—what goes up must come down—going down tiny ledges on a horse is by far scarier. The death grip my legs had on the mount I rode would have crushed the average person. I literally wore the skin off the inside of my knees by the time we finally reached to the dude ranch again at dusk.
Looking back and fully recovered, I’m grateful for the “special” trek I found myself on that day. The huge herd of elk that passed by, the amazing vastness portrayed on the peak of that mountain, these are few things people ever experience. And with a blindfold for the steep areas and several sets of bandages for my knees, I might even try it again one day.