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JUNE 2010 THE RIDER /19 Trail Ride At The OK Corral! By Mallory Hendry.

The first thing that strikes me about Arizona is that horses have a very different life there than they do in Ontario.

First of all, there’s so many of them. In Mesa, a town a half hour east of Phoenix, it seems there’s a horse in every yard. Literally, in people’s front and back yards. A few hundred feet from the Star- bucks and Chili’s plaza is a row of small houses, each with a pen and a shaded area for the resident horse. These people don’t have massive stables (or any stables, it seems), nor do they have acres of land. But what they do have in common with the horse communi- ty in Ontario is a passion for the animal. As my trail ride leader Hank observes, “Everybody and their neighbour has a horse. Or

two. Or three...”

Hank works at the OK Corral, located in Apache Junction, a twenty minute drive from Mesa. He was born and raised on horse back, or so it seems to him; his family owns a cattle ranch in Ari- zona. As Hank, my sister Carly and I ride through the Sedona Desert, a few things strike me. Firstly, it’s predominantly Western riding out there and I’m out of practice. It’s taking a lot of con- centration to remember the whole neck reigning bit. Second is the landscape. It’s so different from anything in Ontario. Cacti and low bushes cover the reddish sand. Mountains loom in the back- ground. Hank explains some cacti facts to us, which are pretty amaz- ing to me. For example a cactus weighs 50 – 90 pounds per foot,

and a lot of these things tower over everything at 8 or 9 feet. Hank says he once saw one fall over and land on a car, and that really brought home the point that these are heavy suckers.

stay in the saddle. Right there it’s a suc- cessful ride for me!

Like the people, the horses have thinner blood than they would in other parts of the world to help them handle the heat. With temperatures rocketing past 100 degrees in the summer months, any kind of exercise can be risky. A lot of trail rides are cancelled from May to September, or else have to take place early in the morning or in the evening. Hank says the horses don’t mind the break though, considering it’s never exactly cool in Arizona and they trudge through the desert daily during the work- ing months. Because it’s the beginning of May, we can’t push the horses too hard. We trot a bit and it’s all very relaxing until my sister’s hat flies off her head and hits my horse in the face. He shies to the side but I am proud to say I managed to

We get to the middle of a stretch of desert and it’s so peaceful. It’s eerily quiet, with most of the animals waiting out the hottest part of the day. There’s a nice breeze though, so we’re not too hot, and just being close to a horse again after a few years of being land locked feels wonderful. I can see Ghost Town from where we stand, an old mining town that is now a tourist attraction, and coupled with Hank’s tales of moving herds of cat- tle across California and the overnight trail rides he takes people on out here, I have a vivid picture of what life must have been like in the days of the old West. Somehow it makes me happy to think people still live that way. I know it must be my own romanticism of a job that’s probably more difficult and physi- cally demanding than anything I’ve ever experienced, but the thought of somebody being paid to gallop across the plains

Mallory Hendry at the OK Corral in Arizona

driving cattle under the uninterrupted blue of the Arizona sky seems so great to me. If I visit again next year, maybe I’ll see if there’s a job opening.

email: Phone: (519) 268-2050

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