Wrangler Challenges

Now that I can look at some of the stupid things I used to do with horses from the vantage point of a professional riding instructor, all I can say is…  Well, I can’t really come up with anything to justify these things!  Here are some of the “wrangler challenges” I took part in when I was a teenage wrangler working at summer camp.

Wrangler Challenge #1: After letting the horses out at the end of the day, they would run, buck, and roll around in the dirt.  The challenge was to wait for a horse to roll and then jump on its back when it was done rolling but before it stood up.  The last time I took part in this challenge, my friend Emily and I synchronized our efforts.  We had not done this for quite awhile.  We were standing on the bottom rung of the fence, watching the horses roll, when we looked at each other with half-crazed looks  in our eyes.  No words were necessary as stupid grins took over our faces, and we leaped over the fence.  We each jumped on dirt-covered horse as they stood up without incident.  Just as we were ready to declare victory, another horse bolted between our horses, startling them and setting off a ping-pong-like effect.  Our horses collided and we both fell off, nearly getting trampled.  As we sprang to our feet and escaped from the skittering mass of horses, our boss stood outside the pasture with his mouth hanging open.  He said, “I thought I lost two wranglers!  Are you okay?”  I complained, “I’m fine, but my sunglasses are broken!”  Emily was also unscathed, but she would not be so lucky when it came to the next challenge.

Wrangler Challenge #2:  When we released the horses at the end of the work day, we would simply go down the hitching post and let them go.  The horses wanted their dinner, so they would generally make a beeline for their pasture.  Generally.  Sometimes they would take detours through the nearby soccer field or even up on the barn porch to terrorize spectators.  Some of the lazier or older horses would need a little encouragement to get moving in the right direction.  However, horses are creatures of habit and slaves to their stomachs, so most of the time they would gallop through the arena straight for the pasture gate,  careen around the barn, and come to a screeching halt where the piles of hay awaited.  The challenge?   Climb aboard the horse before it was released, grab some mane, and go along for the ride.  Extra points if you leaned forward and unhitched the horse yourself.  Wheeeeeee!  There was nothing quite as exhilarating as flying through the humid summer air at the mercy of the horse, with my hair streaming behind me and the horse’s mane whipping in my face, the cool wind drying the sweat on the back of my neck.  This challenge was banned after Emily fell and ended up getting a hip x-ray in the ER.   Fortunately Emily did not suffer more than a bruised bone.

Wrangler Challenge #3:  I came up with this one after the first two challenges became forbidden.  I don’t really consider it to be dangerous.  Challenge #3 was to untack (take off the saddle and bridle) your horse WHILE YOU WERE STILL ON IT and hand the equipment to another wrangler.  I was pretty good at this one.  Which is why I promoted it as a challenge to the other wranglers.  If we did this as a race, I always won.

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