Her name was Kate. She had very strong but slender legs. And she loved it when I jumped on top of her and rode her hard for nearly three hours.
Before you get too excited I need to tell you that Kate was a horse. The part about the legs is true but for hard riding think more like gentle cantering with the occasional acceleration into a half hearted trot. In fact Kate was my patient steed on a lovely ride through the sun soaked Sonoran desert slightly north of Phoenix Arizona.
Todd Masden has been running Cave Creek Outfitters since 1993. He picked us up from the hotel and whisked us from the Four Seasons Hotel’s fake western surroundings into the reality of an authentic cowboy ranch. They won’t take your money until after the ride, “Only survivors pay,” Todd announced. You might have a moment of doubt when you sign the disclaimer, but Jed’s collection of ranch bred and rescue horses are very used to the unsure holiday rider.
Kate was a beautiful choice for my desert horseback ride
Once in the saddle, hands on the reigns and feet in the stirrups we ambled out into the desert stirring up a little dust in our wake. It was only 9am but the February sun, still winter even in the desert, was already a pleasantly hot 78 degrees. Jack rabbits with ears longer than their bodies dashed excitedly across our path, and white cotton tailed bunnies sprinted from rock to rock. All around us the giant, majestic, statuesque Saguaro cactuses pointed their many spined arms up towards the cloudless blue sky. Incredible to think that some of these are over a thousand years old – having existed for twice as long as the whole history of the USA.
Kate was easy to control. A little tug on the reigns would change her direction. She knew where she was going anyway. Occasionally a little nudge with my heels would encourage a trot. But I am inexperienced in horseback riding and I often mistimed my bounce mid-trot. It can be painful. I should have worn thicker pants.
We ascended hills, ambled through rocky outcrops, and skirted around even more vicious looking cactuses. An occasional owl soared overhead, chipmunks darted for cover, and hawks circled looking for prey. We missed seeing the deer and bobcats which our guide assured us had been sighted by earlier riders.
Two hours in and my legs were screaming and my lower back beginning to ache. Nothing a little Yoga stretching wouldn’t cure though. Kate returned me safely to the ranch where Todd waited with water and transport home. “You’ve seen the desert the way it’s meant to me seen. From the back of a good horse,” he said as we left cowboy country behind knowing that one day we wanted to return for more.
Over to you: Please add a comment and tell me about your own experiences on horseback. Where do you go riding? Where is your favourite location to get into the saddle?