As an employee, I am allowed to participate in many of various activities that my company provides to guests at no cost to myself. Free means that I am only allowed to attend if there is space after all the paying guests have signed up. Despite having a wrangler as a roommate last summer, I never attempted to go out on any of the horseback trail rides. I probably wouldn’t have gone out this summer either, but one of the Russian workers at the golf course assumed that I would be excited to go with her and made all the arrangements almost before I had time to register what was going on.
It isn’t that I don’t find the idea of riding exciting and fun, but I knew from last summer that these were the kinds of horses that walk the trails two or three times a day carrying chattering tourists and all kinds of young, old, and inexperienced riders. I didn’t imagine that there would be much excitement once all the usual safety precautions were taken. I wasn’t far wrong. The wranglers had already gotten in their first month and a half of practicing their shouted park tour – presented half-turned from their saddle at the front of the line. After getting off work at 10:20 the night before and waking up at 6:45 for the hours drive up to meet with our 8:00 a.m. riding group, I was mostly feeling like I could easily fall asleep as my horse (he went by the name of Gibson, if you were wondering) walked slowly through the trees, lead by Izzy and followed by Opie. The horses seemed quite disinterested in the entire affair as well, only occasionally causing excitement when they split up the group by stopping to go to the bathroom or stepping off to create a side trail to avoid puddles.
The weather was beautiful, even though it was a bit chilly in the woods. I felt like I could have enjoyed the views more if I had felt more balanced on the horse. The angle the stirrup forced my left knee into was immediately aggravating to the area affected by my ACL surgery and Gibson wasn’t particularly careful about allowing enough room for both him and I to pass by the tree trunks. Our group consisted of five girls, one Russian worker and one American worker from the immediate area, myself and my Russian co-worker, the wrangler, and one elderly male guest. The wrangler and the two employees I hadn’t previously met seemed to be acquainted and between chatting with her friend, the wrangler would occasionally point out landmarks and comment on what wildlife it was possible to spot in the area. The fact that I’m not really all that far from home was reinforced when she mentioned that you could spot Canadian Geese in the area and gave a detailed little spiel about sagebrush.
Just as we were stopping at an overlook to take photos, in the rockiest bit of path yet, the saddle beneath the only guest on the tour twisted to one side of the horse and he slid off in slow motion as we all watched helplessly, our inexperience with the whole affair leaving us stuck on our horses. After a moment of horror, it became apparent that he wasn’t badly hurt and as he walked off the fall, we sat on our assigned animals until a relief wrangler could come and lead us back to the corrals. The second half of the ride was subdued in the way things often are in the aftermath of an accident among strangers and we missed any opportunity to take pictures. The only photos that I have of the day’s adventuring are from when I pulled into a turn-off so that my co-worker and I could admire the bison and their calves next to the highway.
So, I have once more been on a horse, although I can’t say the experience was particularly fun or memorable. I limped back to the car after dismounting, since my left knee was too stiff and pained to walk on properly for an hour or so after the ride. My co-worker is friendly, but her English is limited enough to make communication more of a strain than casual conversation. I still prefer less organized adventures and spur-of-the-moment is not something that is included in these guest activities.
I remembered to admire the Canadian Geese and sagebrush as I spontaneously biked into town today, though. After all, it would be a pity to fail to appreciate the local wildlife during my stay in the Tetons.