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City Slicker Wrangles Steers

Recently the pressure of life got a bit much for me and to be honest without explaining here I needed a well earned break from my life. I sat and thought long and hard about where to go and what to do, I asked for help from my twitter friends, my family and actually anyone I came across. I looked for inspiration but I knew that I didn’t want to go to a beach, I didn’t want to go mountain climbing. Then I had a brain wave and thought take a look at your bucket list, what do you want to achieve in your life.

Feeling Good

Feeling Good

So I called my friends at American Airlines, who in my book #AirlineOfTheYear and they found me some seats to Tuscon via Dallas, hold that thought. I emailed a million Dude ranches around the USA,Canada and Mexico. Yes, you heard right I am going to a dude ranch, to learn to ride western style. Now, I am an accomplished rider, having owned a thoroughbred 17.2 hands beautiful horse in the UK for many years, but western style…ermm not so much as you will see and read if you carry on reading this post as long as it is.

Incognito

Incognito

Anyway long story short and booking period even shorter I committed to going to the White Stallion Ranch in Tuscon, for your information, they come out as number one on Trip Advisor and as they  told me they could accommodate my eating allergy this had to be the one.

#GlutenFree

#GlutenFree

This is the first time in my life I was taking a holiday alone, I was really nervous, I did not know anyone, I had never had to pack for one, that was a bit weird in itself. But anyway Sunday finally came and my driver picked me up at 4.30am and to be honest I was actually now quite excited. By the time I got to LaGuardia airport I was feeling like a little kid going on an adventure. American Airlines were really helpful, I had already printed my boarding card off, so it was a matter of just giving my suitcase to the very polite check-in staff and off we go. I have to say at 5am on a Sunday I have no idea how they smile!

American had given me an extra legroom seat and I was grateful because 4 hours to Dallas is not great with your knees tucked under your chin, now here is where it started to panic me. We were late leaving New York because they could not get the walkway to move away from the aircraft and by the time we got to Dallas I only had 20 minutes before my flight to Tuscon took off. I pushed my way off the aircraft and ran to the gate agent who called ahead for me to say I was on my way. Believe me I was running for England, I made it with seconds to spare and when I sat in my seat I was puffing out of breath for sometime. It never dawned on me to think what happens when I get to Tuscon with no luggage? How am I going to ride and live in what I was wearing for 7 seven days?

IMG_2512

When I reached Tuscon airport, which is tiny, so no fear of getting lost I stood at the Carousel watching everyone take their luggage off the belt and I started to feel a bit anxious, when then a miracle appeared there was my suitcase! Can you believe it? well done American Airlines, I can’t tell you how glad I was to see it and I have no idea at a busy airport like Dallas how you got my luggage off one aircraft and on to another in less than 15 minutes.

So off to the ranch…. When I arrived I was shown all around the property, I was given a questionnaire to complete to figure out my riding ability and to find me a horse to compliment my ability. I thought that each day they would change my horse, but no you are given a horse for the duration of your stay. This is great because you get to know the horse and they you. My horse was called… well actually I can’t pronounce his name so I called him Motorola. He was pie ball colored and he was so pretty.

Motorola

Motorola

My room was so nice, I loved the fact that there was no TV in the room, giving you time to completely shut off from the real world, a total relaxation, so much so I didn’t even know that the US government had shut down. I had taken enough clothes for a month, not knowing what to expect. To be honest I am glad I took plenty of casual clothes because no one dressed up in Louboutins for dinner.It was a fabulous experience, casual, laid back and to be honest I can imagine no one batting an eyelid if you went to dinner in your PJ’s, and let em tell you several days at 5.30am I was walking over to the Breakfast room to grab coffee in mine. I loved the fact that dining is where ever you sit, not a set table, no set food, just go with the flow. There is entertainment every single night from singers to a guy who shares tarantulas with you, camp fire singing, then there was a guy who jumped threw fire to the tune of ‘Ring Of Fire’!

Cactus over 75 years old

Cactus over 75 years old

I met two ladies called Lorrae and Mandi, who I referred to as Lorraine and Mandy for the first 5 days until they put me right! shoot me in the head. They were lovely and we laughed a lot and told each other lots of life stories. We made friends with another family, Linda, Emma and Caleb, who became Grandma Linda with a friend in New York and Aunt Em with a friend in New York. I guess to see the funny side you had to be there.

