IMG_4441 croppedIt was a sunny Saturday morning just outside Vail, Colorado when I met Mo.

Eager to impress, I woke up early and donned a flannel shirt, jeans, boots and a borrowed cowboy hat. A short car ride later, there he was: tall, slightly rugged, coffee-colored brown eyes, seemingly a little sassy. Just my type, I thought.

I mentioned Mo is a horse, right?

And not just any horse. A hungry horse. Famished, in fact. I’d even venture to say he was ravenous. Mo was so hungry you would have thought he’d been a prisoner of war for the past year. All he did was eat.

The trail guide did throw out a warning as we were mounting our horses. “The grasses are especially sweet around here this time of year, so the horses are tempted to eat. If they stop to take a bite, just give a tug on the reins and they’ll start along the trail again.” Okay. Seems simple enough. He eats grass, I tug the reins. Got it.

We began the ride by moving our horses into line behind the ranch and beginning the ascent up a mountain covered in aspen trees. Right away we saw a deer, not even two feet from the trail. We were off to a good start. I had high hopes.

Then Mo stopped to take a bite of grass. He dipped his head down rather quickly and it took me a moment to remember what my instructions were supposed to be. Oh, yes, tug. That’s right. I tugged. He continued chewing. I tugged a little harder. Mo took another large bite. This wasn’t as easy as I had thought it would be. I tugged harder. Mo chewed louder.

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Per further instructions from the more seasoned riders, I dug my heels into his sides. He began moving again. Okay, we were back in line with the other horses. A slight hiccup but no big deal. Now we had the routine down.

We moved about twenty steps, Mo catching back up with Smith, the horse in front of him. And then he was craning his head, eyeing something, and… taking another bite. He was eating grass again. I tugged. He chewed. I tugged again. He snorted and took another bite. Heels. Tug. More heels. Stern instructions to follow the other horses. Another tug. Sweet requests. And, finally, pleading.

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Nope. Mo wasn’t moving. Was he part mule?

And so it went on like this for the better part of two hours. Twenty steps, Mo stops to eat, another twenty steps, Mo begins his next course.

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The main course arrived when our group reached the top of the mountain. The view was impressive, lush green valleys on either side against a backdrop of blue sky. The trail guide hopped off her horse to take photos for us. She worked for a few minutes to round up a family of four for the first shot while Mo wandered into the brush, ecstatic at his opportunity to eat completely uninterrupted. Arms tired and equally ecstatic at the reprieve from our little tug-of-war with the reins, I just sat there and let Mo eat.

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Can you spot Mo and I? We’re nowhere near where we’re supposed to be.

The break lasted about two minutes until Mo spied something tasty near the photo session and began sidling over. After a few steps, I realized we were going to be in their photos. I tugged, I scolded. Mo sidled – until he was almost front and center for the next photo. Really, Mo? We’re photo bombing now?

After the guide led Mo out of the other group’s photo session, it was our turn. I figured it would be easy to keep Mo in the same spot for a few minutes – he’d be occupied eating. But of course he didn’t want to eat the grass near us. No, he quite liked the look of the grass about fifteen feet to his right. Off camera. Well, almost off camera…

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Yes, this really happened…

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… and, after some coaxing, a proper photo.

Mo did eat a little less on the way back to the ranch, but it was probably just because he was beginning to fill up by then.

Granted, this was my first time riding a horse, but I had listened diligently during the instructions preceding the ride and I had a basic understanding of using the reins to steer and, ahem, correct the horse to let him know I was in charge.

Except I wasn’t in charge. Mo was in charge and I was, quite literally, just along for the ride.

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Midway through our little grazing adventure, I joked that Mo was aptly named because he mowed the lawn. I was right: another trail guide tossed out the same joke upon our return to the ranch.

So my first horseback riding experience was not a success. However, while I didn’t admire Mo’s cooperation skills, I certainly admired his moxie – and, of course, his appetite.

Wish You Were Here,

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