Have you ever gone horseback riding? My grandfather was a Paniolo boy (Cowboy), but besides a pony, I'd never ridden a horse before. Until now...
As a part of trying to figure out how to stay safe during a pandemic while getting out of the house, I decided to look up different ideas on how to have fun alone. There were the typical suggestions like walking, or hiking, but eventually I came across horseback riding. I knew instantly, it was time to fulfill my childhood dream of becoming a paniolo cowgirl! Well...kind of. Yeehaw!
So, first things first, find a ranch that is taking riders; inexperienced riders specifically. LOL. I found "Gunstock Ranch" in Kahuku on Oahu and booked it! It was a far drive from the westside, but I can never get enough of the ride around the island, so it was peaceful. I put on my Island 98.5 and sang my way to the ranch.
As I pulled up, I saw a pen of horses in front of me, and some goats off to my left. I got out, signed a few release forms and headed over to a small 3-step wooden stair that they told me to wait at. While waiting for my horse to be brought up, one of the girls there began to give me instructions on how to ride and lead "my" horse.
It "seemed" simple enough. Move the reins left for them to go left, right for them to go right, pull back lightly to make them stop, and keep pulling it back for them to back up. Oh, and let's not forget to lightly kick them on the sides to make them go forward."
"Kick them?!" I asked, shocked. Images of the horse bucking and me flying upside down with a loud and painful thump in the dirt crossed my mind.
The girl teaching us just laughed lightly and reassured me that "it's not a kick more than a nudge to let them know you want to go. It won't hurt them," she added.
First impression of Nelly, my horse for the day, was "WHOA! She's huge!" Climbing up onto her back was even scarier, but I wasn't about to back out now! So here I am, sitting on the back of this massively gorgeous horse and feeling 10 feet tall, and I start thinking, "I hope I don't fall off when she starts moving".
Before I had time to rethink my decision to get up on her, Nelle started to walk. Naturally, I hang on for dear life as she slowly picks up speed. Now ohana (family), throughout the ride Nelle was literally at a slow walk, maybe an extremely light trot, at best, yet I still felt like she was running! LOL Or perhaps that was just my heart and adrenaline pumping because I kept imagining how things could go terribly wrong. Hint: Don't do that to yourself when you go out for a ride!
After about 15 minutes in, I tried my best to stop being so tense and really listen to what the wrangler leading us was saying. Her name is Esa and she is a petite blue-eyed beauty with long, gorgeous dirty-blonde hair. She talked to me about the history of the ranch, the personality and habits of the horses, the family who originally opened the ranch, and so many other interesting things. That's when I started to forget my fear and really feel comfortable enough to "really" look around. And what I saw, took my breath away!
As I settled into the knowledge of how they became "Gunstock Ranch" I started to feel like I was a part of that story. I even imagined what it would be like to live there, learning how to take care of the animals and work hard, all so that I could wake up to this sight every day.
It was so peaceful. The sky was a powder blue and we were fanned by cool tropical breezes. The air was so fresh and pure, and the view...WOW! There was a huge expanse of land that was open and vast. There were hundreds of trees lining both sides of this stretch of land as far as the eye could see. Off in the distance to the left side I could see a mountain peaking out, the top surrounded by clouds, and the moon still lingering overhead in the daylight. It was incredible!
The trail ride went on for an hour. We went up and down hills and through different forests, saw cows, cats, dogs, goats and many more horses. I was FREE! No stress, no chaos, just peace. The silence was only interrupted by Nelle's breath and the sound of her hooves hitting the ground. I wanted to spend the rest of my life here on this ranch, riding Nelle. I felt like this was where I wanted to call home.
At the end of the ride, I was instructed to walk, then stop, next to the same 3 step wooden stair to dismount after Esa had taken hold of the reins. When I got down, I thanked Nelle and petted her goodbye, then she was whisked away to get watered, fed and taken care of after a long day of trail rides.
I drove home in silence, heart full and a smile plastered across my face. It was one of the best days of my life! If you are tired of being cooped up at home, if you and your children need a break from the "pandemic lifestyle", you should really consider going on a trail ride. It really put things into perspective for me and gave me a new found sense of peace and freedom!
Mahalo Ke Akua (Thank you God) for my Ohana (Family)!
A Hui Hou Kākou (until we meet again),