On the Back of a Horse by E. M. Bannock

From Christina: Today, I’m pleased to share E. M. Bannock’s feature post.  Enjoy! 

On the Back of a Horse

by E. M. Bannock

HorsexAlthough it seems I rarely have time for it anymore, one of my favorite things to do is ride a horse. I am fortunate to live around some of the most beautiful country the USA has to offer. I have been living in Wyoming for seventeen years now and I have just scratched the surface of discovering its majesty.

When we first moved here I was on the back of horse a couple of times a month exploring the mountains and prairies with a group of friends. Most times we would trailer our mounts up the Beartooth Highway, a scenic drive to the peaks of the Beartooth Range of the Rocky Mountains, to what is known as the “Top of the World.” From there we could go on trails where 4-wheelers and other motorized vehicles were not all allowed. With our horses we could go farther in a day than a back-packer could travel. We would trail ride for hours in awe at every turn. Most of the trails were game trails traveled frequently by the local deer and elk. On occasion we would spot a bear in the distance. They seemed uninterested in our group and went about their business of foraging. A fact I am eternally grateful for, although had they decided to be confrontational there were plenty in our party packing protection. The most dangerous encounters we had were rattlesnakes who always gave us a warning which we heeded.

The trees and other greenery changed with the season and passage of time. Because we would be riding at such a high altitude Spring was always later than down below. The wildflowers were abundant and glorious in their annual showy display. It seemed the flower blooms lasted longer. Maybe it was because it was always cooler up there. There was no one to water them, weed them, or prune them. Yet every year they bloomed more plentiful and vibrant than the year before with just Mother Nature’s tending.

Needless to say the views from the trail were breathtaking. The higher we climbed the more spectacular the views. At times you felt like you could touch the sky. Sometimes the trails were no more than a couple of feet wide with steep drops on one or both sides. Sometimes the trail was a just narrow switchback up the side. Although I was always cautious, it helped to know that the horse I was riding was a trained trail horse, sure-footed and steady. I admit to being scared the first couple of times up there but I was comforted by my friend who once said, “The horse doesn’t want to fall off anymore than you do.”

We stopped often to admire the nature around us and also answer its call. I always felt privileged when on top on the mountain. It’s a calm spiritual place. I’ve seen things and places most people can only imagine or see in movies, which can’t really give you the real sensation of being there.

I miss riding. But life goes on and sometimes gets complicated. I always thought I would have more free time to do the things I wanted to do as I got older but for some reason I’ve gotten busier and have less free time. My friends have moved on to other things. They ride on occasion but because we are all seventeen years older now, the 4-wheelers get more use than our horses, and even they get dusty between adventures.

I have the memories and I still have my horse. We are both semi-retired. I’m still busy, he just enjoys life.

The characters in my book, “Totally Devoted,” ride horses in the beautiful Siskiyou Mountains of Oregon which I also explored on horseback when we lived there in the late 70’s. Writing the horseback riding sections was almost like reliving my own experiences, they where exciting and fun to write. I hope I was able to impart some of the joy of mountain trail riding to those who have never been and maybe inspire some to try it for themselves.

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