Asher on Aspen: Equestrian Therapy

Shannon Asher
Asher on Aspen

There’s something about the mountains that command exploration from the back of a horse. Some girlfriends and I decided that horseback riding would be a fun and leisurely Sunday afternoon activity for us all to experience together. It felt like the perfect, unofficial way to kick off what is sure to be a very quiet and event-free summer in Aspen.

Upon arrival at T-Lazy-7 Ranch, we were each assigned a horse based on our prior equestrian experience. I was placed with a stallion named River, and we hit it off right away. He was an exceptionally beautiful horse with an immensely calm and peaceful demeanor. I immediately wanted to wrap my arms around him and give him an enormous hug. Two friendly and knowledgeable guides from the Maroon Creek Outfitters led us through the majestic Maroon Creek Valley on our ride. River was assigned to ride in the front of the group, following directly behind our fearless leader and guide, Greg.

My senses were overwhelmed from the minute we left the ranch. Set loose, we breezed across luscious meadows, sagebrush hillsides, and snow-capped peaks. Greg was “the fearless cowboy,” if you will. He was a strong and sturdy man who proudly voiced his knowledge and passion for riding horses and being a cowboy. “I wrecked more horses than cars,” Greg proclaimed when I inquired how many times he’s been bucked off. “And I was always alright with wrecking horses.”

The stories he shared throughout the trip had me on the edge of my saddle. His deep passion for horses was admirable. He would linger a moment in between stories and look back at me — almost as if to see if I was still interested — and indeed, I was. He had so many intriguing anecdotes, as I imagine one would if they had been around horses their whole life. While listening to his riding fails and triumphs, I went down a rabbit hole of deep thought. I started to reflect on just how wonderful it is for someone to be that passionate about something.

I think it’s so important for people to be passionate. It can be about anything — art, cars, skiing, fashion, ballet, football, cooking, video games or even horses. It can literally be anything, it just has to be something. It’s when someone isn’t passionate about anything that I get worried. What do they light up about? What are they excited to talk about when they come home from work? What keeps them up at night? To not get that spark of excitement when talking about your favorite thing is passionless and quite frankly, a little sad. That glint of passion, I believe, is precisely what gives us all a sense of purpose in this life.

Throughout our ride, we discussed and determined the various types of character roles each of our horses took on. My friend Emily’s horse, Hailey, was super sassy. If she had it her way, she would be lounging on the lawn drinking margaritas all day. Whereas my horse, I envisioned to be utterly cautious and wise. I imagined chit-chatting with him on a wrap-around porch drinking sweet tea as he gave me the most thought-provoking life advice. Just as I think every dog has their own voice and personality, I believe the same to be true about horses. I’d like to think that animals become so much more humanized when you determine what their personality is.

Good friends paired with great views is not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The rugged mountains and breathtaking views provided a horseback riding experience that is unrivaled anywhere in the world. We trekked across fields of avalanche damage, through groves of Aspen trees and past picturesque ponds. A flurry of John Denver songs played through my mind. The air smelled like pine needles, distant campfires and occasionally, River’s droppings along the trail.

Without any real warning, Greg started to pick up a trot and the horses followed behind, in a steady line through the pasture. I caught myself smiling from ear to ear the moment River began to pick up the pace. The unexpected joy that trotting brought me was second to none. “Sometimes your trot picks up, and that’s when the real fun starts,” Greg yelled back to the group.

Suddenly, we slowed down as we spotted an interesting scene playing out in the distance. I had my eyes peeled for wildlife throughout the ride, but I never expected we would find a shoeless man practicing guitar by himself in the middle of the woods. I couldn’t believe it. I chuckled to myself and wondered how he even found this little trail in the middle of nowhere. “You never know what you’re going to see out here,” Greg whispered back to me out of the right side of his mouth.

Our ride was a leisurely two-hour amble through the most luscious wide-open spaces. Two glorious hours and 15 glorious minutes was the amount of time we got to spend with the horses. We high-fived before dismounting, then staggered, groaning and bowlegged, as we meandered our way to the car. I walked away from the ranch with a smile and a more profound love for horses and for people who are passionate. Wouldn’t the world be so wonderful if it was filled with passionate people like Greg?

Aspen Times Weekly

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