Giddy up, Granny!

Even though I’m from Texas, it’s a rare treat to get to ride a horse. My dad was a horse-lover and I’ve loved the IDEA of a horse since I was a camp counselor during the summers of my high school and college careers. Every Thursday, we would take groups of 10-year old day campers out on a trail ride, atop ancient horses that followed the trails like Stepford wives. Not a lot of challenge to the riders, but such fun!

A few years later, when our boys were in elementary school, we took a trip to a Dude Ranch in West Texas. We stayed for Spring Break and had a ball. A few years later, Jack and I took horseback riding lessons at a stable in LA, where movie stars went to get ready for upcoming roles in westerns.

So, my experience on horseback is scattered, to say the least. But, the dream is always present! For years, I have dreamed of owning a piebald pony. I would name my pony Penny (after my grandmother’s horse) and I would get a companion for her for Mack (who really, really, REALLY doesn’t like horses) and name him Lucky. Lucky and Penny. Perfect.

On a whim, I signed up for a horseback riding excursion while I was in San Miguel, Mexico last week.The Writer’s conference was over and I had a couple of free days before my cooking class. “What the heck?” I thought. So, I went for it.

I guess I really didn’t think it through. Mack was not thrilled with my plan. He was concerned (as I should have been and would have been if I had thought it through) that I would be there alone in Mexico. A 62 year old women with (probably) brittle bones and no way to get back to the States in case of a fall.

But, you know….life is short. Eat the Cake. Buy the shoes. Take the trip. RIDE THE HORSE! So, ride I did! And it was GREAT!

A most handsome vaquero (about the age of my kids) picked me up a the hotel. When we got in his SUV, the radio played the sound of a horse whinnying (this is gonna be fun). We took a 20 minute ride out into the countryside, where the family has owned a ranch for 68 years.

During the ride out to the ranch, I mentioned that I had been a teacher and how much I loved school. He pointed out a school on the way to the ranch, which was attended by his father and uncles decades before. They had ridden their donkeys an hour and a half (both ways uphill and in the snow…no, that’s a different story) to get to school. LOVE IT!

When we got to the ranch, he took me to the schoolhouse that is now located on the ranch, populated by 4 kids belonging to family members and ranch hands. The school is taught by a teacher doing public service (her college was paid for and in return she gives a year to teaching in a remote area). WOW! While this really doesn’t have much to do with my horseback riding, I will tell you that tears came to my eyes. There’s just something about a one-room schoolhouse…

Anyhow, I was the only guest that day, and the day was magical. Perfect weather – sunny skies and just enough wind to keep it cool. I picked my horse (not a piebald, but a beautiful white horse) and after a quick tour of the ranch and a stop to milk a cow (the milk would be turned in to queso blanco for our lunch while I rode the horse), we mounted up and started on a 4 hour tour (Gilligan’s music is in my head right now).

Though it’s been several years since I rode, I guess it’s like riding a bike:) It came right back to me and I loved it. We even galloped some on the even spots and I “won” a race with the uncle (now the patriarch of the ranch) on a short sprint through the creek. Such fun!

That day will go down as one of the best of my days on the road. While I try to be cautious when I travel, I’m always happiest when I step out of my comfort zone. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

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