We got back from Yellowstone late last night and wow...what a trip.
I learned 12 things on the trip that I will share below and then pictures will come later as I get them downloaded.
1) Riding 4-5 times per week for a couple of years does not keep your seat bones from getting sore when riding for 6-7 hours in a stretch with only getting off the horse a few times. However, it does make it so that when you get up the next morning...you can walk!
2) Leading a packstring through rough country is extremely exhausting, especially when the outfitter gives you a horse named "Buttwheat" (actually he was named Buckwheat but I renamed him) as your lead horse who decides he would rather eat on the trail than be led and me and my horse had to PULL him the entire way, 23 miles in and out...twice.
3) VERY important to keep the lead rope of lead horse out from under the tail of your saddle horse. Buttwheat decided that the best looking grass on the trail was always on the left side of the trail despite me leading him on the right. A hard pulled lead rope up under your saddle horse's tail can REALLY make him buck!
4) Despite turning 45 on the trip I am still able to ride a horse that bucks really hard when a rope gets pulled under his tail. After riding about 8 bucks I got him stopped and the riders behind gave me a 79. I wouldn't have won but I would have been in the money!
I never even had to grab the saddle horn. I don't think I had the time!
5) Riding 4-5 days a week for 2 years AND taking lessons to develop your seat helps to ride a bucking horse that suddenly comes unglued under you. Thank God he picked a relatively flat section of trail and not one of the cliffs we rode across.
6) You can teach a horse to back up (who previously had very little backup) to retrieve a lost lead rope on lead horse while riding across one of the cliffs, with spurs, reins and ALOT of swear words. Whew, that was a close one.
7) 16 hand high 1400 lb. horses are much easier to ride when they buck than my 14.2 hand Rocky. Much more powerful animal but his movements are much slower and he is easier to keep up with. My little Rocky would have spun out from under me. However, I am 5'8 and logs and rocks were my friend, although I did mount from the ground several times.
8) Watching your daughter ride in front of you for more than 40 hours in the saddle and spend 10 days in Yellowstone backcountry with your daughter is a priceless adventure I will never forget.
9) However, the pucker factor of watching your daughter (in front of you) sitting on a horse that begins to buck, hump its back and back toward one of the fore mentioned cliffs is not so priceless. She rode most of the ride with her feet out of the stirrups and she did this time too and her butt never even came out of the saddle. You go girl. Apparently horses don't like it when a horse fly flies up their nose and begins to bite. They loose all sense of where they are and what they are doing.
10) Deep Woods Off rubbed on your hand and then on your horses nose, ears, face and head work wonders for keeping horse flies out their noses.
11) Hearing a bear attack one of your horses in the middle of night will bring an outfitter out of the tent faster than any other sound imaginable. Luckily despite the bear making lots of noise (and the horse too) all horses escaped injury and made the event the first time in 46 years of outfitting that one of the outfitters horses were threatened by a bear.
12) The last thing I learned (which I already knew) is that horse packing is HARD work. Especially when you are the hired muscle. I lost almost 25 lbs in 10 days and EVERY muscle in my body hurt at some point. Sleep comes easily at 8,000 feet after working that hard for 10 hours. A great experience and I can't wait for next year!