Horse riding in the Back of Beyond

I got all prepared the night before and set my alarm for 5:50 (that’s very early for me!).  I got up and out the door and drove off to go horse riding.  The sun rises here very early and it was fully light at this time, also very cold-36deg f, that’s just above freezing.  On the road I was backtracking from where we had already been, heading back towards Jackson.  At this time of the morning there were no cars around and it was a beautiful morning-why don’t I get up early every day??  30 mins down the road I spotted a large female elk on the left side of the road.  I stopped the car and we looked at each other for what seemed like quite a while.  She was beautiful.  I attempted to reach for my camera, but when I looked back she was heading off into woods.  Getting up early was worthwhile just for the that moment.

It took me about 1 hour 20 min to get to where I was going.  This place has 50-70 corralled horses ready to ride, no booking necessary.  The guides that take riders out are called Wranglers and there were lots of them.  I signed up for the longest ride possible, a 3 hour ride up to the top of Big Pulpit.    I was hoping to go alone but 5 others were on the ride too.  It didn’t really matter, they were all nice people.

The Wrangler that took us out was Jesse.  Nice guy who’s been around horses all his life.  He earns money from rodeo competitions.  My horse’s name was Stormy.  A beautiful and well behaved piebald gelding with a blue wall eye.  This was the first time I’ve ridden western style and it’s a great way to ride, very comfortable saddle and the horses are very responsive, you don’t need to kick them as you do with English riding, just light movements of the reins and voice and Stormy would go where-ever I wanted him to go.  Very nice riding.

We climbed a very steep hillside,  the horses panted the whole way up, it’s a walk that I would have found very hard.  It’s remarkable how very strong yet nimble horses are on a track like this-steep and muddy.  We crossed the river many times, sometimes it was deep enough to come up the horse’s belly, fast flowing too.  Horses are good at picking their own way over a river and it amazes me the way they can walk on big river stones without any toes!

At the top of the hill, the view was incredible.

We had a short break in an open clearing filled with wild flowers.  Soon, the mosquitoes swarmed in and then we rode back down the same way.  Climbing up may have been hard on Stormy,  but going down was hard on my knees.  Going down steep grades on a horse you need to lean back and have your feet out in front so the horse can balance but my knees couldn’t take that in the last 30 minutes so Stormy probably thought he had a sack of potatoes on his back!  “When I was younger” I used to ride all day-that seems like a while ago now!

I drove back home to the coach.  Stuart had spent the morning on various tasks so we had lunch and drove into Yellowstone, the entrance being 10 mins heading North.  We drove to Grant Village Campsite which is where we are heading to next, to check it out, we are booked in there for 3 nights.  Looks like a great site to spend time and an excellent base for exploring Yellowstone.