Having started to learn to ride horses in the spring of 2003 whilst on a two month business trip to Austin, Texas I decided that I would go to Texas in the spring of 2004 to spend a week?s vacation being a cowboy at the Lazy F Ranch in Smiley, Texas…
Lazy F Ranch – Smiley, Texas
The Lazy F Ranch is a working cattle ranch located in Smiley, Texas which is near historic Gonzales. This is NOT a “Dude” ranch where you go on scheduled nose to tail horse rides it is a real working ranch where you get to pitch in as much or as little as you like. The ranch only accepts a small number of guests at a time ensuring that you get a great experience and are able to participate in any and all of the activities on offer. Everyone at the Lazy F was very helpful and made you feel part of the family.
Even the cowboys who do this hard work daily in order to earn a living were more than happy to show guests the ropes, even though we were making there job more difficult than would normally be the case. As a result my riding ability and roping skills improved dramatically.
Photos of my visit to the Lazy F Ranch can be found in the Photo Album.
Seven Days of Hard Labour
My 7 day stay started on Saturday 27th March 2004 where I was given a horse that was used to being ridden by novice riders like me, Wizard. This time of year is the spring roundup, so my first afternoon was spent getting to know my fellow guests whilst trying to roundup (or more to the point find) the cattle within the brush. After a fairly unsuccessful roundup I took a scenic ride with the owner Clay around part of the ranch. This was the longest I’d ever been on horseback as my riding lessons had only been 1 hour at a time!!
Sunday I got up and saddled Wizard to go round up some more cattle. We managed to round up about 80 head in the morning and then spent the afternoon sorting the cattle in the pens and tagging the calves. This was an interesting experience as it involved being on foot in a confined space with a lot of very large cattle, and one bull. I had my first attempt at roping (after some tips from the cowboys).
Monday consisted of yet more riding, which was good as I was starting to get used to spending a lot of time in the saddle. Most of the day was spent working the cattle pens either on horseback or on foot. I was taught how to brand the cattle and was also taught, somewhat unsuccessfully, how to separate a calf from the herd. My lack of ability in this area was not helped by Wizard’s nervousness around cattle in the pens. One of the cowboys lent me his spurs which with just a little gentle use helped to make Wizard pay attention to my instructions.
Trees can be Dangerous Things
Tuesday was spent looking for cattle amongst the brush again; I practiced loping across one of the pastures which was both exhilarating and somewhat scary as I’d never been at that speed outside of the practice pen!
In the afternoon I managed to dislocate my shoulder whilst riding between some heavy brush. I got my leg caught between a branch and the saddle. Wizard decided despite my best efforts that he didn’t want to back up and so as I carefully started to ease the branch over my trapped leg I must have slackened off the reins which allowed Wizard to walk quickly forwards. Leaving me holding a branch that was now behind me, end result I pulled my shoulder partly out of its socket. After yelling in pain I sat back up in the saddle and grabbed my left shoulder with my right hand. This pushed the shoulder back into its socket which hurt more than when it came out. I again yelled and then had a few choice words for Wizard.
Riding was somewhat painful for the rest of the day as every movement of the horse jarred my shoulder. Mounting and dismounting also became difficult as I could not use my left arm to take any weight. Thankfully I was riding western style with the reins in one hand so my left hand held my belt buckle in order to minimise movement.
Is Trust Me Someone’s Idea of a Sense of Humour?
With Wizard still objecting to back up for anyone who tried to ride him I rode a horse called “Trust Me” on Wednesday, although I had to have help saddling him as I could no longer lift the saddle onto his back, I tried and found out the hard way that I needed help, everyone was great and made sure I got the assistance I needed. Trust Me was a great smooth ride and much more cooperative than Wizard.
Myself and a couple of the other guests went for a short all be it very fast gallop across one of the pastures. This was the fastest I’d ever been on horseback and was great, I even managed to keep my hat on. Working the pens with Trust Me was an absolute pleasure, he stood his ground when kicked several times by one of the cattle, I was expecting him to get nervous and ditch me in panic but he just stood and took it. On one occasion the hoof narrowly missed my right leg which had it of hit me and not Trust Me would have certainly left a greater impact on me than it did this great horse.
The other guests & I spent the evening at the Long Branch Saloon and met up with one of the cowboys who had been showing us around for the last couple of days. We were introduced to many of the locals and the owners of the bar even came over to talk to us, it was a really friendly place.
Thursday was taken up with more riding, which was thankfully less eventful. Friday was spent working the pens roping and tagging the calves. With only one good arm I could only rope from the ground and not horse back as I couldn’t hold the lasso and the reins at the same time!
Tired and exhausted I was sad to leave on Saturday, but I could not have worked much more and really needed to rest my arm. So after a pleasant morning ride on Dollar I headed back to the airport for my flight back home. Despite my injury and various aches and pains this was an excellent trip that I hope to repeat some day, preferably with less pain.
Two pieces of advice if you’re thinking of going on a ranching holiday. 1) Visit the Lazy F Ranch and 2) never hold a stationary object whist on horseback!