The ride schedule was adjusted at the last minute and I got scheduled for a 4-hour ride that was originally assigned to J, Boss man’s son, but Boss man wanted to go on a ride with his niece's husband and he put J in the office. No problem. I can roll with the punches, but I didn't have a wrangler horse assigned and the horses that I wanted to take were pulled off the line for Boss’s visiting family to ride. He finally assigned me to Sundance, his "dead broke" horse who he'd been letting LB, the department store cowboy, ride. LB had never been on a horse in his life before getting hired. Trust me, Sundance was anything but dead broke after having an inexperienced rider on her day in and day out.
I did finally get out on my ride and things got much better. The riders turned out to be a couple of those rare diamonds. One was a staff writer for multiple horse magazines, the other was the director of a local equine therapy center; both were also riding instructors. Talk about pressure! I found myself sitting straighter in the saddle and paying attention to my body’s communication with Sundance – things that I should do all of the time, but let slide on occasion. Though they rode for work, they had come up to the livery for a “fun” ride, where they didn’t have to worry about anyone but themselves and having a good time. After a rough start with juggling wranglers and horses, once we actually got out on the trail we clicked right off the bat and had a great time. We discussed the articles I’d read that she’d written, talked about some of the great trainers she’d met and the rides she’d been on. Her friend talked about her work with the equine center and the need for used tack for the facility, some of their students and things they’d learned along the way. The writer took tons of pictures and said to watch for a picture of me in one of the magazines executing a proper "road crossing".
It was the perfect ride to settle my nerves after the snafu of trying to get the ride out with all of the last minute changes. Rides like that make the job worth it; we left as a wrangler and two guests, and returned four hours later a group of friends.
Several months later, I was flipping through Trail Rider magazine and what do I see? A blurb about safe road crossing and the picture above it is of me and Sundance. The funny thing about it is that I kept looking at the picture, thinking "I don't recall wearing a long-sleeved red shirt under my gray shirt." Stupid me, I'd had a Washoe moment and forgotten sunscreen – those red sleeves were my sunburned arms!
PS - Turns out that the writer, Heidi Nyland, also became Julie Goodnight's producer for Horse Master. When I found out that they were casting for Horse Master, I didn't know about the Heidi connection until I got a call from her asking if I remembered her, and offering Estes and me a spot on the show.