After a week of indulging my travel bug it’s time to settle down to one of the main purposes of this trip: Learning some cowgirl skills!
I’ve been riding horses almost all my life, but growing up in England I obviously learnt to ride English rather than Western. When I did my first two Workaway placements last year in the USA I learnt a lot about Western riding and fell completely in love with it. The saddles and bridles are different, the technique is different, and quite often the function of riding is different too.
My first Canadian Workaway placement was at a trail riding and reining ranch about an hour north of Jasper. I’d done plenty of trail riding before, both in the UK and down in the USA, but reining was completely new to me. In English style riding we have dressage which is “the highest expression of horse training” (As defined by the International Equestrian Federation) which basically means a horse and rider perform a series of predetermined movements that demonstrate how well a horse is trained and its ability to perform each movement perfectly. Reining, I discovered, is essentially Western dressage. The idea is the same, to demonstrate a horses’ ability to complete set movements, but the actual movements are very different to those of English dressage.
My fellow Workawayers at the ranch taught me a lot about the different commands for reining movements, including rollbacks, spins and (my favourite) sliding stops.
Reining originates from the need for good cow horses that could quickly and easily stop, turn and change direction when herding cattle and it’s easy to see how the skills I learnt while reining could come in very useful as a real cowgirl!
Trail Riding is where my heart truly lies, I absolutely love it. This ranch was great for the amount of responsibility we were given when it came to trails, after just two rides out I was leading tourist groups on my own (I only got everyone lost once… Oops). The views from the trails were stunning and it was easy to remember why I chose Canada for my extended trip.