Bucking Mustangs and Dancing Mules

Trip Start May 17, 2010
Trip End Oct 10, 2010

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Where I stayed
May 31st to June 10th - Largo Canyon School

Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Monday, May 31, 2010

'Just get on the damn horse', ordered Pat with growing impatience. I was standing next to Lucky eying him dubiously, debating whether or not to jump on the bare back of an unbroken mustang. He wasn't that big, and he didn't look that wild, so I shut out that little voice that kept reminding me that I didn't have any health insurance. That was probably the point at which I should have asked Pat why she was unwilling to climb on the back of her own horse. Instead I grabbed a handful of mane, threw my leg over and settled down on the unsaddled mustang. To my great surprise he didn't immediately buck me off, nor did he take off at 100 miles an hour. To the contrary, he stood calmly until Pat pulled on his lead rope and walked him in a small circle. Another circle and I started to relax, let go of his mane and loosened the grip I had with my legs. Then suddenly I was up in the air and the horse that had been under me was racing away. Meanwhile the rocky ground was speeding towards me. 

I was at Largo Canyon School, an old high school in the middle of an oil field that Pat and her husband John had converted into a ranch. To reach the place, we punched the address into the GPS. After driving for more than an hour on unnamed sandy roads through desolate canyons where oil pumps were the only sign of human intrusion into this wilderness, we thought the GPS must be truly confused. With the sun falling quickly towards the horizon, we thought about setting up camp for the night among the thistles and cacti. With that unappealing thought on our minds we pressed on 'just a little farther' and decided to see 'what's around the next corner'. This went on for several more miles and suddenly we were greeted with the very welcome sight of the ranch's golden adobe walls brilliantly reflecting the setting sun.

Pat trains mustangs that are caught by the US Forest Service because they have decided that the National Forests are overpopulated with these wild horses. Once trained to a point where they can be easily approached, led on a rope and willingly lift their hooves on command, they are put up for adoption to the public. This may not sound like much work, but imagine walking up to a horse that's never had any human contact before. Some of them wanted to get as far away as possible, some of them wanted to kill us. This changed eventually, especially when they realised we had an endless supply of horse cookies.

Lucky is a mustang that Pat kept because no one wanted to adopt him due to his bowed back. She decided that I was going to help her break him for riding. She only put me on him once. After that, she decided that the guy with health insurance could help break Lucky. I managed to walk away with only a few scratches and a sore wrist (although the last time I fell on that wrist and thought it was just a bit sore it turned out I had a broken scaphoid).

Besides my brief ride on the mustang, I also got to ride an American quarter horse, a mule and sweet little donkey named Solomon who quickly became my favorite. He wasn't the the most exciting ride, but he was the nicest. The quarter horse was just as stubborn as the mule and quite a bit lazier. In fact she had gotten so fat she could no longer be saddled. After jumping on Solomon for the first time, Pat informed that he also wasn't broken for riding. Solomon didn't seem to be aware of this and happily walked me around the yards.

Meanwhile, anyone with a handful of treats could dance the hokey pokey with Cracker the mule. He didn't know his left from his right, but he'd always put one foot in, shake it all about and even turn in a circle. But only if there were treats on offer.

After ten days at Largo Canyon, I decided two things. One, I never want to live in a desert or anywhere with so much dust and sand. Two, I'm getting a donkey when I get home.
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smiley on

Yay! I miss you guys!

ambs55 on

Well come visit Smiley!

Aunt Jan on

Wonderful experience and so much fun to read about. You are really having an adventure. I am very proud of both of you but do miss you very much. Be safe and, hopefully, we can talk soon. Love you!

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