“COWBOY UP” – Riding the Dream
By Rosemary Grayson
“Everyone wants to be cowboy,” said Rosalind Freed now one of a new breed of ranchers in Arizona. I flew over to visit Ros and her husband Ted Freed. They are now launching their Lakewood Ranch for horse lovers in the Chino Valley, two hours from Phoenix and an hour from Flagstaff. It’s where the Old West meets the new with its big, beautiful scenery. Amongst the cactus and the canyons, in the high desert, where we rode Rosalind’s magnificent Quarter Horses, the Old West still breathes its magic. From the age of ten, inspired like so many of us, Ros was glued to the silver screen on Saturday mornings at her far from salubrious local cinema in Crewe, Cheshire, England.
“That glorious cowboy country was pure paradise to me a—completely unreal and out of reach,” said Ros, a passionate pony owner at the time. Yet like so many of us, riding in British weather is sometimes to be endured, not enjoyed, because of the love of our horses.
Today we find her with a new life and a dream come true. She is learning to ‘Cowboy Up,’ their term for squaring your shoulders and getting on with the job. Ted and Ros are to breed from the famous Quarter Horse Driftwood line, established in the 1940’s. The Quarter Horse to the cowboy in the USA is what the Ford Mondeo is to the executive in the UK but far more romantic. They are working animals with style, stamina, nerve and no nonsense. My horse Thunder had push button responses, a good straight reverse and instant break horse power.
Yet this is still the land of the real live cowboy, riding the hundreds of thousands of acres of cow country in the hot dry Arizona sun. Anything else but the real thing is laughable. But the couple’s new ranch is different and part of a new wave. It’s the result of drought on the one hand and a flood on the other.
I am forced to admit from experience that what America does today, the UK does tomorrow. The term here is ‘Horse Adventure’- light years away from the bucking bronco. Remember, this is the New West speaking now. Here the horse is used as a focus for a whole range of different therapies for so many aspects of life-team building for dysfunctional families, drug abuse, learning difficulty and more. It’s mostly done on the ground, working on the lines of the famous “Horse Whisperer,” Monty Roberts. People are at once enabled and empowered by working with horses, which strangely restores confidence in so many ways.
In the UK, Riding for the Disabled works in the same lines for physically and mentally disadvantaged people but in America, as always they push new frontiers. The idea is to allow visitors ‘the whole horse experience’ and perhaps for many to realise the dreams of youth in later years.
“I love Hollywood for the hard riding galloping cowboy image but it scares off the late starters and the older returnees. Our new motto is (SSAS) ‘start, stop and steer.’ This way we get people to ride before they realise it. When you can do that in the forgiving Western saddle, then a five-mile trail ride is nothing. It’s all at a relaxed walk any way. And what’s more it’s medically sound too. Riding does wonders for hip problems-the movement of the horse, with the rider’s weight off their own legs loosens joints and puts a smile back on the face,” said Ros.
Maybe that’s why we saw John Wayne still riding the range well into his third age!
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com