Not bad for someone over 50

Not bad for someone over 50

Emma, Caleb, Lorrae and I became team 208 for the Team Penning on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Now when I say team penning I have to tell you I had no idea what was going to be involved here. But we had to wrangle steers away from the herd and get them into a Pen. It kind of starts off by one team member having to break up the herd and then the other 3 team members making sure you guide them into the pen without allowing them to go back to their herd. It is quite complicated but such fun. On our first team outing we became team 208, joking that it had taken us 2 hours and 8 minutes to achieve our goal. In reality our first effort took 2minutes and 8 seconds. When the next team went there was a girl that was very competitive and got really upset when her team was beaten. So now you get the joke 208 right? Me being me, told her it was in fact a game and it’s about feeling good for yourself not having to beat the arse off people you may never see again! Hey Ho…. By the end of the week we had recruited Mandi into our team and we made 29 seconds, so stick that in your hat and smoke it,¬† not bad for someone over 50!

Team 208

Team 208

So on the second day the owner of the ranch, Russell thought he wanted to swap out my horse, although I was unsure why at the time it turned out for the best and he gave me a Palomino who was beautiful, his name was Trigger! if you are a Brit you will be familiar with a program called Only Fools and Horses and I now was called Marlene… If you are not a Brit take a look at the program on Youtube it is ever so funny and it will all become as clear as mud!

Trigger

Trigger

On Wednesday I decided to sign up for the Beer and Cheetos ride, although I can not drink Beer as it has Wheat in it, I asked if the ranch could offer me some wine and other chips, they obliged and we had a half hour ride followed by a good chin wag with wine, beer and Cheetos and then a half hour ride back.Fabulous day in the sunshine.

On Thursday I think it was, you loose all sense of days, I went on a mountain ride to the Movie Pass where many old Western movies have been shot and Ron our guide told us all the names, but being blonde I can’t remember them. I just knew that it was one of the most amazing rides I had ever been on or at least I thought. For on Friday I went on the ‘Suicide Pass’ ride and boy was that a ride. I can honestly say the adrenalin that flowed on that ride was amazing. Trigger and I were the perfect team and we didn’t stumble once. Did you know that Cactus grow for 75 years before they grow any arms (branches)? I learned so much about cactus, there are barrel shaped ones that have fish hooks on the side and they can kill a horse, the ones without spines have a white powder on them that is hardly visible and they are poisonous to humans leaving you with a very itchy rash.

Suicide Pass

Suicide Pass

As my week sadly came to a close I decided to have a private lesson and try to learn some Western Style Dressage with Jeremiah and spent an hour, learning to turn my horse on an almost stand still turn, walk backwards and walk, trot and lope around an arena. Trigger was not up for this at first but with some persuasion he soon came to enjoy this as much as I did. I have to say that Western style trotting is not like British trotting and the next day I really paid for it with back ache. I found bruises I really had no idea where they came from!

ouch

ouch

If you are looking at doing something in your life, whether it is Western Style riding or some other adventure from your bucket list do it! I want to have no regrets and life is far to short in my opinion.No matter what life throws at me in the coming months this adventure was one of the most inspiring I have ever had and I really believe it has prepared me for whatever is to come. I have to thank the whole family at the White Stallion Ranch for making me feel at home from the owners Russell and his wife and son, to the Chefs Linda and Karen, to Jodi the receptionist who booked me in the first place and to all the wranglers that turned me into a ‘City Slicker’ know I will be back.

I have to Thank American Airlines for giving me seats with extra leg room and taking good care of my luggage, you are the best and I will be booking my next trip this week. I still cannot believe you got my luggage to me.

Most of all I want to dedicate this blog post to some amazing people Aunt Em & Grandma Linda with a friend in New York, you cheered me up immensely and your advice and friendship is something I will never forget, Caleb you are a little treasure for a 9 year old I am amazed at how you rode that huge horse at neck breaking speed. Mandi and Lorrae what can I say about you two, you are wonderful Ladies whose laughter, friendship and stories I will never forget and I look forward to seeing you at the Ranch again next year, just don’t forget the wine! Jennifer from DC who I know I will see again as we live only a couple of hours away from each other and after our near death experience (story for another day) am glad we both came through. Dr Sherry who was the go to person when anyone had a blister, a Mossie bite or any other ailment you always came through for us all! Chris who fitted right in with the cowboys after his shopping trip! The Movie director Steve and his lovely wife Tracy from Maida Vale, you two were great fun and I really enjoyed swapping stories with you.

Right so off to book the next adventure and prepare myself for the challenges that now face me back in the real world…