After a short two day delay, I eventually arrived on the ranch yesterday morning. My Workaway host, Alice, picked me up from the city of Buffalo which is around a 40 minute drive, so I was very grateful for that, and on the drive back she took me for breakfast – I hadn’t even arrived yet so I must have looked like I was going to work hard! Conversation in the car was easy as she told me about this area of America, and the ranch (a conversation she could talk extensively about), and I told her about camp (a conversation I could equally talk for hours about).
When I arrived, the ranch was a hustle and bustle of activity – there were horses and people all around. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking meeting new people, particularly when they are all already in an established group but this was made easy as people ran up and introduced themselves. It turns out there are 15 other workawayers here on the ranch, coming all the way from Germany, Spain, Holland, England and New Zealand. From Thursday the only other 2 guys will be leaving, leaving my surrounded by 13 women – I’m not too sure how to feel about this!
It was slightly concerning that everyone assumed I had plenty of horse-riding experience when I arrived. Many of the others have owned horses and ridden all their life, and there is much conversation which I cannot understand and simply goes over my head. One girl even has her horse tattooed on her thigh! This is why I feel a little out of place having turned up to a horse ranch having been on a horse only a handful of times, and I may even be allergic to horses – only time will tell.
On Day 1, I was out on a trail with Sassy, a big brown female horse (this is probably as detailed as my descriptions of horses are going to get) by 10:30am, within an hour of arriving on the ranch. The two Spanish guys, Mark and Danny were super helpful and helped teach me how to saddle up (tack) the horses and ride Western Style (like a cowboy). Western style, unlike English style allows you to ride one-handed which means you can use your mobile phone, pick your nose or, in true cowboy fashion swing a lasso above your head! I seemed to pick it up, the basics at least, fairly quickly and found Western style riding surprisingly simple and comfortable. I was able to go out through some of the woods and open expansive fields surrounding the town of Otto, New York. We even got into a trot at a few points and it was amazing moving through this new countryside with such ease and at such a peaceful pace.
I managed to get out on a second ride again just before dinner. This time I rode on Lacy, a small but fast female who took every opportunity to stop and eat along the ride. This ride was with a more experienced group who set a faster pace. They brought a helmet for me to wear, a sign I was going to be challenged. We got to the top of the hill, and then the lead horse immediately set off at a fast pace and cantered away. Lacy (and consequently… me) followed behind. Initially my style probably more closely resembled that of a rodeo as I clung on for dear life, being thrown around on the back of this horse, but slowly, I began to get more control and began to really enjoy the burst of speed, and it began to feel smooth and comfortable. Soon, however, the end of the field approached and there was a 90 degree corner to get around. I didn’t know if turning at this speed would nearly throw me off the horse or what to expect, so I cut the corner to reduce the angle as much as I could. I realised my mistake only a second too late as my knee smacked into a big solid wooden post sticking in the ground on the inside edge of the corner. Luckily I wasn’t too hurt, but it demonstrated it’s not just lacking the fedora and boots with spurs that stop me being a cowboy, but also the riding skills – hopefully I’ll develop those over the next few weeks.
It seems I’ve come to the ranch on a good week to work here, as there are no guests signed in to ride all week. This is bad for business and my host but means there will be plenty of opportunities to ride all week. Another benefit is that Alice has a chance to take us on trips. This morning (Day 2) she took us to visit an Amish Community. I have always enjoyed looking at how others live their lives, especially when they are markedly different to mine, and it was a great experience simply driving through the Amish Town. As we got closer, we started to see more and more horse and carts, and men and women and children in their traditional clothing attire. Although power cables and telephone cables still paralleled the roads, they simply bypassed the Amish houses. I learnt that Monday was laundry day for the Amish. This was evident as today when we visited, a Tuesday, all of their clothes were strung between their houses and their barns, neatly hung. organised in terms of colour and size. We visited Amish shops, and tried their cheese and fudge – It was the best cheese and fudge I have ever tried! We also visited a toy shop, which was an amazing experience as when you walked in, everything was hand crafted from wood. The shopkeeper, an Amish man went around playing all his toys with us and proudly showing off the wooden puzzles and toys he had created. When the six of us left, we couldn’t believe we had been in the toy shop an hour. The time had flown and it was amazing that the six of us, all aged over 19 had been so entertained by such simple wooden games.
Right, now I have to actually go and do some work! Them horses need feeding eh? Have a good day!
For part 2, click here!