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High Country Horse Packing
By Penny Lane Latturner

Like many people who have not had much experience with horses, I thought that horse packing for the weekend sounded like a lot of fun. Looking back on it now, all I can say is "Well, I can mark that off my bucket list." When my husband, Brian, finally agreed to the trip the first thing I did was google 'How to make a horse like you'. Now I am not an animal freak, I won't be carrying picket signs for PETA, and I did marry a hunter after all. But I was intimidated by the idea of a large beast carrying me up the mountain or me trying to lead one on a side hill. So I read up some and was proud of my newfound knowledge. Ha! Here is what I really learned on our adventure...

Horses and Chocolates
Brian and I drove up to Wyoming and picked up the horses on the way. The horses seemed nice enough, and I blew my minty breath on them, like google said, so that they would like me. I don't think they were very impressed. After arriving at our destination, we (meaning Brian) unloaded the horses and got the tack set out (that's horse terminology for saddle, bridle, bit, etc.). While we did that, the horse I named Maximus due to his short stature, managed to untie himself from the trailer. We were to discover that he was a magician with knots. The taller horse with the long face, which I had named Lady Gaga even though it was a male, had an entirely different personality. Lady Gaga did not like to cross water, cross logs, cross rockslides, cross snapping branches, cross mud, or have branches cross against it or its rider. Great attributes for a packing horse. Maximus, on the other hand, did not like to walk quickly, follow closely, stay on the actual trail, or ever stop eating. Horses are like a box of chocolates...you never know what you are going to get!

It's what's on the Inside that Counts
I knew that my backside was not trained to sit on a saddle for any extended period of time, and I was mentally prepared for that. I did end up less sore than I had expected, although I don't think Brian can say the same. However, a word to the wise, there are certain articles of clothing that are better for horseback riding, a thong is not one of them. People cringe and question how a person can wear a thong in the first place, and a usual response is that you just get used to it. Well, ladies and gentlemen, you do not get used to wearing a thong while riding a horse. As the valley of your cheeks widen, that little piece of material being obstructed no longer, finds its way where no fabric has gone before. Taking care of it while on the horse is a fruitless endeavor, and waiting until both feet are on the ground causes you to believe you must have gone commando that day, because where could it have gone?! So please remember to wear boxers, briefs, swimsuit bottoms, or bloomers to save yourselves from this experience.

They Eat, They Sleep, They Poop
All the google searching caused me to forget one thing; these are animals. Their lives are based on food, sleep, some work, and poop, lots and lots of poop. The sites I visited told me to spread these 'road apples' so as to leave no trace. I understand doing that if they were dried, grassy balls, but when they have just come out of what looks like the Playdo Factory, uh, I could only look away and step around it. To the guy that takes that trail next time, can you kick around a few road apples for me please? Now, I read that horses do sleep, but I am not sure when. All I know is that before turning in after a long, exhausting day, you have to tie them out to feed. And when you wake up in the morning as the sun is coming up, you have to tie them out to feed. And if you go out scouting, or walking around, when you get back you have to tie them out to feed. Also, you must babysit these beasts so that they don't tie themselves up while they feed. And as they are walking to or from camp, they are going to stop and grab a bite. So when they actually sleep, I don't know, but I have read somewhere that they do.

Scaredy Cat, I Mean Horse
As I mentioned, Lady Gaga had some diva tendencies. When we approached the first stream, a hundred yards from the truck, Lady Gaga did not want to cross. A bit of a dilemma when you are in the high country! After some gentle coercion Brian got him across, only to have him buck and run because a small item fell from the saddle bag. Lady Gaga threw several more fits at each log or rockslide he had to cross. The next day we came to a river, a good five feet or so across, and that is where the biggest diva tantrum happened. He would not go, not one inch. He bucked, spun around, crashed through fallen trees and was by all accounts a b*tch. We went further upstream to find a better place to cross, nope. Back downstream, nope. Finally, Brian led my horse while I held onto Lady Gaga's lead and as Maximus was jumping out of the water Lady Gaga stopped and nearly crushed my hand that was wrapped in his lead rope. I have the bruises to prove it. I ended up taking Maximus up the hill and out of sight, and while he was attempted to impress upon me his hundreds of pounds and yell as loud as he could, Lady Gaga finally relented enough to allow Brian to get him across the river.
On the way back down the next day Lady Gaga would not cross a log, Maximus and I had to cross at another spot and keep walking away again. Eventually, Lady Gaga followed, like the paparazzi. Once we arrived back at Lady Gaga's trailer, he would not go in. Brian said it was not uncommon for horses to not go back to their trailers, but this was crazy. All the gentle coaxing I tried, with grass and feed, hilariously failed. We finally had to make him go in by getting a switch, I still cringe that I had to whip Lady Gaga's butt. I don't know what his problem was; perhaps he was just born that way. I learned that you should always expect the unexpected when it comes to horses.

Horse Terminology
For those who don't deal with horses, here are the words I learned:
Tack - saddle, bridle, bit, blankets, etc.
Road Apples - horse poop that should be spread out to leave no trace you were there.
Bog - muddy place that horses can get stuck.
Lead - a rope that you hold to walk in front of (lead) your horse. Unless it is Maximus, then this is just a rope that is attached to a horse that may be behind you, or to your left side, or right side, or in front if he could be.
Horsefly - vicious flying insect that can draw a horse's blood and is very difficult to deter.
Buck - not just a male deer, but a verb that is not enjoyable to participate in.
Walk - the glacial pace that a horse moves along a trail. I think the measurement of speed is in miles per day, not per hour.
Switch - A small branch used to prod a diva horse into doing what you need.
Saddle Bags - totes that are draped over the sides of the horse to haul camping gear. I thought they were just what old ladies get after carrying babies on their hips over the years.

So next time Brian and I go packing into the high country of Wyoming, I'll be carrying my walking sticks and my backpack. The horses can stay at home.