In the southwest corner of Idaho, there is a broad swath of wilderness known as the Owhyee canyonlands. It is rough country, parched and hewn, studded with rock, split by canyons, gnarled with sagebrush, swirled by dust, bedded deep in sand. Brisk dawn gives way to sweaty days. At night, stars pour across the sky like cream.
I spent all last week there, riding 50 miles per day on horseback as part of a 5-day endurance ride. It’s a sport I’ve loved for years, one which never loses its challenge. Every ride is a test of fitness and horsemanship, and every successful finish a triumph. Many rides last only a day or a weekend, but this one stretches over enough time to impose its rhythm on us riders.
We rise early, before the sun, to feed and prepare our horses for the day. Few of us sit again (saddle notwithstanding) until the 50 miles are ridden, the horses cared for with electrolytes and baths and leg poultices and grazing and walks to limber up. We must also wash hoof boots and tack, make repairs, pack crew bags for the next day. The only downtime comes at dinner, which we eat in a cheerful group. Then we concentrate again while the ride manager reviews the next day’s trail.
At last, as the day’s heat leaches away, we crawl into bed, at once exhilirated and exhausted. It is only 9pm, but the day has worn us thin. We sleep well, wake naturally, step outside to live and move and breathe and work as bodies were meant to do. On our best days, we never hurry, never tarry. All that needs to be done, is done, and nothing more.
And it is the best feeling in all the world.
(For those who are interested, I blog in detail about my Barb horses, horse training, and endurance riding at The Barb Wire.)