Getting away from the daily grind at home is always a welcome adventure, unless you own horses.
Sometimes, when the cattle aren’t cooperating and my day isn’t going very well, I sit back in my saddle, close my eyes and try to think about being on a vacation, far away.
I should know better, because this actually does very little to soothe me. The very term “vacation” often conjures up feelings of apprehension and stress. Instead of relaxation and beautiful scenery, I envision being 1,000 miles from the animals in our care while a multitude of injuries, viruses and busted waterlines unfolds at home and there’s nothing I can do about it.
I’d like to think I’m not alone in feeling this way. Let’s face it, as anyone with animals and livestock knows, a vacation is not something that we prioritize. It’s hard to do! Even with trusted peers to throw our horses some hay and check their water, it’s nearly impossible to turn off our brains and enjoy a trip away from home when we think about all of the “what-ifs” that may happen. We can’t just mentally shove our responsibilities in a drawer, punch our time clocks and switch to holiday mode.
However, a couple of weeks ago, Luke and I bit the bullet. We packed our bags (along with some saddles, bedrolls, dogs and Yeti coolers) and drove up to the mountains west of Colorado Springs for a real, legitimized vacation of camping and relaxation.
As the odometer ticked along and Weatherford became a speck in our pickup’s rearview mirror, my apprehension didn’t immediately melt away. I didn’t know how accessible our cell phone reception would be at 10,500 feet and was a little concerned about staying in touch in case of emergency. But I reminded myself that we had very capable help to keep an eye on things, and as we headed north, I started to relax a bit.
By the time we met with our Colorado friends and the horses that they provided us with at the trailhead, I was even a little bit excited. We saddled up our mounts and explored the Buffalo Peaks wilderness. We trotted through purple mountains and green sage, scouting for elk herds and monster mule deer. We stopped and watched for brook trout in the meandering, lazy streams that wound through the pines and rocky terrain. We set up camp and enjoyed everything from gamey stew to roasted marshmallows. The evenings were downright cool, but we bundled up and enjoyed the crisp air. (And yes, we may have migrated down the road a time or two until we had phone service just to give ourselves a little peace of mind.)
We kept our trip short and sweet, and much to my surprise, everything at home worked out wonderfully. I’ll admit, it was really good for me to spend time horseback sans job. It took me right back to when I started riding—laughing and visiting with friends in a beautiful place while in the saddle—and not obsessing about how my horse feels riding around in a circle. Even Luke recognized the good in our little trip and came back to Texas eager and excited to start up again and work his colts. Even our set of horses seemed rested and full after a few days off—an unexpected perk! We arrived back from that once-dreaded vacation with a solid, refreshed sense of excitement and interest in our work.
As long as we are in the horse business, I don’t expect vacation to become a reliable theme in our lives. And on those days that are particularly tough, when I close my eyes and think of being somewhere far away, I fully expect myself to be overwhelmed with those old, feelings of stress and apprehension that arise with the word “vacation.”
However, when I look past the initial panic and dig deep, I’ll remember those purple mountains and that crisp, clear Colorado sky. And beyond those initial negative thoughts, I may even feel a sense of peace and excitement for the next little trip we decide to take.
As long as I have a place where I can occasionally check my messages, that is.