Real Cowgirls Wear Sports Bras

By DANIELLE LATTUGA

Okay, so I am less a cow-girl and more a horse-woman, but that’s not mypoint.

Usually, I am in a rush when I’ve got to pack up all the stuff I will need or might need on a horseback ride. Boots, check. Saddle bags, check.  Camera, journal, and pens, check. Water bottles. Carrots and apples, chocolate, and other snacks—check. Hair tie, sunscreen, and sunglasses, yup. Extra layers?  I don’t need them — it’s like 80 degrees out there. Wait, I see a cloud.  I better bring a rain layer. Flip-flops for after the ride, uh huh. I’m not even out the door.

I’ve got one leg in my riding jeans, which I always remember, because I will NEVER forget how uncomfortable a saddle sore can be. I pick out one of three designated shirts. I love horses and how they smell, but I don’t need all my clothes to smell like Smokey, or have grassy snot stains on them from when he rubs his mouth all over my arms, my shoulder, or my torso. Obviously, he has a checklist of his own and he must assist in soiling at least two spots on my shirt.

It’s 8:15, Pam is supposed to pick me up, like now, and I haven’t eaten breakfast—yogurt in a bowl with a spoon for the ride, done. Don’t forget it!

When we arrive at the ranch, it’s a totally different checklist.

1)     Brush Smoke. (Sometimes this is easier said than done and it might require a game, first).

2)     Put on his halter and lead him out of the stall.

3)     Play another game or two.

4)     Tie him at the rail.

5)     Scratch him on the forehead.

6)     Put on his saddle pad. Make sure it’s lined up just right.

7)     Put on his saddle.

8)     Attach and tighten the girth and then attach the breast collar.

9)     Check the length of the stirrups.

10)   Grab my saddle pad and put it on the saddle.

11)   Put his bridle on the saddle horn.

12)   Take my helmet and saddlebags to the trailer and put them in.

Load the horses: Ask Smoke to step up into the trailer. Pull his lead rope through the metal loop. Make sure it’s long enough for him to move around, but not so long that he will be able to get his head under the divider. Flip the rest of the lead rope over the divider. Push his butt over so that you can close the divider and secure it. Tie the end of the lead rope through the next loop or window post. Jump out of the trailer and wait until the rest of the horses are loaded. Climb in the truck and think about what you might have forgotten. Sigh and drink some water.

Once we get where we’re going: Go through the loading checklist backwards, to get the horses out. Then, tighten the cinch, put on the saddlebags, and bridle him up. Ask him to kindly stand still while you climb into the saddle. Cuss under your breath when you realize that you’ve adjusted the stirrups too short. Slide off of Smoke’s back and fix the stirrups while everyone else is on their horse, ready to go.

Hit the trail.

The heat of Smoke’s back warms my legs. The sound of hoof beats replaces the chatter of my mental checklist. Finally, we’ve arrived. We start to gait and I hunker down in the saddle, seeking the rhythm that puts us in the same moment. As we pick up speed, I begin to bounce a little and I realize:  I forgot to put on my sports bra. My girls are on their own ride.

I am a better rider than I used to be. I can usually find my seat and move with Smoke, but a little bouncing is inevitable. Even when we are cantering with such grace that we might as well have wings, an explosion of grouse from the trees can send us flying sideways.

For real cowgirls and seasoned horsewomen, the checklists are probably second nature. So, for now, I will cinch up the straps on my relatively unsupportive bra and enjoy the ride. I think that’s cowgirl enough.

Like this blog?  Chances are you’ll like some of Danielle Lattuga’s other blog posts:  Horse Trailer in Tow, Horse Connections-Even From Afar, or Gaited, not Gated.  Please  leave comments below, or check out Danielle’s other posts at the  Horse Around, Missoula blog home page.

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Danielle Lattuga is a novice horsewoman, frequently found guilty of confusing hoof beats with heartbeats. She believes that riding and writing are not so different: both part poetry, part sweat.  Follow her into Montana’s horse country, and find out if she’sright.