Horsing Around

Before we depart for the wilds of Alaska, Shawn and I are visiting with Shawn’s family in Wisconsin. Shawn’s mom and dad, Julie and Tim, invited us along to go to one of their traditional family waysides, Woodside Ranch.

Shawn on one of the trail rides

I worked on a dude ranch years ago in Colorado, but I’ve never actually visited one. I can’t believe how much there is to do here. The ranch I worked on was just a place to come get day rides. This compound has everything from a hundred horses, farm animals galore, buffalo, a movie theatre, a bar with a game room, a swimming pool, and beautiful cabins you rent out. It’s pretty incredible.

I’m an animal person, and if I hadn’t gotten into dogs I probably would be doing whatever I could to learn more about horses. When I was a kid growing up in Wyoming, there was a big pasture behind our backyard. I was obsessed with the horses there, and fed them a sizeable portion of our back lawn. I was constantly planning to go steal one of the horses and ride away, bareback, into the sunset. Luckily I did not attempt this.

As guests at the ranch, we get to go on up to six rides a day, starting with a breakfast ride in the morning where you ride out to have breakfast in the woods, cooked on a woodfire grill. Rides go every hour until dinner. While I eye the wranglers with envy (I’d really like to be doing the work of it, too), this is pretty cool, and I’m trying my best to relax a little. I’ll be working day in and out soon enough.

My tenure at the ranch in Colorado was not super long, so I haven’t developed the keenest horsemanship skills yet. I hope that’s something I’ll work on down the line. My plan has always been to get a horse when I’m older, after my dog years wind down. Working with animals (getting to know them, figuring out their characters and quirks, gaining their trust) is somewhere I find true joy. With dogs, my work is always foreshortened as I head off to my next handling gig and have to say goodbye. With horses, I’ve never had the chance to even put in that much time. I hope I will someday.

I’m so grateful to get to say goodbye to the Lower 48 this way: with long, quiet walks in the woods, taking in the dappled sunlight, swaying with the gait of a good, stubborn animal. I love the northern woods in the Midwest, full of such variety and green. I am excited to see the mountains of Alaska again, but the forests here have a beauty on their own.

Thanks so much to the Goggins’ for taking me along on this adventure. It’s a huge honor to get to experience this with the family, to get to see a place that has been really special to them for a long time. I’m very grateful to be here, and I can see why the Goggins clan comes back when they can.

Timmy, myself, and Tim all won pizzas in an archery competition… and drinks!