BY Ted Loos
July 06 2009 12:00 AM ET
It was my big moment, and I blew it. We got back to the ranch and put away our saddles-several hours later, with no breaks-and I expected some kind of ranch-style rebuke as I entered the cookhouse for lunch. Would I have to clean the stables? Do the dishes? Ride an angry steer in the town square in front of jeering locals?
Instead, as we sat down for hamburgers with the ranch hands and members of the family who own the ranch, our trip leader, Rusty Clark, told us we were some of the best riders he'd seen. In the days we'd been on horseback together, we'd formed a little family unit of sorts, and the temporary failings of one member could be made up for by the others.
We had a huge range of abilities: Jack from North Carolina seemed like he was born on a horse, while Julie from Boston was skittish around the animals and always fighting with her ride. (But she was clearly having the time of her life too.) What we all had in common was an utter lack of interest in sitting around doing nothing on our vacation. If we weren't riding, we were hiking or white-water rafting down the deceptively named Stillwater River.